What a difference a year makes. The sailfish were either lock-jawed or absent for this year’s tournament in Palm Beach, Florida, where a fleet of 28 teams and 119 anglers took their skills to the next level, ready to compete for one of the most coveted prizes in competitive sport fishing: the Gold Cup.
Unlike the previous two years — which netted 232 releases in 2018, and an incredible 448 in 2017 — 2019 proved that only the most elite fishermen would have to catch what they saw to survive the unreasonably slow fishing and have a chance to drink champagne from the golden chalice.
With both dead- and live-bait divisions, the 47th annual Gold Cup produced only 58 sailfish releases in the four-day event — with sailfish released on live-bait scoring 100 points, and sails released on dead bait scoring 300 points.
On Day One, six teams chose to get a head start while the remainder of the fleet took a lay day, hoping the change in weather would stir up the action.
Representing Sailfish Point Yacht Club, Fred and Nancy Hardwick’s Showtime! started its ascent by releasing a tripleheader midday on dead bait, which was good enough for the daily, while Capt. Randy Yates and his team aboard Miss Annie — who topped the live-bait division — also reported three releases the first day.
Wrapped Up released four sailfish on Day Two — the only fish they caught in three days of fishing — winning the daily for team members Capt. Andy Ford, team captain Chris Lazzara, and anglers Hunter Beall, Kendall Cheatham and Brian Kirkpatrick for a total of 1,200 dead-bait points and second place overall.
Three sailfish releases on Lo Que Sea on Day Two put the team into third place; these would also be the only fish scored by the team over the duration of this year’s tournament.
The event’s top angler, Howard Webb, fishing aboard Showtime!, won the Chairman’s Award with the best ratio of shots-to-releases, going 5-for-5 and personally catching five of the team’s eight sails. Webb also was presented the John Rybovich Memorial Award for the most sailfish released on dead bait, as well as weighing in the tournament’s heaviest mahi.