Elite Redfish Series Finishes with a Splash on South Padre Island
The battle wasn’t close.
Peering into the clear waters off South Padre Island from the top of his skiff, Texas native Jimmy Lloyd knew he’d have to make quite a catch to beat his opponent, Kevin Akin.
Lloyd and Akin were two of five competitors in the Elite Redfish Series. The series wrapped up on the warm coast of South Padre Island, December 1-3, 2017.
The blue waters off South Padre Island, the largest barrier system in the world, are the perfect home for redfish. Redfish, also known as red drum, are game fish only found in the Gulf of Mexico. Most mature redfish weigh around 5 lbs. Lloyd and Akin were hoping for fish that tipped the scale around 8 and 9 lbs.
The Elite Redfish Series competitors are allowed to bring three redfish in for weighing and measuring. There is a penalty for any dead fish and competitors have 8 hours to set off into the gulf, catch the biggest redfish they can find and bring them back for weighing.
The clear blue water and prime conditions made it possible to peer down and see the redfish swimming beneath the surface, looking for prey in rocky outcrops and seaweed.
Warm winter weather bolstered the catches on the first two days of the tournament. The excitement at weigh-ins was palpable. Akin had a strong lead on the first day that he held onto the second day.
The third and final day would decide the winner.
The warm weather held but stronger winds forced the competitors to change their tactics. Akin took a risk, using two hours of his precious time to drive out to familiar waters. Akin utilizes a high-energy technique called “pushing” where he tries to entice fish to bite. If they’re not biting, he quickly moves on, setting a rigorous and tiring pace.
“It’s hard on your equipment and it really comes down to, you’re trying to cast into the spot [the size] of a Folgers’ coffee can lid,” Akin said.
Not far from Akin, Lloyd found a group of hungry redfish. Lloyd chose to stalk the redfish, patiently waiting for the right time to strike.
Akin and Lloyd both snagged large redfish, and neither competitor had any penalties. Akin had the lead, but there was another, bigger prize on the line.
This was the final leg of the Elite Redfish Series. While Akin might win this leg of the journey, he was behind for winning the overall title of “Western Division Angler of the Year.”
The contestants rode in at the end of the day, standing triumphantly on the top of their skiffs towed onto land by pickup trucks. Sporting baseball caps and sunglasses, shorts and jerseys covered with sponsor logos, each competitor proudly lifted their fish up for the crowd to see.
The results rolled in– Kevin Akin had it. He won the South Padre showdown of The Elite Redfish Series.
That left the final title: crowning the Western Division Angler of the Year. The measurements for the year were totaled and Jimmy Lloyd took the cake. The glory of being the champion isn’t just bragging rights. Lloyd raked in $92,500 and Akin earned a respectable $17,000 over the course of the Elite Redfish Series. Akin and Lloyd joked with each other while the results were read, exuding comradery and making it clear that, no matter what the results, they had a great time.
The best part about the entire endeavor– and the main reason for fishing– is the fish itself. Throughout the series, over 96% of the redfish caught were released. The large redfish will continue to grow and thrive off the coast of South Padre Island, providing abundant catches for tournaments and casual anglers for years to come. And that’s good news for this year’s competition. The Elite Redfish Championship Series will be back on South Padre Island October 12-14, 2018. Follow the competition and see who takes the title with the biggest catch.