Key West Marlin Tournament

saraby Misty Wells

The Key West Marlin Tournament has been a long-standing annual tradition since 1982 when the tournament first began.  True to Key West tradition, the party never ends because this Tournament takes place during the historic Hemmingway Days.  The tournament starts with a legendary Captains’ party on July 17th and is then followed by 3 days of fishing in the Keys with the final day on July -20th.  Don’t let the name fool you, we are catching a lot more than just marlin, so you really need to bring your “A” game.  How this tournament works is you earn points for the catch & release fish, marlin and sailfish and earn points per lbs. at weigh-in for species like dolphin, wahoo and tuna.  The tournament has a new presenting sponsor this year, Stock Island Marina Village and it will be held there this year.  Teams come from everywhere to participate in this tournament not just for the $50,000 in cash and prizes, but also the bragging rights and the “glass”.

I sat at the Conch Republic with Tim Greene one of the founding fathers of what I call “Florida’s funnest tournaments” and over a few cold ones he shared the tournaments rich history, it’s up’s and down’s, and changes over the past 37 years.  I quickly came to realize that for Tim this is more than just an event or tournament, it is part of who he is and the legacy he is leaving for his beloved Keys.  Tim is no slouch on the rod, he has not only won the Tournament, he has been known to bend a few rods on some nice fish all over the world.

Because you are fishing for so many species you really need to be prepared for anything, you can never have too much fishing tackle, right?  Here’s a few secrets I have uncovered that might help give you an edge; #1 tip is getting Hilton’s Offshore. It’s a Navionics program that gives you sea temps, altimetry, currents and watercolor.  If you don’t know much about this program, you need to learn. I can assure you it does matter and saves you a lot of wasted fuel.  Next, I have found the 2 best lure colors that have consistently placed and won the tournament, blue and white and pink and white.  You need to have these two-color combos on board and make sure you are running your spread correctly.  Rods and Reels- make sure you have Quality over Quantity and that goes for everything; line, swivels, leaders, crimps and hooks.  Spend some time getting to know your reel’s drag system, you need to understand how much your drag pressure increases as your spool empties when hooked up with a marlin.  Get your hooks sharp, spend time rigging your lures, but don’t go overboard- pick 4-6 favorites and make them perfect.  At the end of the day it will all come down to the captain, mate and anglers so try and pre-fish together as much as you can to get the machine well-oiled and smooth.  Smooth is fast and fast is smooth!  I hope to see you on the water during this tournament, but if not come join us at the nightly parties and Hemmingway Days in Key West July 17-20.  I am hoping for dollars and trophies, but one thing I know for sure- this tournament will happen in historic Key West style “FUN”.

Misty Wells, Host of “Let’s Take It Outside” Radio show & video series Tampa Bay Times Outdoors, Outdoor Pro Writer & Adventure Guide. Founder of “A Reel Future” non-profit organization devoted to knowledge, conservation & the passion of fishing to foster kids.