The 2017 Sailfish Challenge concluded over the weekend with 64 teams competing for a purse in excess of $530,000. The Challenge is the 3rd leg in the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series and a pivotal event in the chase for the burgundy jacket and the title of #1 in the world in competitive sailfishing. The Sailfish Challenge earned its name in part by nature of a unique 3-inlet format that enables teams to cover a large boundary during the competition and return to one of three inlets from Miami to West Palm Beach to submit their catch cards at the end of each day. The real challenge is determining which direction to go…. north or south?
Leading up to the tournament, great conditions made for a strong bite off Miami, however, the day before the competition the conditions off Miami deteriorated and a number of teams shifted their sights further north. One of those teams was Miss Britt Contender led by Captain Ray Rosher, a renowned charter boat captain out of Miami. Rosher elected to move the boat and the bait north to Hillsboro Inlet and fish his way north on both days of the tournament. It was a smart decision. By noon on Day 1, Miss Britt Contender had already released 11 sailfish between Lake Worth Pier and Palm Beach Inlet. They released two more fish in the afternoon to win the daily with 13 releases; six better than the next closest team. As it turns out, they could have stayed home on Day 2 and still finished with enough releases to win the whole tournament, however, they added three more on Day 2 to finish with 16 releases and a paycheck for $174,310.
Stephanie Choate, lead angler on Miss Britt Contender, had a tremendous performance of her own. Nine of the 16 releases belonged to her. She cleaned up in the angler category winning the Top Female Angler trophy as well as the Master Angler trophy for the top overall angler in the tournament. Even more impressive, Stephanie has won the top female angler category in all three legs of the Quest for the Crest series this year. With a strong performance at Final Sail in Key West, she could become the first angler ever to sweep a category across the entire series! Not to be overshadowed, her teammate Matt Bierly also won the Top Male Angler category in the tournament with four releases. Matthew Yee was awarded the Top Junior Angler title on board Reel Captivating with two releases.
With a dominant performance by Miss Britt Contender, the real battle in the 2017 Challenge took place for the remaining spots on the leader board. With only two hours to go, two teams were tied with seven and there were a number of teams with six releases. Team Advanced Roofing/Sailsmen caught a double around 2:15pm that pushed them into 2nd with eight releases. Team Crescendo, winners of Leg 1, released a fish with thirty minutes to go that moved them into 3rd place with eight releases, just behind Advanced Roofing/Sailsmen on time. Teams Sandman, Kimbuktu and Goin’ Raptor rounded out the leader board with seven releases each in 4th through 6th place. With a Top 5 finish, Sandman was also able to maintain their lead in the chase for the jacket with Advanced Roofing/Sailsmen, Miss Britt Contender, Contender One and De-Bait-Able hot on their heels. It will take a strong finish by any of these teams at Final Sail in Key West in order to claim the jacket and the title of #1 in the world!
Team SkipJac proved that you don’t have to place high in the tournament to collect a hefty check. They finished 27th overall, but they got hot on Day 2 and managed to finish 2nd in the Day 2 money with a check for $50,590. SkipJac led Day 2 for almost the entire day, but with just minutes to go, team MD 20/20 released their fifth fish of the day to jump ahead of SkipJac. The last minute release earned MD 20/20 a check for $12,250. The heaviest meatfish of the tournament was a 44.5-pound kingfish landed by team Outnumbered. Their strategy in the tournament was specifically geared towards targeting one big fish. It paid off with a check for $16,660.
For more information on the Sailfish Challenge results, visit www.sailfishchallenge.com. For a complete list of the current standings in the Quest for the Crest, visit http://www.bluewatermovements.com/quest_for_the_crest_point_standings/.
The grand finale of the Quest for the Crest, Final Sail, takes place April 25th – 30th in sunny Key West, FL at the Margaritaville Resort Marina where a world champion will be crowned. To register for this event visit www.finalsail.com