Anglers targeting sailfish can expect fierce competition from award-winning angling teams at the 2009 World Sailfish Championship, scheduled Tuesday through Saturday, April 14-18.
The tournament is characterized by three days of fishing, a packed schedule of social and charity events, and participation from celebrities that typically include former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, retired four-star Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
Anglers also are drawn by the event's unparalleled purse.
"Between the official prize money and the optional entry, the total purse awarded last year was $1,268,000 -- making it the richest sailfish tournament in the world by far," said tournament chairman and founder Chris King, who estimated that the 2009 purse also would exceed $1 million.
The sailfish spectacular is scheduled to begin Tuesday, April 14, with final registration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at tournament headquarters in Key West's Mallory Square. A mandatory captains meeting is set for 5:30 p.m., followed by opening ceremonies, a color guard presentation and military flyover, and a kick-off party.
Competition is to commence with lines in the water at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, April 15 and 16. Lines-out is to be called at 3:30 p.m. both days.
After a nonfishing "lay day" on Friday, the tournament concludes Saturday with lines in the water from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Social events include the Sunset Key Seafood Extravaganza, the Coach's Party at Mallory Square featuring silent and live charity auctions, boat manufacturers' dockside parties and open house, and a live Mallory Square concert that is open to the public. The Florida Viking Yachts Dealers Awards Banquet, presented by Galati Yacht Sales and HMY Yacht Sales, follows Saturday's fishing.
As well as rich prizes, the tournament is known for its fundraising to benefit charities including the Don Shula Foundation for breast cancer research, Camp Boggy Creek for young people with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and the Rotary Club of Key West.
"We've raised $1.7 million for charity since the tournament's inception," said King. "This year we're hoping to break the $2 million mark."
The entry fee of $7,500 per boat enables five anglers and a captain to participate. Six VIP social passes are included.
For more information and a downloadable entry form, visit www.worldsailfish.com. Information also can be requested by calling (866) 550-5580.
For lodging information in Key West, contact the Key West Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539), or visit the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com.