Reel Time: Tune up for the Redfly

Tune up for the redfly
Capt. Jon Bull prepares to release a redfish he landed on fly. - Capt. Bryon Chamberlin

The Redfly, a premier Tampa Bay area tournament targeting redfish on fly tackle, is just around the corner and this is a good time to get ready for the 17th running of this popular event.

The tournament is the brainchild of Capt. Jon Bull, of St. Petersburg and provides a good opportunity for fishing enthusiasts to test their skills against some of the Tampa Bay area’s best anglers and have a shot at a bevy of great prizes.

What originally started as a small tournament based out of Cockroach Bay in 2008 has turned into the largest, longest-running fly-fishing tournament for redfish in the country. The 16th Annual Redfly was a huge success. The tournament topped past events with a record 84 anglers. Fishing was tough, and while that tournament proved hard for anglers, the event raised $2,260 for Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.

This year’s event takes place on Saturday, Jan. 14. The tournament starts with a mandatory check-in and captain’s meeting at 5:30 a.m. at the Salty Shamrock Irish Pub, 6816 U.S. Hwy. 41 in Apollo Beach. Each team or solo angler is required to bring their measuring device to the meeting to be approved by tournament officials.

The catch-photo-release tournament is open to two-person teams and solo anglers. Each angler or team must provide at least one digital camera with a clear memory card to participate. Pictures taken with a cellphone also are allowed. Anglers can use fly fishing gear, but no bait scents, live, dead, cut or frozen bait, chumming or tipping is allowed. Participants also cannot fish in another boat’s chum line or in the area where another boat is chumming.

Anglers can wade or fish from a boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, pier, dock, bridge or shoreline as long as they remain in the tournament boundaries and no more than 50 yards from their partner or vessel. Boundaries for the tournament stretch from Fred Howard Park in the north to Gasparilla Pass in the south. Participating anglers can launch from any public ramp and must fish between the boundaries. All anglers must have a valid Florida saltwater fishing license and adhere to all state fishing regulations. Anyone fishing from a boat must have all required U.S. Coast Guard safety gear on board during the tournament.

Anglers are asked to show courtesy to other tournament and recreational anglers while fishing. All participants will be operating on the honor system during the tournament regarding use of fly-fishing gear and adhering to tournament rules. If you cheat in a fishing tournament, you are just pathetic and sad.

Fishing begins at 7 a.m. with weigh-in taking place from 3-4 p.m. back at the Salty Shamrock. Any angler who is late to the weigh-in will be disqualified. Pictures of the day’s catch, including an approved measuring device, whole fish and tournament marker, will be presented to the judges during the weigh-in.

The angler with the largest two redfish total to the nearest quarter inch will win a 100% payback with the first runner-up earning a 60% payback, second runner-up earns a 30% payback and 10% goes to the third runner-up. The cost to participate is $50 per two-person team or $25 for solo anglers. Registration fees will be collected at the captain’s meeting and must be made in cash.

After the weigh-in there will be a prize raffle at the Salty Shamrock. Tickets for the raffle are $5 each or five for $20 and can be purchased onsite with cash or by using Zelle, CashApp at $shadowcastflyfishing, or Venmo at @shadowcastflyfishing.

All the proceeds from the event benefit Tampa Bay Waterkeeper. For more information, contact Capt. Jon Bull at 863-860-7250 or