O’Connell And Adams Maintain Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship Lead

Playing the law of averages paid off for Day 1 leaders Sean O’Connell of Mandeville, La., and Edward Adams of Metairie, La., whose two-day total of 31 pounds, 13 ounces kept them atop the leaderboard on Day 2 of the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter.

After taking the opening lead with a limit of 16-10 the 2022 Redfish World Series champions established a 13-ounce margin over the all-star team of Bassmaster Elite Series veteran Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth, Texas, and IFA Redfish Tour standout Ryan Rickard of Brandon, Fla., who won last year’s event.

Catching the second day’s top bag — 15-3 — O’Connell and Adams extended their lead to 2-3; again, with Zaldain and Rickard in second.

Replicating the pattern that served them well on Day 1, the leaders returned to the Laguna Madre waters south of Port Aransas and made long drifts across key areas in the grass flats. After contending with a strong southeast wind on Day 1, the leaders again used a drift sock to slow their movement when Saturday’s northeast wind blew even harder.

“We were hoping to get two to three bites per drift,” Adams said. “You do that over four drifts, that’s eight to 10 fish a day and we figured a couple of them would be good ones.”

Given the mostly dreary, overcast skies, cooler temperatures and blustery conditions, O’Connell said he was grateful for the way their day came together.

“As we went out there this morning, I was a little worried about that wind switch, but it actually played to our favor because we were able to stay in our zone longer with longer drifts,” O’Connell said. “We got a couple of fish early, which put us at ease so we could just do our thing and fish.

“When you’re not out there just winding and trying to make it happen, getting a couple of fish early definitely takes the pressure off. It was a good day. The weather played out OK and I’m very happy where we’re sitting.”

O’Connell and Adams tried a few different baits but caught the ones they weighed on 3/8-ounce jigheads with Berkley Gulp Ripple Shad swimbaits. With the Day 3 forecast looking considerably calmer, warmer and sunnier, Adams said he’s optimistic about his team’s outlook.

“Same as yesterday, we caught a couple of overs, caught a couple of small ones and two pretty decent fish,” Adams said. “I think if we get a couple of good bites tomorrow, we’ll have a really good chance of winning this thing.”

With their main area clearly suffering from the day’s mostly overcast conditions and barometric pressure rise, Zaldain and Rickard struggled with a slower start, but culled their way to a second-round weight of 13-13. Adding that to their Day 1 weight of 15-13 put them at 29-10.

Spending most of their day in a protected area of Laguna Madre between Padre Island on their east and the Intracoastal Waterway spoil islands to the west, Zaldain and Rickard worked the grass flats interspersed with sandy potholes. They caught their fish on 1/4-ounce Aqua Dream spoons in a blue crab pattern and a 6-inch Bass Mafia Unrigged Daingerous swimbait on a 7/0, 1/4-ounce belly-weighted hook.

“We’re at a higher pace than we were on last year,” Zaldain said. “And just like last year, we had that Day 2 where it was a weird northeast wind and it really shut the fishing down. When that east wind blows through, everything shuts off and things kind of stick to the bottom.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We had those same conditions last year, so we know what to expect and we’re trying to catch (O’Connell and Adams).”

Rickard said the challenge of trying to overtake what he considers a team of highly accomplished redfish pros is just the motivation they need.

“These guys are absolute hammers everywhere they go, and that’s good for me because it pushes me to be better,” he said. “Those guys are so great, but we’re gonna push them.

“It’s going to set up perfectly for us tomorrow. We’ll have our opportunities and we’ll have to make the best of them.”

The all-star team of Bassmaster Elite Series champion and 2019 Rookie of the Year Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., and Elite Redfish Series pro Kevin Akin of Corpus Christi, Texas, placed third with 27-15. Entering the second round in fourth place with 13-11, they added 14-4.

“It was a better day today and we kind of figured something out late in the day,” Cook said. “We got really lucky this morning when I caught one of the fish we weighed on my second cast. It took us a long time to get something else figured out, but once we did, we caught ‘em pretty well.

“I wish we’d had just another hour today. We had one big one that was over (the 28-inch maximum) and we saw several others with the ones we caught, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Cook caught that early fish on a 3/8-ounce ChatterBait JackHammer with a Big Bite Baits Swimon trailer. They also caught fish on 4-inch morning glory/chartreuse Berkley Gulp Ripple Mullet.

Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. CT from Fisherman’s Wharf. The weigh-in will be held back at the wharf at 3 p.m. FS1 will broadcast Bassmaster Redfish LIVE coverage beginning at 7 with continuing coverage available on Bassmaster.com.

The 2022 Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter is being hosted by the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce.