This year the toughest of the tough competed against each other and the weather in the 53rd Annual Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Release Tournament. The field of 20 boats set out on Friday, January 22 in rough seas and rain. If that wasn’t bad enough the west wind on Saturday was blowing a gale throughout the day. Even in the face of severe conditions fish were caught by a group of the most hardcore tournament fishermen you’ll find anywhere.
Day One the lead changed almost with every release called in to the radio room high atop the Jupiter Beach Spa and Resort where Penthouse Paulie was manning the official tournament channel. De-Bait-Able started the day off with the first sailfish trolling, which was quickly followed by Daryl Deka’s 39-foot Contender, Doin’ It All/Hard Way, calling in a double on live bait. The bite was slow, but consistent and by afternoon the lead was changing hands between three boats. The day ended with Tuna Tango, Della Ann and Intents in a three-way tie for first place release points.
Day two started off at 8:32 with a release by the 70-foot Bertram, Kathy Jo, owned by Lewis Lakin and captained by John Millroy, a boat that didn’t have a single release on day one. It wouldn’t be the last we’d heard from this team as they trolled in rough seas nine miles off the beach and well north of tournament headquarters at Sailfish Marina. Tuna Tango and Miss Annie called in fish shortly thereafter, but Kathy Jo had found a pod of fish and they were capitalizing on their good fortune. They called in a single at 9:22 and then two doubles, the first round 11:00 and the second just before 11:30 followed by singles at 12:30 and 1:00, which was enough to seal the deal as the competition continued scratching and clawing their way through heavy seas and winds trying to add to their totals.
The awards dinner at the historic Sailfish Club of Florida saw a lot of very tired, battered and bruised fishermen who gathered for a top-flight seafood buffet, open top-shelf bar, a silent auction and some camaraderie where the beautiful Buccaneer Cup awards were presented along with $171,000 in Calcutta money. The Kathy Jo team took the trophies for 1st Place Boat, most points overall, most points on dead bait and won the charity Calcutta for a free entry into the 54th Buccaneer Cup along with a pile of Calcutta money.
The 2nd Place Boat award was secured by Tuna Tango with Della Ann placing third. Top Angler honors went to David Cash of the Della Ann, 2nd Place was Tony Huerta of the Tuna Tango and 3rd was Chris Manetta on the Old No. 7, who also received beautiful Buccaneer loving cups. Tournament Top Lady Angler was Tamara Slayton on the Reel Candy, who also took home the Biggest Fish award for a 31.5 lb. blackfish tuna caught on Saturday.
While dead bait trollers dominated the tournament this time around the kite flyers caught fish, too. Old No. 7 took the $5000 tournament cash and cup for the most points on live bait and a tidy check for several live bait categories.
“The big story this year was the weather surrounding the tournament,” said Gary Caputi, tournament director. “Fishing had been slow the weeks prior to the tournament, but the days leading up to it saw the first significant cold fronts of the year red hot fishing. Interest in the tournament was high, but the evening of the captains meeting at the Buccaneer Marina Restaurant the weather forecast for the two fishing days was deteriorating rapidly, which kept participation down. The boats that fished had had their hands full and really tested their boats, equipment and crews. They earned the respect of everyone associated with the event.”
The Buccaneer Cup thanks all to participated. The donation of all the tournament proceeds to the Recreational Fishing Alliance possible, most notably event manager Courtney Bowden. Our onsite accountant/statistician Tom Trageser was invaluable and the work of the International Game Fish Tournament Observers proved indispensable. The tournament also thanks Capt. Paul Pietreska, Terry O’Neill and Craig Murphy for a great job handling the radio room and recording the scoring as it happened, which was presented live via the Reel Time Scoring App.