Islamorada Sailfish Tournament Goes to Yabba Dabba Doo

Last-minute flurry gives the team a narrow victory

Yabba Dabba Doo team
The team from Yabba Dabba Doo tallied six sailfish releases on the final day to win the tournament.Courtesy Tim Rahn Photography

The team fishing aboard Yabba Dabba Doo had only 15 minutes left in the 54th Annual Islamorada Sailfish Tournament to move from second to first.

The anglers only needed two of those 15 minutes to release its 14th — and the tournament-winning — sailfish.

The tournament, held in the Florida Keys Dec. 1 -3, 2017, was the first leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship. The teams aboard Yabba Dabba Doo and Relentless were tied at the top of the leaderboard with 13 releases each, with the latter team in first place based on time.

Relentless fishing team
The Relentless team celebrates a strong second-place finish after scoring 13 releases.Courtesy Tim Rahn Photography

At 2:45 p.m. on the third day — 15 minutes left in the tournament — the committee boat radio announced three hook-ups, one each for Yabba Dabba Doo and Relentless and one for Contagious. Two minutes later, Yabba Dabba Doo released the fish and had the lead. Relentless' hook-up wasn't a sailfish and didn't get the release points, signaling victory for Capt. Steve Leopold and his crew. The team won more than $60,000.

There were 137 sailfish released, and the Relentless team finished in second place. The team scored all 13 of its releases in the first two days, after which it held a four-release lead in the standings. Yabba Dabba Doo started Day Three with eight releases but scored an early triple — anglers Robert Richardson Sr. and Robert Richardson Jr. successfully released all three — and later a double, setting up the final-hour dramatics.

The Kalex team — fishing from its substitute boat, the Kelly Dawn — finished third with 12 releases. Robert Richardson Sr. accounted for 10 releases, winning the tournament's top angler award. Paul Ross Jr. won the junior angler award with three releases.

Yabba Dabba Doo team
The Yabba Dabba Doo team heads back to the docks knowing it won more than $60,000.Courtesy Tim Rahn Photography

The next leg of the championship series is the Islamorada Fishing Club Sailfish Tournament on Jan. 25. The final leg is the Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament from Jan. 26-28.