Last weekend's Sarasota Slam fishing tournament saw plenty of huge fish coming to the scales, but the most impressive catch might not have come from the winners.
This tournament was all about big fish. Divisions for the biggest snapper and grouper meant offshore anglers would have to head deep in search of the giants. For team Sarasota Offshore, and anglers Jason Boyll, Tom Boyll, Gord and Brian Daniher and Brian Alcorn, that sent them west nearly 130 miles Friday to target warsaw grouper in 500 feet of water.
"We hooked up to a nice fish around 2:00 AM. 20 minutes later a 72-pound warsaw grouper was boat side," Jason Boyll said.
As crazy as it seems, a 72-pound warsaw is not quite the size the team was after. They wanted bigger knowing they were up against stiff competition who were also in search of the lunkers. With a limit of one per boat and a high mortality rate fishing that deep, that was the one that would head to the scale even though bigger fish may still swim below.
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"We decided even though this wasn't the size we needed we would stop warsaw fishing. Catching another that deep would mean there would be a dead fish floating off. Big fish coming up from that deep can't be released alive. We made a run and decided we would target black grouper and try to put as many in the box as possible with it being the last grouper tournament we would fish this year."
What happened next is what Boyll says is a story he'll be telling when he's 80 years old while grinning ear to ear.
"It was a good move as we put 84-, 80-, 32-, 30-, and 29-pound black groupers, along with some big scamps in the box. Myself and Brian Alcorn both caught our personal best that day. That was a special trip! Definitely will be one of the best bites of our lifetime."
That's impressive, coming from a team that has also landed warsaws of 269- and 102- pounds this summer, along with another 84- and 65-pound black grouper. These guys are truly hunting the deep for monsters.
Winning the Sarasota Slam's grouper division was Team X-Treme and Capt. Tommy Butler, with a 132-pound warsaw grouper. 2nd place was captured with a 122-pound warsaw grouper by team No Escape and Capt. Tom Fitzwater while Boyl's team took 3rd place with their 84-pound black grouper.
Team Diggin Deeper and Capt. Dax Lagassee won the snapper division with a 8.98-pound snapper.
Team Suncaost Fishing Charters and Capt. Shane Montgomery swept the inshore classes, taking home first place redfish with a 7.87-pounder and first place trout with a 4.95-pound catch.