A total of 231 releases during the 2015 Sailfish Challenge kept teams on their toes as they competed for a purse in excess of $380,000. 74 boats cleared three different inlets in hopes of claiming the 1st place title during this one-day tournament.
The hot morning bite started the competition off right with the first sailfish released at 7:37 a.m. by OCD, who checked out of Government Cut in Miami. Over 100 releases were called in to the tournament radio room in the morning and as the day progressed, the bite continued with full force.
Team Bar South, top team in the first leg of the series, emerged as the front-runners during the first half of the day with 7 releases before noon. However, they struggled to keep the momentum rolling in the second half of the day and several other boats in the fleet pulled within striking distance of Bar South for the win.
During the last ten minutes of the tournament, the radio came alive with boats calling in hook-up after hook-up. Team Swagger caught their 8th fish of the day during that flurry to leap frog past Bar South for the lead. Not long after, Bar South released another sail to even out the score. Meanwhile, other boats continued the may lay of hook-ups and at one time there were three different boats (Bar South, Qualifier and Miss Annie) with fish on the line to win the whole tournament! Miss Annie and Qualifier both had triple-headers on as the clock pushed closer to the required check-in time.
It was down to wire and the tension was building as each fish released was potentially worth thousands of dollars. When the salt spray settled, Miss Annie finished on top with a total of 10 releases that earned them a whopping $195,565! They have been on one heck of a hot streak, cashing checks for more than $560,000 in the first 3 years of the Quest for the Crest. Swagger ended up finishing in 2nd place with a check for $78,170 and Bar South in 3rd with a check for $44,140!
The big bucks earned during the tournament didn’t just come from the sailfish releases. Lagniappe took home a $19,550 check for reeling in a few hefty meat fish! A 46.7 lb. dolphin won them the Big Fish Bonanza and Heaviest Dolphin category. They also caught the heaviest kingfish of the tournament that weighed in at 44.1 lbs.
Master Angler of the tournament went to Will Morrison of Qualifier with 7 releases. The Top Female title went to Stephanie Choate of Miss Britt and the Top Junior was James David, Jr. from Jichi. The Top Senior of the Sailfish Challenge was Frank Napurano of Miss Annie.
Now that the Sailfish Challenge has concluded, there’s only one more opportunity to move up the ranks in the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. The last chance to score points towards the Quest race is Final Sail in Key West. This grand finale will be held April 15–19 at the Westin Key West Resort & Marina and will award the highest accolade in tournament sailfishing: The Crest Jacket. BAR South is currently in the lead with 71 points and DeBaitAble follows closely behind with 67 points. Miss Annie and Swagger are tied with 58 points.
For a complete breakdown on the tournament results for the Sailfish Challenge, visit http://www.sailfishchallenge.com. For a complete list of the point standings in the Crest race, visit http://www.questforthecrest.com