Last weekend’s 10th Annual Fire Charity Fishing Tournament out of the Bradenton Yacht Club was the second six-fish slam tournament of the year, and familiar names once again topped the leaderboard.
After taking home a victory in May’s Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament, team Sea Saw/Blenker Boatworks were again determined to stand last atop the stage on Sunday afternoon. After leaving the start on Friday, the team pointed south toward the Florida Keys. While on their journey, the team encountered a rare sight west of Marco Island in the depths of 160.
“It wasn’t something we normally stop for, we’re bottom fisherman,” angler BJ Grant said. “There were hundreds of birds and bait everywhere. We had to make a stop to see what they were doing.”
The stop paid off.
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“We started pitching baits, and that’s how we got the two wahoo. It was a treat for us because it’s not something we usually see.”
The big wahoo weighed 73 pounds while the small one was 45 pounds.
The crew of Capt. Lee Blenker, Jeremy Rzonca, Matt Purington, BJ Grant, Magalie Grant and Joe Sicking continued south, leaving hungry fish behind to begin fishing for big grouper before sunset.
When they arrived with little sunlight remaining, it was apparent their target was home.
“The first three baits down hooked three giant carbos,” Grant said. “We landed one, got broke off by another and then a shark ate one just below the boat.”
In the dark of Friday night, they went cubera snapper fishing, and once again accomplished their mission. landing a 76- and a 56-pound toothy snapper.
“At that point, we could see the lighthouse on the fort,” Grant said. The fort is located about 70 miles west of Key West.
When the sun rose Saturday morning, the crew set out for one more trophy. The stop produced another huge grouper, a Warsaw, weighing in at 115 pounds.
Then Grant said they did something they had never done: “We started heading home. We had all of our fish by 10 a.m. We saw bad weather coming, so we started to head north. We basically stopped at a wreck, used all our bait, and made it home by 3 a.m. Sunday morning.”
Their point total of 561 was enough on for the victory and $5,000 prize, which will help pay back a portion of the 580 gallons of fuel the team used on the team’s 33-foot Contender.
“We had pretty much the best day ever. I don’t think it’s something we will repeat again,” Grant finished.
Second place in the offshore division went to team Seaveeche and Capt. Jay Travis with 407 points. Third place went to team Godspeed and Capt. Brad Jones with 396 points.
In the inshore division, team Rats on da Cheese took a familiar position of first place. Capt. Justin Rudrud fished with teammates Mikey Howes, Keith Stonestreet, Matt Mangone and Rich Linkenhoker, while covering nearly 250 miles of inshore water from Madeira Beach to Venice Inlet to upper Tampa Bay.
“Our plan was to go fishing for certain species until the tide got right. Whether we caught them or not we were going to leave,” Rudrud explained.
“Saturday morning we spent tarpon fishing first thing. We then went red fishing. When the tide got where we thought it needed to be we went cobia fishing the remainder of the day.”
As storms covered most of the inshore waters by late morning, the determined team fished through the wind and the rain.
“It didn’t stop raining until 9 p.m. Saturday,” Rudrud said. “I don’t think any of us were dry and it was a cold night.”
By that point, they had a 33- and 32-inch redfish and a 14-pound cobia. The team spent all night chasing snook, eventually finding two quality fish: 41 and 40 inches.
“We bring everything from live and dead bait to flair hawk jigs,” Rudrud said. “You never know what they will want. Some nights they are very picky.”
As Sunday morning rolled around, the crew continued its search to improve the catch. With only 20 minutes to spare, a 24-inch trout found its way onto the measuring board.
With a total of 376 points, the team claimed the $5,000 top prize for the inshore division. Only four points behind for second place in the inshore division was team Bay to Bay Sawdy Electric and Capt. Brian Peacock with 372 points. Capt. Beau Bell and team brought home 3rd with 343 points.
“Oddly enough we figured we were out of the top five,” Rudrud said. “We were happy with the catch, but even then it’s never quite what you want.”
The junior division was won by Capt. Benjamin McCann and team Matts Express with 226 points.
The tournament helped raise $11,200 for The Childrens Burn Foundation.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data