KEY WEST, Fla. – If the opening day of the World Sailfish Championships presented by Bass Pro Shops is any indication of what’s to come over the next couple days, anglers and spectators are in for some major fireworks.
Fifty-three boats combined to release over 362 sailfish, a single day record, as the World’s Richest Sailfish Tournament dropped lines in the waters off of Key West.
The wire-to-wire action didn’t stop until Team Sandman released one of the final fish of the day. That fish was exactly what last year’s winner needed to slip into second place for Day One.
“The first hour we were kind of sweating it out,” Sandman’s Scott Leon said. “I think we caught like the 50th overall fish of the day. We started out by following a tailer for about 15 or 20 minutes but 30 seconds before lines in, he spooked.
“That’s not what you want. You want the first fish of the day. We were around a lot of boats, but we pulled in the kites and started to follow tailers and eventually we were by ourselves and we started racking up the numbers.
Boat owner Sandra MacMillan, who assumed the lead in the Top Lady Angler standings, had a huge day with eight releases. Based on release times, she and her team will begin Day Two just behind Team Advanced Roofing, which found very little downtime during the day.
Advanced Roofing, which entered the tournament in the sixth and final guaranteed playoff spot, released six fish in the first two hours of the tournament and then another half dozen between 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
“We had a real good run in the middle of the day, but it was pretty even, pretty steady throughout the day,” Capt. Jeff Scott said.
When Advanced Roofing released sailfish No. 20 at 1:15, it gave the 39-foot SeaVee the tournament lead and the inside track heading into Day Two. But Sandman rallied with a doubleheader in the final 10 minutes to release No. 20 and then Team 4 Aces sneaked in with a release seven minutes from lines out to record 20 releases and claim a close third position.
That is something Scott said he will consider when he maneuvers the Advanced Roofing team out of Key West Harbor for Day Two.
“We casted at probably 40 fish and got 20 to bite. A lot of them wouldn’t bite or just kept going and acting like they weren’t interested,” Scott said. “Now we’ve got two of the best boats in the tournament tied with us. You’ve got to consider that. With less wind tomorrow, I think the fishing will be slower and there will be more pressure on the fish. Maybe we stick near the other teams and try to battle it out. The best man is going to win.”
The entire field will set their kites out again Thursday morning at 8 a.m. in what will be the final day of the World Fishing Tour’s regular season. The teams will be vying for the top six spots in the Sailfish Pro Series, while boats in positions 7 through 12 will fight it out on Day Three for the wild card spot in the postseason.
Tomorrow will be vital for teams like Sandman, who entered the tournament in 13th spot and desperately needs to move up.