Astra Sails Wins Big at Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship

Event offers a guaranteed prize purse of over $1 million

first place team 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
To the victor go the spoils (and over $400,000 in cash) during the 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship in Key Largo, Florida.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management

Few would argue that legendary football coach-turned-broadcaster Jimmy Johnson hosts one of the world’s finest sport-fishing tournaments, aptly named Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship. This year, Johnson and his sponsors at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino upped the ante, offering a guaranteed prize purse of $1 million. This is in addition to the championship rings and entrance into Johnson’s “Ring of Honor” for past tournament winners.

The week-long event kicked off at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Café in Hollywood, Florida, on March 4, 2017, before moving down to Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill in Key Largo, Florida. Events included a celebrity pro-am tournament along with the two-day National Billfish Championship and one-day National Sportfish Championship.

But with the champion's rings and the lion's share of the cash on the line, all eyes were on the National Billfish Championship. And with 19 sailfish releases, the team on Astra Sails / Hook Bling emerged as top dogs. Capt. Greg Graham led team members John McTurk, Mike Levy, Madison Roberts, Brad Zimmerman, Will Osthe, Steve Smith, Morgan Cadell and Andi de Young to victory. And it was indeed a sweet one, with $416,250 in cash prizes for the winners.

first place team 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
The Astra Sails / Hook Bling team started strong on Day One and never let up throughout the tournament.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
second place team 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Capt. J.C. Cleare and HellREYzer placed second.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management

In second place would be another familiar name in tournament circles: Capt. J.C. Cleary and HellREYzer. Anglers Rudy Espinosa, Ryan Alexander, Eric Darvill, Jorge Corzo, Michelle Beltran, Ray Acosta, and Nick Carullo released 17 sailfish to place second overall. They took home checks worth $265,250 for the finish.

Thirteen sails led to a third-place finish for Owl's Nest. Stephanie Choate from Miss Britt/Contender was the event's top angler and top lady angler.

In addition to the tournament payouts, the tournament was able to raise over $75,000 for various charities through the celebrity pro-am and fundraising efforts at the tournament awards dinner. Beneficiaries included Tranquil Shores Foundation, Walking with Anthony, Twan Russell Foundation and Fishing for Muscular Dystrophy.

Photo Gallery

third place team 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Owl's Nest rounded out the top three.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
The aptly-named Frustrated Anglers won the one-day National Sportfish Championship.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
champions ring 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
The champion's ring.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
dennis friel 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Artist Dennis Friel with Jimmy Johnson during the kickoff party.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
papas pilar rum 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
The folks from Papa's Pilar were on hand to keep everyone well-supplied with rum during the fun-filled week.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Johnson shows off one of the cool signature guitars on display during the tournament.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
stone crabs 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Tournaments are often judged by the fare they serve the participants. The 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship received rave reviews for the food.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
HellREYzer 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
HellREYzer comes to the dock on Day Two.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
reel cents 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Reel Cents goes fishing.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
just do it 2017 Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship
The team on Just Do It was in contention throughout the tournament.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
patriot 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Patriot leaves the dock at Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill in Key Largo, Florida.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
reel rodeo 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
Reel Rodeo cuts a beautiful sight as she departs.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management
mahimahi 2017 Jimmy Johnson's National Billfish Championship
This nice mahimahi drew smiles during the celebrity pro-am event.Courtesy Adam Lalani Photography / CI Management