BRADENTON -- The 31st annual Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament came to a conclusion Sunday afternoon, and the story from anglers was one of cold, windy weather.
After Thursday's late-season cold front brought 30-40 knot winds and 8-foot seas to the Gulf of Mexico, it left steady 10-20 mph northeast winds for the weekend. The highly anticipated West Coast Billfish Series was postponed as a result, moving to Aug. 9 at the Bradenton Yacht Club.
Judging by the catches in the inshore division, the weather didn't hurt the bite, even when plans were altered.
"The weather changed everything for us," said Joe Medred of team Tweeshaka. "Our goal was to get six quality fish."
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In search of those quality fish, the four-man crew including James Kitches, Chris Cucci and Vinny Decarbo ran south of Boca Grande. Once there, they happened across and caught two large cobia. "We saw them while we were
running; it was lucky," said Medred. The nearly twin cobia of 42 and 39 pounds combined for 192 points.
Along with a 25- and 27-inch trout, the crew fished into the night when they caught two 36-inch snook, bringing the total to 460 points, a huge number for the inshore division.
"We stopped fishing around midnight. It was cold, and we were tired," Medred explained. "We fished hard not knowing if it was going to be enough. Having fished this tournament many times while coming close to victory, it feels amazing to win it."
The tired crew took home first place and $5,000.
The offshore division also had a first-time champion. After spending Friday afternoon in Tampa Bay to avoid the rough conditions, team Haulin' Grass made the best of the day. While fishing in the bay, they landed a 14-pound kingfish and 27-pound cobia.
"We didn't head offshore until about 9 a.m. on Saturday," said Brian Turner, captain of Haulin' Grass. "It was 3- to 5-foot seas on the way out. We went about 90 miles."
Far from shore, the team experienced good bottom fishing, landing big red grouper of 14 and 13 pounds as well as mutton snapper of 11 and 10 pounds. To round out their catch, they landed a 13-pound tuna and totaled 352 points, enough to claim victory on the weather-weary field. On the way home, Turner put his new 42-foot Yellowfin to the test, and said it handled the conditions well.
"It was 5- to 7-foot seas, and we were doing 60 miles per hour," Turner said.
This was Turner's first Crosthwait win, after coming in second in previous attempts. "This is special to me," said an emotional Turner. "My grandfather was a good friend with Sam Crosthwait, so to win this tournament means everything. Our family has been in Bradenton 150 years. I've always wanted this one." For first place, Turner's team brought home $3,000.
Second place in the offshore went to team Jumbo Shrimp and Capt. Paul Christie. Their catch included a 32- and 22-pound cobia, 6-pound yellowtail snapper, 12-pound mutton snapper and 36- and 34-pound amberjack for a total of 332 points.
Third place offshore went to 2013 champion's team Seaveeche and Capt. Danny Pool. They photo-released a tarpon and brought to the scales a 17-pound permit, 7- and 5-pound grouper and 3- and 2-pound mangrove snapper.
Second place in the inshore went to team Robalo and Capt. Justin Teachey. Their catch included a tarpon, 41- and 39-inch snook, 23- and 24-inch trout and a 30-inch redfish for 394 points.
Claiming third place with 379 points was team Bohica and Capt. Ryan Young. They landed a monster 43-inch redfish, 36- and 34-inch snook, 25-inch trout, 17-pound cobia, and 4-pound flounder.
The fourth place inshore team General Sea landed the largest fish of the tournament, a monster 70-pound cobia caught by angler Brad Karns.
Team Digital Imaging and Capt. Michael Wenzel claimed the under-19 junior division title. The team ended up with 284 points. Their catch included a 32- and 30-inch snook, 26- and 24-inch trout and 2-pound flounder. The team brought home $1,000 for the victory.
Second place in the under-19 division went to Team Swordfish and Capt. Austin Goncalves. Their catch included a 31- and 29-inch redfish, 26- and 23-inch trout, 24-inch snook and 2-pound snapper for 247 points.
With 210 points, team 507 brought home third place in the under-19 division. Capt. Kasey Nelson's team landed two 24-inch trout, two 30-inch redfish, and a one-pound flounder.
Winning the under-16 division and $1,000 was Capt. Wyatt Walker and team Blenker Boatworks/Big Johnson Bail Bonds. Their point total of 273 was earned with a 36- and 34-inch snook, two 21-inch trout, a 26-inch redfish and a 1-pound flounder.
Second place went to team Pro Buff Elite Fishing and Capt. Ricky Reyes Jr. with 209-points. Their catch included a 29- and 26-inch redfish, 22- and 20-inch trout, 24-inch snook and 2-pound flounder.
Quality Curbing & Landscape brought home third place in the under-16 division with 141 points. William and Amanda Flinn landed a 20-inch redfish, 20- and 16-inch trout and a pair of flounder at 1 and 3 pounds.