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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Reel Justice Justified

Our new fishing guide on Hilton Head Island was up against it for sure that morning. The tide was running out heavy which made holding in some spots impossible. We also had competition from two dolphins who had come up the creek and were busy circling bait and stunning them with their big tail splashes. Worst of all, he knew that we thought he looked awfully young to be an effective guide.  He had purchased the boat from our regular guide who was now out for the season with a back injury. He had vouched for Justice but he would have to prove himself if we were going to do any repeat business. This was our eighth fishing trip to the area and our competitive threesome, brothers-in-law Sam, Bryon and myself, had some pretty high expectations.
  He took us up the creek further than normal commenting on many of the inlets, oyster shelves and productive clumps of grasses.  We began to be impressed with the detail of his local knowledge, which was a theme that would develop with each subsequent trip.
 Justice's grandpa got him started at the age of four and when he caught his first fish, a 14' redfish, he got hooked as well. As he got older his commitment to fishing grew. Even as young lad he could be found fishing on his own, catching shrimp then using them as bait for redfish in the ponds around Sea Pines. At the age of 14 he started working for Tommy Bronsky on board The Shadow as a first mate. Justice credits Tommy for taking him from recreational to serious avid fisherman, to the point that when Justice turned 15 he decided that he wanted fishing to be his career.
 When Justice turned 18 he got his captain's license and ran the Shadow 3-4 trips a week during the next summer and continued to act as mate for Tommy. In 2012 he started his own charter called Reel Justice.
The next two years kept Justice hopping as he was running his boat out of Broad Creek as well as Mark Mole's boat and Tommy's boat as well.  In 2014, after 7 years of offshore fishing he decided to buy Mark Mole's 2 boat which is a 17' Action Craft powered by a 2012 90 hp Yamaha. As a customer I love being in this boat because you can cover water quickly when you need to, then sneak up on the hot spots which are often up in places where other craft would fear to tread.  A positioning motor and Justice's poling abilities seal the deal when the going gets tricky.
  He stopped in front of a tiny creek that was letting out into a pool that was dotted by oyster beds. He selected the bait and pointed out the targets. The rest of the morning was a feverish blur of doubles and triples. We moved several times to follow the action. By the end of the trip we had boated 40 fish, most of them reds, and had lost a ton more - especially the flounders. This kind of fishing over oyster beds and sharp ledges and cross overs from overly eager fishermen results in a ton of leader and hook changes.
Justice is an out and out master at this and can have you geared up again, rebated and back in the game in no time. He treats each fish as if it is as important to him as it is to you. Justice is pretty much as fast and agile as a cat.  At one point he launched himself into a full dive across the boat to try a to net a founder which was escaping from Bryon's hook.
  Two days later we were back at it again, only this time we had to wait for the tide to start dropping so we hung out in the mouth and tried to target trout.  We got a few on gulp shrimp and mud minnows on a jig hook then headed up the creek on the tide drop. The trouble with today's drop was that it was floating great rafts of reeds, which at one point caused me to lose a really nice flounder when a reed raft jammed the net at the surface. Another 40 fish day with Bryon's 10 lb redfish being the largest but Sam and I weren't far behind.
That night's supper was a real mixed bag of redfish, bluefish, flounder and trout all fried up in blackened spices accompanied by cheese grits and cold lager.

  The third trip was in the afternoon - hotter than normal, full sun, no breeze, tons of midges. It was amazing that anything hit at all.  Under these circumstances he had to work really hard to find active fish but he was in perpetual good humour throughout. In fact, Justice's sense of pure joy about his job shines through no matter how tough the going.  Despite the conditions, he managed to put us on enough fish that we boated 30 of them.

    The evening before our fourth trip a cold front swept in giving us a thunder and lighting show and a huge downpour.  While it was good to have relief from the humidity, I have always found that fishing right after the onset of a cold front is generally tough fishing. We decided to try a late afternoon to sunset trip on the idea that by then maybe things might have stabilized a bit.  Justice once again had to cover territory to find fish but when we did the action was steady. Unfortunately I had insisted on bringing a new rig of my own. Even though the braided line was new it kept snapping like it was a hundred years old. I persisted too long with this gear before switching over to one of Justice's rigs so I fell behind in the count.  He generally uses Pflueger reels and Penn rods but we were also trying out his new Penn Battle 2 2500 spinning reels.  Encroaching darkness and a pretty fierce on-slot of bugs had us decide to pack it in, but not before landing 29 fish.
  Our final trip of the holiday found us fishing on the day of a tournament.  Boats and crews of every size were churning up the water everywhere. Even though we had made an early start, by the time we got to our target there was a large boat blasting away from it and another anchored right in the middle of the sweet spot. With Justice's skillful manoeuvering we were able to get around the other boat and work a less obvious and overlooked    spot. Despite the heavy pressure of the day we still ended up with 33 fish.
  Bottom line - we boated 172 fish in five trips, each trip on different conditions.
We'll be going out with Captain Justice again just as soon as we can.

 I wrote this article purely because of the great experience that we had but you might want to do a little more research yourself so here are
Justice's business site is
Justice says,"The best time of year for reds is Sept-Nov and mid March -mid May but my business is open year round so they can contact me to see how fishing is but they book the trip through Blue Water Tackle Shop."
Blue Water Tackle Shop ( )
232S Sea Pines Dr #308 Hilton Head SC

The Other Captains Mentioned
Capt. Thomas Bronsky
Shadow Sport Fishing Inc
Hilton Head

Capt. Mark Mole
Tailer May'D Charters, LLC

Photos courtesy
 Sam Axford
 Bryon Monk
 Dan McLeod - Esteemedia Productions