With the 2016-2017 South Atlantic sailfish tournament season starting, Marlin glanced back at the last few years’ results for a preview of the teams to watch over the next few months.
Here is a roundup of winners and top finishers from the last three seasons, and the teams who are in great shape to finish atop tournament leaderboards again this year. The teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Capt. John Dudas’ crew won the 2013 Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship and placed fourth in that season’s Quest for the Crest series. 4 Aces has more-recent success, too, with third-place finishes in the Jimmy Johnson’s 2016 tournament and last April’s Final Sail. 4 Aces is a good pick to follow last season’s strong finish.
Winners of the Operation Sailfish tournament the last two years, Rob Gothier Jr. and his team released 18 sailfish and won $255,950 in the opening leg of the 2015 Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. The two-day tournament starts Dec. 9 in West Palm Beach, Florida, and according to the team’s website, BAR South will be there on the 60-foot Spencer for a possible three-peat. Other notable finishes include: third in the 2015 Sailfish Challenge; first in the 2015 Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series; third in the 2014 Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series; and second in the 2014 Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship.
The team had a busy 2015-2016 season on its 39-foot Contender. Second-place finishes in the Operation Sailfish and Sailfish 400 tournaments preceded team member Rick Murphy winning the Master Angler award in the 2016 Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship. Contender One, captained by Quinton Dieterle, placed fourth in last year’s Quest for the Crest series and third two seasons ago in the 2015 Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship.
The winning team from the 2016 Sailfish Challenge, Jichi, emerged victorious with 18 releases and earned a $163,000 payout. Capt. Gene Lebron’s team is a favorite for the 2017 edition, which starts February 22, 2017, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That isn’t Jichi‘s only title to defend, either. The team followed the Sailfish Challenge victory with 25 releases and a win in the inaugural two-day Sailfish Shootout Title in Miami, Florida. The team’s success dates back to 2013, when it won the Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship, and Jichi finished runner-up in the 2014 Silver Sailfish Derby.
Fishing from a 39-foot SeaVee, Capt. Art Sapp’s team won the 2016 Silver Sailfish Derby with nine sailfish releases on the second day and 11 for the two-day tournament in West Palm Beach, Florida. When the tournament returns January 5, 2017, will Liquid rise above the ranks again? Liquid, which has had tournament success dating back to 2002, also placed fourth with nine releases in last year’s Sailfish 400, won the 2014 Sailfish Challenge and finished second in the 2015/2016 Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series.
The team aboard Priceless finished third in last year’s Sailfish 400 and fourth-place finishes in the 2015 Sailfish 400 and 2015 Final Sail add to the recent accomplishments. Priceless finished fifth in last year’s Quest for the Crest series and could take Utopia‘s crown this season.
A consistent challenger in the South Atlantic sailfish circuit, Sailsmen was the 2014 Final Sail champion and 2014 Jeb Bush Florida Classic runner-up. Capt. Jeff Scott’s team, fishing from a 39-foot SeaVee, has success dating back to 2008. In 2012, Sailsmen won Operation Sailfish.
Owner Sandra MacMillan’s Sandman team was one of the most consistent boats in the 2015/2016 circuit. Sandman finished second to Jichi in the Sailfish Challenge — and the success didn’t stop there. With a victory in the Final Sail tournament, the last leg of the Quest for the Crest series, the team finished its sailfish circuit strong. Capt. John Louie Dudas’ team, which finished third in the Quest for the Crest series, released 21 sailfish in three days to win $260,700 in the Final Sail event. The tournament returns April 25, 2017, in Key West, Florida.
Capt. Luis Coll’s team did not win any one of the three legs of the Quest for the Crest series, but Utopia showed consistency and finished with enough points to win the three-leg series. The season-long competition included Operation Sailfish, the Sailfish Challenge and Final Sail, the last of which Utopia finished second with 18 releases. Adding to the team’s list of accomplishments are a 2013 Sailfish Challenge victory and a runner-up finish in the 2014 Sailfish Challenge.
Weez in the Keys
The winner of the 2015 Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship, Weez in the Keys followed with a strong showing last season, finishing second in the tournament behind Rock Star. Owner Scott Robins won the Top Angler award in the 2016 Sailfish Shootout, and Weez in the Keys finished third in the 2013 Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship and second in the 2012/2013 Quest for the Crest series. Capt. Chris Zielinski’s group is one to watch this season.