Stuart, FL — It wasn’t the beautiful weather or the calm seas that made fishing tough; it was the fishing. Pirate’s Cove Sailfish Classic has set record-breaking release numbers two years running. The 24th annual tournament (Nov. 29-Dec. 2) couldn’t have been more different. The summertime temperatures and flat-clam seas seemed closer to marlin fishing in the Bahamas than the angry winter seas that produced huge numbers of fish in the years before. The bite seemed closer to marlin fishing as well, with top boats raising five flags rather than 15, changing the strategy. Boats that don’t always see big numbers but have big release ratios led the board. Mehl Ticket, a boat chartered by anglers Punch Martyn, Keith Beaty, Clark Beaty and Loch Cheatham, and captained by Mike Croke with mates Mike Halle and JJ Davidson, led days one and two with four and five releases respectively.
Leading a highly respected field of 20 other boats, including Krazy Salts, Big Oh and Bone Shaker, seemed like a great fit for a local captain who rarely gets to fish tournaments. His steady lead was upset on the third day by tournament veteran Chasin Tail. With 11 releases, Capt. Rob Valco, along with anglers Howard Webb, Tommy Holder and Chris Martin as well as mate Matt Abraham, ran away with the victory. Fa-La-Me (Capt. Rob Moore) and Lo Que Sea (Capt. Kevin Paul) also shook up the leaderboards with eight releases each.
When the transoms were scrubbed and the boats were shammied, the leaderboard stood as follows:
1st place: Chasin Tail, 68’ Bayliss, 18 releases
2nd place: Mehl Ticket, 65’ Willis, 12 releases
3rd Place: Summer Girl, 66’ Spencer, 11 releases
Top Male Angler: Tommy Holder — Chasin Tail
Top Female Angler: Tina Rhein — Jackpot
Top Junior Angler: Erik Perna — Eco Fishing Team
For complete standings, please download the tournament app by searching “Pirate’s Cove Sailfish Classic” in your mobile-device app store, or visit piratescovesailfishclassic.com.