Native Son Wins 2024 Silver Sailfish Derby

Popular team tops the fleet with 11 releases
Team Native Son celebrating their tournament win.
Team Native Son celebrates a hard-fought win. Courtesy Silver Sailfish Derby / Jeff Aderman

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The angling spectacle known as the Silver Sailfish Derby continues to challenge some of the finest captains and crews at the height of sailfish season in early January off Palm Beach, Florida, just as it has done for the past eight decades.

The Silver Sailfish Derby was established by the historic West Palm Beach Fishing Club in January 1935, and while the event is structured quite differently today, it remains the oldest-running sailfish tournament in the world. The only three years the Derby didn’t run was during World War II between 1943 and 1945, when tournament boats were used to scout for German U-boats off the Florida coast. At one time, famous American author and avid angler Ernest Hemingway was a Derby trophy sponsor. The Derby is also credited with developing the red release pennant and was one of the first sailfish tournaments to promote catch-and-release fishing.

This year, a sold-out fleet of 50 boats ­celebrated this crown jewel of sport fishing, once again fishing just four lines in the water at any given time, a rule rooted in the history of the tournament. Every bite counts, and releasing multiple fish is a true test of angling skill and teamwork, but one necessary to climb the competitive leaderboard. Capt. Art Sapp and the Native Son team capitalized on each bite throughout the two-day tournament to make an incredible comeback on the final day of fishing to win the 87th running of the world’s oldest sailfish tournament.

A total of 149 Atlantic sails were released in the 2024 Derby, with 13 of those fish tagged. Calm conditions offshore and light rain showers on the first day weren’t ideally suited for flying kites and presenting live baits. Participants and spectators alike who follow the tournament each year have a great perspective on the fleet’s sailfish prowess, and it seems Derby boats have always managed to catch sailfish despite the conditions.

A Derby winner last year, the team aboard the 48-foot Viking Priceless was off to a hot start again this year. Capt. Jorge Sanchez and his crew scored seven sailfish releases after Day One and took Top Daily Boat honors. With just one release on Day Two, however, they would eventually find themselves in third place overall, with eight sails.

Capt. Jamie Barnett and the Catch N Reese team made a splash this year with a second-­place finish, their best tournament finish to date. Kris Meola caught six of the team’s nine sailfish, earning him the title of Top Angler. This honor is presented with the Mrs. Henry R. Rea trophy, a magnificent silver sailfish sculpture that dates back to the event’s origin in 1935 and is sponsored by Elizabeth Richebourg Rea.

On the second and final day of fishing, a persistent south wind built throughout the night and continued to grow throughout the day. When the weather makes drastic changes from one day to the next, there’s always the opportunity for teams to go from zero to hero as they adapt to the new conditions offshore.

Capt. Art Sapp and his team on the 39-foot SeaVee Native Son had just two releases on Day One. Their first fish on Day Two would not come until 11:24 a.m., nearly three and a half hours after the 8 a.m. call for lines in. But that fish was quickly followed by two more. Their afternoon would consist of six additional sailfish releases, bringing their daily total to nine. With 11 releases overall, Native Son made their mark and walked away as the winners of the 87th annual Silver Sailfish Derby. Sapp was awarded the top captain trophy, presented in memory of the late Capt. Jack Morrow, a legendary captain from the Palm Beaches.

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The top lady angler trophy is sponsored by the Hampp family in memory of Rose Hampp, who won the honor in the 1957 Derby, along with many other awards throughout her accomplished angling career. Fifteen-year-old Myla Alligood of North Palm Beach, Florida, was awarded the trophy after releasing four sails aboard the 90-foot Viking Just Chillin. This award is always highly sought after by many lady anglers participating. Alligood was also the event’s top junior angler, an honor she’s now won three years in a row.

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