Cheatham Wins Masters Angling Tournament

Plenty of bites in Costa Rica
A group of men celebrating at an awards ceremony.
Lach Cheatham (center, with trophy) won as Masters Angling Tournament Champion. Courtesy Masters Angling Tournament

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In 1963, John Rybovich Jr. and his dock partners dreamed up a tournament where the rules pitted man against fish without the assistance of a team or the boat. Sixty-one years later, those original rules are honored by a confident group who have learned that fishing, and especially in the Masters, can be a most humbling experience.

Come tight in the Masters, the boat comes out of gear, and your fight time is logged with a stopwatch—the top angler is the one who fights and releases the fastest. Anglers also rotate boats each day, with two anglers per boat and two rods per angler. For the last several years, it’s been hosted out of Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Costa Rica, a perfect setting for this prestigious event.

Just minutes after lines in, the first release of the day was reported, and the race was on. A steady pick kept the scorekeepers busy, and anglers had one ear on the radio to gauge who was getting the bites. The fastest fight time of the day was 18 seconds flat, which earned freshman angler Tim Wills 100 points; his time held throughout the next two days. Lach Cheatham released his ­13th fish just moments before lines out and earned High Daily Angler with a combined score of 1,015 points.

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Cheatham’s luck and skill held true until the end, when he was presented with the Old Man and the Sea Award for angling excellence and also Top Angler honors. Cheatham will be added as a Leader Wire Club member alongside a list of names that reads like a who’s who of sport-fishing history. Wills held on to the Pete Boinis Fastest Fish Award and pulled off the High Point Freshman Angler as well with 1,295 points. JC Gonzales was second with 1,665 points, and Carmine Galati was third with 1,445 points in a remarkably tight finish that saw all 10 top anglers earning more than 1,000 points in the three days of fishing.

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