Rough seas didn’t stop 70 of the top sailfishing teams in the country from releasing plenty of sails during the 13th Annual Sailfish Challenge, leg 3 of the Quest for the Crest. Day 1 of the tournament started out with seas ranging from 6 to 8 feet and had anglers chomping at the bit to get a piece of a record setting $442,610 purse.
The large boundaries for the tournament left teams gambling whether to head north or south in search of a hot bite. Jichi headed south to fish off Triumph Reef on Day 1, which turned out to be a prime choice given their eight releases by 10 am. They continued their hot streak throughout the day and stayed at the top of the leaderboard with 11 releases. Team Good Call made a ‘good call’ to head north off Jupiter and released a total of six fish on the first day to take home a payout over $25,000 in daily prize money. It was anyone’s game at the end of Day 1 with 2nd through 5th Place teams all releasing six fish. The bite also seemed to be fairly evenly spread between boats to the north and south end of the boundary. Both Miss Britt and Doing It All/Hardway fished to the north and finished the day with six releases in 3rd and 4th Place. Captain John Dudas and his crew on Sandman were down to the south in the waters near Jichi and they finished the day with six releases in 5th Place.
Day 2 of the Sailfish Challenge started off with the first sailfish released just minutes after the lines in announcement. Over 100 sailfish were released before noon and teams that were towards the bottom of the leaderboard climbed to the top for their shot at victory. While the bite appeared to slow down to the north on Day 2, that was not the case to the south. Jichi came out swinging on Day 2 and never relinquished their lead from Day 1. They finished in 1st Place with 18 total releases, taking home a payout of $163,460. Sandman finished strong with a total of 13 releases in the tournament and a 2nd Place finish good for $44,000. Team Fish Tales also released 13 fish and took the 3rd Place spot, based on time, paired with a hefty payout of over $66,000, thanks to a 1st Place daily on Day 2.
The large payouts in the tournament weren’t just for the sailfish releases. The Big Fish Bonanza optional entry category was another opportunity for teams to take home some big bucks for the heaviest meat fish. WishList weighed in two kingfish over 50 pounds with their largest tipping the scale at 52.1 pounds that earned them a check for $15,660 plus a bonus $1,000 for the heaviest king!
Master Angler of the Sailfish Challenge went to Ricky Quartenjena of Jichi with six releases and Top Female Angler was CeCe Imbrie of OCD with four releases. The Top Junior Angler of the tournament was Josh Wiley of Team Regulator.
The Release Round Up optional category rolls over again to the last leg of the series, Final Sail in Key West, where teams will have the chance to win an estimated $80,000. Team Jichi made it through each round of fishing with their winning fish released seven minutes before lines out. Unfortunately, they didn’t opt in to the calcutta and lost the pot of over $61,000.
Final Sail is also the last opportunity for teams to move up the ranks in the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. This grand finale will be held April 12–17 at the Westin Key West Resort & Marina and will award the highest accolade in tournament sailfishing: The Crest Jacket. Contender One is currently in the lead with 74 points. Liquid follows closely behind with 66 points and Utopia sits in 3rd with 60 points. Stay tuned to see which team will claim the jacket and the #1 sailfishing title in the world for 2016!
For a complete breakdown on the tournament results for the Sailfish Challenge, visit www.sailfishchallenge.com. For a complete list of the point standings in the Crest race, visit www.questforthecrest.com