Tampa Bay – Bradenton – Sarasota – Boca Grande

Tampa Bay Slam!

Report Date: November 6, 2012

As Capt. T.J. Stewart sat in second place following his first-day, 89-inch snook, trout and redfish combination at the Yerrid Foundation Grand Slam Celebrity Fishing Tournament presented by Bonefish Grill on Oct. 20, it probably felt like déjà vu.

"Last year, we finished second by the tiebreaker, which was coming into the dock later. The year before, we lost by one-quarter inch," the 32-year-old Stewart said.

With the final day to come, he knew where bigger redfish were.

"They just wouldn't eat Saturday. I knew there were 30-inch-plus fish mixed in with what were catching," he said. His plan was to upgrade the 27.5-inch redfish they caught on Saturday, knowing that would be his best bet to improve his total slam, which also included a 38-inch snook and 23.5-inch trout. The grand slam portion of the tournament took the best redfish, snook and trout in total inches caught by the boats' anglers.

As Oct. 21 came, Capt. Stewart worked his way south from the St. Petersburg-based Vinoy Basin with anglers Steve Yerrid and Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, a former Tampa Bay Devil Rays player.

"We started out fishing behind Egmont Key trying to get a bigger redfish and trout but hooked a tarpon, which we fought for 15 minutes before breaking off. I decided to make the run back down to Sarasota Bay, where we fished the day before."

In Sarasota Bay, they began catching redfish and trout. "We probably caught 20 trout between 20 and 23.75 inches. Then all the redfish were 27 to 28 inches," Stewart said.

As Stewart surveyed the area, he checked around from the tower of his 23-foot Dorado and saw larger redfish where he was fishing, but they still wouldn't eat.

"I told Steve and Wade, 'These are the best fish.' We kept fishing them, eventually getting a 29.5-inch redfish out of the bunch."

That upgrade was just what they needed, and with it Capt. Stewart's team took home first place with a total slam of 92.25 inches to win the tournament.

Victory for Stewart is nothing new. Earlier this year, his team Castaway Charters/Edgewater Power Boats took home first place in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series Tarpon Cup Championship out of Boca Grande, catching two fish that combined to weigh 300 pounds.

For Stewart, fishing is not only a passion, it is his sole source of income.

"I knew I wanted to be a guide back in high school," he said. "When I graduated from Southeast, I got my captain's license and began guiding when I was 20 years old."

With 12 years under his belt, Capt. Stewart has seen quite a bit of change with our fishing stocks, including snook, which were decimated by freezes in 2009.

"Snook are coming back, but I don't think the season should be opened yet. I'm catching a lot of 12- to 18-inch fish, which is a good sign that they are rebuilding."

This fall, Stewart said the redfishing has been world class.

"This past week, I was fishing different areas every day and catching 30 to 40 redfish each day. One day it was Sarasota Bay, the next Terra Ceia, and then it was Palma Sola. Find the mullet schools, and the redfish aren't far behind," he said.

The Monday following the tournament, Stewart said many of the redfish in Sarasota Bay were more than 30 inches, the same fish he struggled to get feeding during the tournament.

For November, Capt. Stewart will be paying close attention to this upcoming cold front.

"That's chilly for this year so far," he said. "It will bounce back. There are so many fish to catch."

Capt. Stewart of Castaway Charters can be reached at 941-737-5985 or by email at captaintjstewart@yahoo.com.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/10/28/4256101/outdoors-capt-stewarts-patience.html#storylink=cpy

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