By Ed Killer for CAM
STUART – The Pirates Cove Resort and Marina Sailfish Classic has enjoyed some of the largest catch totals for Treasure Coast area sailfish tournaments. At least four times in its 35-year history, its fleet has amassed in excess of 300 sailfish and has been within sight of 400 sailfish at least twice.
But the 2018 affair pulled in 20 boats and settled for 92 sailfish releases as the migratory body of sailfish remained out of range, and likely, north of Cape Canaveral at least until later in the 2018-2019 season.
And eventual winner Wrapped Up needed to find its final three catches, including a last-minute tournament-winning double-header, within the final hour of fishing time.
Capt. Andrew Ford, owner Chris Lazarra of West Palm Beach, Brian Kirkpatrick, Ryan Schwarz, Mike Irwin, James Green and James Lagrone fished the charter boat, normally docked at Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach, won the Classic by catching and releasing nine sailfish over its three days.
“It feels good to win,” said Lazarra. Ford agreed.
“We had been battling fish to fish with a couple of other boats today,” Ford said. “It was really a down to the wire moment. We had a triple up at the end and caught one. Then, right at the last 15 minutes, I got on a couple more fish, and we ended up catching both of them.”
Ford said the weekend’s fishing was tough. He said he ran the boat seeking sailfish from as far north as offshore of Vero Beach to as far south as Jupiter.
“We have an awesome crew, and I couldn’t have done it without my mates James Green and James Lagrone and Chris Lazarra,” Ford said.
Champagne Lady’s Capt. Josh Chaney said he began the final day of the Classic off Fort Pierce Inlet.
“We hooked a double first thing in the morning and jumped one of those two off, but the conditions were great off Fort Pierce Inlet,” Chaney said. “Then (Capt.) Wink (Doerzbacher of Showtime!) caught a couple next to me, but then the fleet had a couple of fish off Jupiter and the Cabana had one off Stuart.”
Champagne Lady consisted of Scott Levin, Wallis Higginbotham, Rob Miller, Dennis Rosen, Brad Wilson and Matt Bagley. Chaney had to decide whether to make a big move and sacrifice critical fishing time in order to find better sailfishing. He decided the risk was worth it.
“We ran 17 miles so it took us a little less than an hour,” Chaney said. “But right when we pulled up, we hooked a double and had a couple of singles so it put us right up there in the standings.”
Wrapped Up was nearby, too. And when Champagne Lady caught fish, Ford moved Wrapped Up to get into the same area.
“It was a real nail-biter to the end,” Chaney said. “We were right there fishing rigger-to-rigger. Then right at the end, we saw he hooked that double. I was glad to be out there.”
Champagne Lady, which won the Classic in 2016, finished with seven sailfish overall for third place. Cabana led by Capt. Eddie Wheeler also had seven to finish in second place.