South Dakota Woman Wins Master Angler Title in Key West Fishing Tournament

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — A South Dakota woman was named the women’s master angler in the Key West Fishing Tournament after scoring multiple divisional wins and tournament records in the long-running challenge that spans eight months.

Katelynn Wells, a resident of Miller, took top honors for overall releases with 59, including six dolphin fish, as well as tallying 14 division-leading catches including a 28-pound amberjack, a 12-pound barracuda on plug and a 17-pound red snapper on 30-pound test line that set a divisional record. She also scored three “heaviest fish” wins and two fish that set tournament weight records: a 2.8-pound ladyfish on plug and a 4.8-pound sea trout on 12-pound line.

Wells fished on Off the Rock with Captain Brad Nowicki and on Live Action Sportfishing with Captain Ryan Carter, both of Key West.

The men’s master angler was Rob Ripka of Pulaki, New York. His achieve-
ments included catching two division-leading fish on 12-pound line — a 12-
pound bonito and a 4-pound yellowtail snapper — as well as a division-
leading 31.6-pound kingfish. Fishing on Bait Stealer with Captain Dale Bittner of Key West, he also set a “heaviest fish” record for catching a 6-pound yellowtail on 30-pound line.

Ten-year-old Julia Bernstein of Miami, fishing in the peewee division, eclipsed her competitors to earn the peewee master angler award for achievements including a remarkable 104 releases. Her catches included a 23.8-pound Jack Crevalle on 30-pound line that earned a tournament weight record, a 24.8-pound barracuda on 20-pound line that earned divisional “heaviest fish” honors, four other “heaviest fish” winners and three division leaders.

— Julia Bernstein and Dale Bittner by Heidi Mason

The young Bernstein fished with Bittner on Bait Stealer and also on a private boat.

Captain Bill Wickers III of the Linda D V earned overall guide honors in the general division, tallying 14 winners and a division-topping 36 releases including three marlin.

Captain Brice Barr of the Double Down was named top guide in the light general division, guiding his anglers to a divisional best of 66 releases — 64 of them sailfish.

Captain Tim Carlile of the Outcast earned the overall guide achievement award in the flats division. He also guided his anglers to the most flats releases with 213, including 86 tarpons.

Celebrating the diverse variety of fish found in Florida Keys waters, the Key West Fishing Tournament provides recognition and awards to anglers posting the heaviest catch in each of 33 species and the most releases of fish in seven other species.

The 2021 tournament drew 312 participating anglers who entered 753
releases and 262 weighed catches. For a complete list of winners and catches, visit keywestfishing-

The 2022 challenge is to begin Dec. 1, 2021 and continue until July 31, 2022.