By: Ed Killer, TCPalm.com
STUART — On Dec. 2, they called it a catapult. The next day, they called it clutch.
The catch of two sailfish doubleheaders in two days powered the fishing team aboard Outlaw to victory in the Fish Heads Sailfish Invitational.
Capt. Ian Wichers, anglers Tom Wichers (Ian’s father) and Brian Schmidt, of Stuart, and mates Patrick Price, Mike Resch and Marshall Busha caught three sailfish Wednesday and four Tuesday to win both daily awards and the overall title with seven total sailfish releases.
The fleet of 12 boats tallied 19 sailfish Wednesday and 26 on Tuesday for 45 overall.
For Outlaw, that is led by Sewall’s Point boat owner Neil Subin, the win was the third consecutive sailfish tournament title this season. In September and October, the team won the 2014 Fall Classic, in New Smyrna Beach, and the 2014 Ed Dwyer Billfish Classic, in Cape Canaveral.
Wednesday’s sailfish action did not feature huge numbers of fish. But, there was plenty of suspense as to which team could string together a few single catches or perhaps get one double or triple-header that might result in the tournament win.
In the morning, Outlaw maintained its lead in the standings when it caught its fifth fish a few minutes before eventual runner-up Showtime! caught its fifth. But with little happening in the bait spread, Wichers and Price discussed making a move back to the north.
“We were down a few miles off the St. Lucie Inlet and moved about 4.5 miles to the north at 1:30 p.m.,” Wichers said.
Price said within five minutes of setting lines back out, they had a sailfish bite that quickly jumped off.
“But still, as a captain, it makes you feel like you did make the right move,” Price said.
Half the fleet was within one sailfish of catching up to Outlaw with more than 90 minutes left to fish. At about 2:20 p.m., Price saw a sailfish come up on the left teaser. Schmidt tried to feed it a ballyhoo, but the fish refused to take it.
“It was crazy,” Schmidt said. “While I tried to do that, I ended up getting a bunch of sargassum weed on my line.”
Plus, two of the other three rods suddenly had strikes. Price could only tell that one had a bonito.
“Brian’s trying to clear his line, other rods are going off, and still that sailfish — which could have been the winning fish for all we knew — swam along with us behind the boat all lit up like it wanted to eat,” Price said.
The other lines wound up being bonitos, and Schmidt’s line became fouled, so he grabbed the last rod the team had rigged up.
As he tried to feed the sailfish that everyone felt would swim off any second, Price saw a second sailfish swim up on the right side of the boat where Tom Wichers had a rod. He free-spooled his bait, and quickly came tight on the second sailfish. Then, Schmidt’s sail took his bait.
“It was almost like that first sailfish wouldn’t eat until it had competition,” Price said. “Once it came up, the game was on.”
Schmidt and Wichers both recorded releases.
Several minutes later, Showtime! radioed in its sixth sailfish. But the 3:30 p.m. lines out call came before any other team could pass Outlaw.
“This was definitely the most intense afternoon of fishing we’ve had in four years as a team on this boat,” said Price, who operates DayMaker charters out of Four Fish Marina, in Jensen Beach, when he is not fishing as part of team Outlaw.
Wichers said winning a tournament in Stuart against the level of competition they faced was huge.
“I’m really, really excited about our start this season,” he said. “Everybody’s been working very hard and everyone’s got a really good vibe going on. This is the best roll we’ve been on.”