Record redfish haul leads to IWFA win

Ballay, Matthews enjoy ‘seeing red’ on epic day in Venice

Two anglers fishing an international women’s tournament in Venice last week found a honey hole that produced more than 50 bull reds and 50 rat redfish in one spot.

On the second day of the three-day event, Meredith Ballay of Buras and Ellen Matthews of Houston were fishing the Mississippi River Delta with Capt. Kasye Bourn when they each caught and released 25 bull reds and 25 slot reds (16 to 27 inches) to score more points in one day than had ever been recorded in the International Women’s Fishing Association Venice Slam.

Even more impressive was how they caught the fish — tournament rules dictated only 12-pound test line could be used.

Not only was the catch a tournament record, it catapulted the women to first and second place in the event: All fish in IWFA tournaments are caught and released, and winning is based on a point system, with bull reds being worth the most.

Ballay, who ended up winning the coveted 14K gold pendant, said they caught many more fish, but could only count 25 of each size category. The record catch scored the most bull reds ever caught on one boat in IWFA history.

“It was unbelievable day by any standards,” Bourn said. “It was definitely unbelievable to do what we did — especially with 12-pound test.”

In the weeks leading up to the tournament, it had been hard to find redfish anywhere in Venice.  But on June 12, the day before the tournament, Bourne — with Southern Delta Charters — found a pocket of redfish. Weather on the 13th chased him out of the area, but on June 14 he hit the jackpot.

“We were casting to the points along the bays and found a deep ditch going into the canes and the fish were just going in and out of the ditch all day,” he said.

Established in 1955, IWFA is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. As one of the oldest fishing clubs in the U.S., members travel all over the Americas to fish in club-sponsored events.

“Being  a member of the IWFA has provided us with a connection to other women who share a similar passion for fishing and harmony with the water,” president Donna Wilson said. “We have been fortunate to explore some of the most beautiful places that nature has to offer… while creating lasting friendships.”

For more information on joining the IWFA, click here.