It was the night before the 5th Annual Key West Sailfish Tournament. First place took home five grand. Chris, Joe and Brandon had been sail fishing their whole life and had learned from one of the best sail fishing captains in The Keys, but this was the first tournament they were going to fish by themselves. They were the youngest contestants in the tournament, each of them 16 years old. That night they were running around like chickens with their heads chopped off trying to get everything ready. Joe took the boat down to the gas dock to top off the gas tanks and talked to other captains trying to find out where the baitfishes were hiding. Baitfish are the most important detail, if you run out while fishing thats it, you cant go get more and the day is shot. Chris was home rigging the rods, striping off the old line and putting new line on the reels, and tying on new fluorocarbon leaders. Brandon was on the road getting supplies, stopping at World Wide Sportsman to pick up sabiki rigs, which are crucial for the sardines, and cigar minnows and getting two boxes of mackerel chum and 2 gallons of sand mixed with the chum.
First place in the tournament was for the largest sailfish. The tournament began with an honor departure at 7am from each contestants dock. Weigh in was at 4pm at the Key West marina. Since sail fishing was red hot off of the Florida Keys there was a big turn out expected. The boys plan was to meet at Chriss house at 6am, go over last minute details and leave their dock by 7am. They would be fishing off of Chriss Regulator, Off The Hook, which was a 23-foot yellow center console and powered by a single 200hp HPDI Yamaha engine. The boat is equipped with a fiberglass T-top and has a huge fish box built into the hull. This was the ultimate fishing boat and handled the sea like a BMW on the Autobahn!
The morning of the tournament came bright and early, the clock read 5:45 am and Chris looked out of his bedroom window overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and viewed the start of another beautiful day in Paradise. The weather forecast was sunny with north winds 5-10 mph. 6:00 am came with a knock on the front door; sure enough it was the crew, Joe and Brandon, who had brought buttered bagels for breakfast and sandwiches for the rest of the day. After they ate breakfast they packed a cooler and walked down to the boat. They went over the checklist and loaded the boat with all the fishing gear and Brandon mixed the thawed out chum and sand together, which would be used for catching the sardines and cigar minnows.
The three boys shoved off of port at 7am, Chris was behind the wheel. Joe entered GPS coordinates that were for the last sighting of the baitfishes they had gotten from Captain Scott who had fished the spot yesterday, Brandon organized the deck. Using the GPS coordinates the boys pulled up to the baitfish spot, which was close to the sailfish grounds spot and approximately one mile west of the Tennessee tower, and in 23 feet of water. They idled around looking for the signs of baitfish. The water was crystal clear. Sure enough, after a few minutes Joe, with his hawk like eye sight spotted a dark cloud of bait in the water and Brandon threw an anchor. Chris, the captain, told them to throw some chum in the water. "Okay Captain," said Joe. The bait fishing turned out to be great and the boys caught five or six sardines and cigar minnows at a time. By 8am they had the live well blacked out with bait. It was a great start and it gave the boys hope and optimism.
The next stop was the sailfish grounds, which were only three miles southeast from their location. They pulled up to the fleet of boats that were already fishing and lowered the out- riggers. Brandon and Joe would work the deck while Chris would be captaining. They got the lines in the water with no problems. Five minutes later a fish was on! Joe grabbed the rod and fought the fish, while Brandon reeled in the other lines. Joe shouted, "color", meaning the fish was close and Brandon got the gaff ready. Its a tuna Brandon yelled! Chris said, "it doesnt help for the tournament, but we might as well keep him." "Hes a good 30 lbs," said Joe. With much excitement the tuna was thrown in the cooler and they muttered. "thats diner!" The boys got the lines back in and hoped to catch some sails to continue on with the tournament.
After that, time passed slowly, only 10am and no more action. 11am came and went, as did the following hour. Brandon hoped to break the monotony and said, "Alright boys, it's time for the afternoon bite." But, 1pm came and still no action. "I dont understand, we are doing everything right, we have perfect bait, perfect weather, I dont understand," said Joe. "Thats fishing," said Chris. Brandon said, "It's just too nice out to catch fish." Well lets hope not," said Joe. The captain suggested changing the baits, and the crew followed orders, hoping it would change their luck. At 2pm the boys hadnt got a hit. 3pm came and they would have to leave their spot by 3:30 in order to get back to the marina on time. "Weve given it this much time lets give it 5 more minutes," said the Captain. "Thats right patience pays," said Brandon. The five minutes passed and the boys were feeling defeated when all of a sudden Brandon screamed, "Fish on! Holy smokes two fish on! No wait, we got three fish on, we got a triple, we got a triple on captain," screamed Brandon. Chris had to drive and there was no way the boys would be able to handle the boat and reel in three fish. Chris made a decision, "Cut the third line, if we dont it is going to tangle and we are going to loose all the fish, cut the line," he yelled. Joe quickly cut the line. "Come on boys reel these fish in, its 3:15 and were running out of time," said Chris. "Get the camera," yelled Joe. "My sail just jumped and he is huge!" "Dont worry about no stinking camera; just worry about getting him in the boat," yelled the Captain. "I lost my fish," screamed Brandon. Two fish gone and one to go! "Alright, lets put all out efforts on Joe, he is our last chance, Brandon get your gloves on you are going to grab his bill when Joe reels him in," said the Captain. "Captain I'm gaining on him, he is turning on me; hard right rudder," screamed Joe." "Okay, okay, Im working on it," replied Chris. "I see color, is everybody ready? Put the engines in neutral, he is coming up- grab his bill!" yelled Joe. "I got him! He is huge! Help me pull him in the boat!" Joe dropped his rod and Chris ran from the wheel and the three boys pulled this huge sailfish into the boat. "We got a winner!" screamed Brandon. "Oh yeah, he is at least 100 pounds," estimated Chris. "Good job Joe." "Now all we have to do is make it back to the dock in time for weigh-in," said Joe. "Alright, lets make like a sailfish and haul back to the dock," said Chris.
Arriving at the Marina just in time, there was a pile of boats all weighing-in their fish. No one came close to the fish that Joe reeled in. It weighed in at 104 pounds! The boys won first place that day and split the five thousand three ways.
Regulator – The
Finest in Offshore Sportfishing Boats
From 23 - 34 Feet
Regulator Marine, Inc. • 187 Peanut Drive • P.O. Box 49 • Edenton, North Carolina 27932 • 252-482-3837