By Ed Killer, for CAM
PORT SALERNO – At dawn on Dec. 1, crews and anglers scurried about on the docks of Sailfish Marina clad in sweatshirts, hoodies, beanies and Grundens foul weather gear. An early cold front had arrived in Florida and crews knew it was going to a cold, rough day of fishing in the Fish Heads of Stuart Quickie Sailfish Tournament.
But they didn’t mind. After all, cold fronts mean more sailfish in this part of Florida.
And even if the final catch numbers for the Quickie weren’t record-shattering, the best trolling teams in the sport made up for it with last minute lead changes.
Champagne Lady led by Capt Josh Chaney and Lo Que Sea led by Capt. Mike Brady announced to the rest of the fleet of 11 boats that the win would be hard fought. At the end of the opening day, both boats had scored 7 releases.
On day two, the final day, the boats traded sailfish releases. Shortly after 2 p.m., Brady and Lo Que Sea caught the boat’s fourth fish, 11th overall, lifting them into the lead with 90 minutes left to compete.
“It meant we needed to catch two to pass him in the overall standings,” Chaney said. “So, with an hour to fish, I told the guys we were going to make a move, and to wind in the lines.”
His anglers looked up from the cockpit and thought he was crazy. But Chaney didn’t feel as if they could catch the fish they needed to win where they had been fishing. He ran 10 miles south of his position and set the lines back out about 10 miles due east of the Fort Pierce Inlet.
“We found a spot with good-looking water and began to troll down sea. Suddenly, we raised a family of sailfish. We hooked three and caught one. Then we hooked another two, and one ran up under the boat and started jumping off the bow.”
Somehow, they managed to keep that one from breaking off under the boat or getting the line wrapped in the propeller. When they recorded the release, their 12th and lead-taking fish of the tournament, there was 13 minutes to fish. Chaney said the cockpit erupted.
“Brady is one of the best sailfish tournament captains who ever lived,” Chaney said. “It was truly a nail-biter to the end and Matt and Brad never left the corners of the cockpit for two days. I couldn’t be prouder of my whole team.”
Joining Chaney and Ingraham were anglers Brad Wilson, “Uncle” Matt Coppaletta, Brandon Walton and Conner Tillman. Although the Quickie does not recognize a top angler, Chaney believed Wilson would have won it since he caught six of the team’s fish.
Lo Que Sea finished second with 11 releases. Game Changer led by Capt. Bryce Garvey placed third and had an all-female fishing team consisting of Jaclyn Tenuto and Kristy Zik, of Ocean City, Maryland; Natalia Frost of Morehead City, North Carolina; and Rachel Wehrle and Allison Wigley, both of Stuart.
The fleet finished with 63 total releases.