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November 25, 2008

Patience leads trio of childhood pals to victory at ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series

The team landed more than 120 trout and 20 redfish over two days.

Perhaps Ben Franklin had saltwater fishing in mind when he said "He that can have patience, can have what he will." It was extreme patience that led a trio of childhood friends, brothers Brian and Gary Woelber and Raymond Rogers, to victory at the ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series presents Redbone Savannah Red Trout Celebrity Classic.

The trio of childhood friends accumulated 11,550 points to win the Grand Team Champion category. Exclusively fishing one spot no bigger than a modestly-sized swimming pool, the team landed more than 120 trout and 20 redfish over two days. Guided by Capt. Brian Woelber, the team built a commanding margin from the spot Friday but Saturday, their mettle was tested.

With nearly two hours left in their competition day, the two competing anglers, Gary Woelber and Rogers, had yet to land a fish. Capt. Woelber knew that the spot turned on later in the day and had conditioned both anglers to the fact. But when it hit 1 p.m., he became antsy. Often, fishing tournaments are won based on split-second decisions and the trio was losing faith in their magical spot. So much so, Capt. Woelber began to crank up the Power Pole in preparation to leave. If it wasn't for his younger brother, Gary, they might have made a huge mistake.

"I guess I'll take credit for that," said Gary Woelber, 33, who recently with Brian started a business venture, Drop Zone Fishing, which supplies anglers with pre-loaded GPS cards that detail productive fishing areas around Savannah. "It starts to play with your mind when you are waiting but I just figured that we were going to live or die on that spot. Thankfully, it worked out."

If it was camaraderie that pulled them through Friday, it was a sound strategy that engendered success Saturday. Capt. Woelber had his brother throw live bait to locate the trout while Rogers, the more experienced angler, followed with DOA shrimp. The majority of the trout they boated were in 3 to 5 feet of water. The more than 20 redfish came as a nice surprise and were all landed in pursuit of trout.

Capt. Woelber worked throughout the day to position the boat allowing the anglers to cast with the wind and felt boat position was another key to the team's success.

The two anglers had to be ready at the drop of a dime as the fish were biting "like mad" after long periods of inactivity. Knowing this, the crew skipped lunch Friday, but Saturday couldn't resist temptation. After lunch is when the bite picked up.

Despite the two productive days of fishing, the conditions were near-freezing and windy throughout the competition. The less than ideal conditions had on affect on all the anglers including the victorious team. Rogers said Friday he would have been happy to pack it in. The younger Woelber forgot gloves, a cardinal sin on a day like Saturday, and spent the day with a pair of aching hands.

"But once we started catching fish, I think we all warmed up," said Rogers. "It was no different than when we were growing up."

Other anglers persevering through the conditions included fishing legends Stu Apte and Flip Pallot. Pallot was competing in his third EOSS event this year while Apte took the Celebrity Division title.

Florida's Susan and Gary Ellis started the Redbone Series 20 years ago to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Last year the series raised more than $1.5 million toward for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and fighting the debilitating disease that affects the respiratory and other organ systems.

For more information on the individual tournaments, fishing fans can visit www.redbone.org.