By Ed Killer for CAM
STUART, Fla – In fishing, trends can change in a hurry. Especially in tournament sailfishing.
The second weekend of December 2017 featured the running of the 64th annual Light Tackle Sailfish Tournament hosted by the Stuart Sailfish Club. Despite a small fleet of 15 boats, which included three boats fishing in the fourth annual Florida Amateur Sailfish Championship, combined for 191 sailfish releases in three days of fishing. It was the 13th best total in the event’s six-plus decades of competition.
One week later, the Fish Heads of Stuart Invitational Sailfish Tournament had 12 boats tally up only 77 sailfish releases in three days.
It’s ok. These professionals are used to this. Up and down fishing activity is part of the game whether fishing as a charter boat skipper or as a private boat captain in a tournament. Although it may not show up in the tournament totals from the 2017-2018 sailfish season, many, including Floridian charters Capt. Glenn Cameron, out of Sailfish Marina in Stuart, feel as if it’s been a pretty solid season for catching sailfish.
There was no better way to wind up the area’s longest-running sailfish tournament than with a good old-fashioned shootout. And when the salt spray settled, the difference between the top two teams all came down to the time of the last sailfish released.
Alikai, led by Capt Patrick Price of Jensen Beach, and joined by owner Geoff Mayfield of Stuart; his dad, Keith Mayfield; anglers Kevin Hawken and Chris Lazzara; and crew Dave Dalfo and Marshall Busha won the 64th annual Light Tackle Sailfish Tournament hosted by the Stuart Sailfish Club.
They edged out the team aboard Sea Hag, led by Capt. Chris Kubik. Both teams finished the tournament with 20 sailfish releases over three days, but Kevin Hawken’s catch and release at 2:33 p.m. Sunday was just a little ahead of Sea Hag angler Kevin Miles’ catch at 2:58.
Alikai also was the top boat of the final day with 11 sailfish releases, ahead of the prior day’s daily winner Vintage, led by Capt. Hans Kraaz with nine, and day one daily award winner Cowpoke, led by Capt. Mike Brady with seven.
The Florida Amateur Sailfish Championship, fished by three boats in its fourth year, was won by Kingsbury, led by Capt. Dewitt Davenport with four sailfish releases. The entire 15-boat fleet, including the amateur division, tallied a total of 86 sailfish releases Sunday and 191 overall to give the 64th annual affair its 13th highest sailfish catch total.
For Alikai, the win was a first for many on board.
“If there was any tournament I wanted to win, it was this one,” said Geoff Mayfield, who with dad, Keith, has fished the Light Tackle off and on for the past 20 years. “Growing up here, this tournament has always been special to us.”
Price, who also notched his first Light Tackle win at the helm, felt much the same way.
“I’ve always wanted to win this tournament ever since I was just a kid sitting on top of the dock boxes at the fuel dock at Sailfish Marina watching the boats come back in,” said Price, 39. “I’m pretty excited.”
The difference in Alikai’s day turned out to be a mid-morning move executed by Price.
“We started off to the north, fishing with the rest of the fleet and went 1-for-5 in the morning,” Price explained. “I just felt the anglers needed a reboot. It was something I learned as a mate fishing these tournaments with V.J. (Bell, of Unbelievable), Scott (Fawcett, of Off the Chain) and Glenn (of Floridian), that when things don’t seem to be working out right, pick up your lines and get out of Dodge.”
Price said they made a move 7 to 8 miles to the south at about 10:30 a.m. They started seeing sailfish right away, and began steadily getting bites.
But a flurry of action around 1 p.m. sent Alikai soaring up the leaderboard.
“Dave’s bait got picked up and I circled, and then we had a quad, and caught it,” said Price, speaking of a quadruple-header, or when four sailfish are hooked on all four fishing lines simultaneously. “We set the lines back out and had another one right away.”
Price said they wound up with about 21 bites on the day and caught 11. He saw several more than didn’t bite.
Kubik, fishing with Sea Hag owner Charlie Duerr of Pirates Cove, N.C., and anglers Rob DeYoung, Junior Bass, Billy Joyst, Kevin Miles and Kenny Powers, said his team had enough shots to win.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t win,” Kubik explained, “but we’re thrilled to come here, and to do as well as we did against some of the best sailfishing teams in Florida and the country.
Floridian, led by Capt. Glenn Cameron of Stuart, and fished by Patti and Rob Miller of Palm City, Jimmy Vaughan of Lake Wales and J.J. Davidson, finished third overall.
For more information about the Stuart Sailfish Club and its full range of events and activities, go to StuartSailfishClub.com.
Fish Heads Invitational
When the fishing is slow, it’s important to maintain consistency if the goal is to win a sailfish tournament. That’s the advice shared by Capt. Glenn Cameron, one of the Treasure Coast’s most decorated skippers, but also the man who led the Floridian fishing team to its second sailfish tournament win of the season.
Floridian, with Cameron, and anglers Jennifer Cameron, J.J. Davidson, Matt Driscoll and Josh Chaney, tallied four sailfish releases Sunday and 11 overall in three days to best the fleet of 12 boats. A total of 77 sailfish were caught and released over the weekend as fishing patterns remained beautiful for catching Spanish mackerel, but slow for catching sailfish.
Tighten Up, led by Capt. Jason Genthner, won Sunday’s daily award by catching the team’s fourth fish at 3:20 p.m., about 20 minutes sooner than Floridian’s. Cameron said his team’s fourth sailfish was actually part of a doubleheader, which if the second had been caught, could have notched their second daily award this weekend. After catching and releasing the first one of the double, the second one’s rough-edged bill chafed through the monofilament leader at the hook and was gone before the release could be recorded.
Two weeks earlier, Cameron and Floridian won the Pirates Cove Sailfish Classic in similar fashion, with 12 releases over three days. The key was, in Cameron’s words, consistency.
“With this kind of (slow) fishing, if you have a hiccup, you fall behind,” Cameron said. “If you stumble, you fall. Last weekend (during the Light Tackle Tournament) was a lot different. Then, you had enough bites where a team could overcome a deficit in the standings.”
The sailfish action was much busier on the northerly winds following the cold front. A week later, warm southeasterly winds created opposite conditions.
“It’s hard when the fishing is like it was, but you have to keep your head in the game,” Cameron said. “The bites this weekend and (Sunday), are such you have to put your nose down and just grind it out.”
Photo credits – Ed Killer