PALMETTO — It was just after midnight on Sunday, and the crew was miserable.
The thunderstorms just passed, and the lightning left the crew’s hair tingling like it was lathered by Head & Shoulders shampoo.
That’s when Capt. Brian Bower did it again at the 26th annual Sam Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.
In 45 feet of water, far from Manatee County waters, Bower caught back-to-back snook that measured 36 inches, and Andros won the inshore division and its $5,000 purse.
Back at the tournament-sponsoring Bradenton Yacht Club on Sunday after an afternoon weigh-in and awards ceremony that attracted the community, Bower said it “was pretty much luck.”
But Bower and his crews have now won three straight inshore titles and four in the past five years.
Luck probably isn’t the word.
Other crew members were Matt Bower, Matt Bryan, Andy Losada and Steve Brownlee. Brian Bower caught all six fish the crew weighed in: two redfish (32 and 31 inches), two trout (23 and 22) and the snook. Andros burned over 80 gallons of fuel, an indicator of how far they went to find their honey holes.
“We just had a great crew,” Bower said. “We all did different things. I’ll be sleeping and someone else would be driving.”
While some inshore anglers were ducking under bridges or heading to a restaurant for steaks, others were braving the lightning storms. Capt. Paul Romine, for example, raced from Long Bar in Sarasota Bay to the Longboat Key Bridge.
“The lightning was at the back of our boat the whole time,” Romine said. “A tower boat.”
On Sunday afternoon, just before and after various storms, the snook began to bite, and many who were on the water during those bite windows, such as Andros, scored with lots of beefy snook and redfish.
Tim Zalesky of “Reel Tackle” hooked the biggest snook at 41 inches and took home the first annual Bradenton Herald Jerry Hill Award for the most outstanding catch. Zalesky’s snook was worth 93 points, and he won a PENN International 16 reel and a Puma Catalina rod that was donated from Fisherman’s Headquarters.
The offshore winner was captained by Capt. B.J. Grant, who racked up 320 points with a 100-point sailfish and a 20-pound amberjack.
Second place was Capt. Chris Cramer’s Gulf Coast Chopper with 271 points and two 29-pound tuna. In third was Capt. Tim Huffstutler’s “Lucky Legend” with 262 points and a highlight 26-pound blackfin tuna.
The under-19 winner was “Team Action Yamaha” captained by Jimmy Campbell, along with Chris Jensen. They pulled in a 30-inch snook at 3 a.m, and also brought in a 32-inch redfish and 22-inch trout.
In the under-16 junior division, “Tile with Style” won with a key 29-inch snook. Crew members were Capt. Joshua Johnson, Reed Carter and Jared Mong. The snook was caught just after a Sunday afternoon storm.
A total of 125 boats participated, 17 in the offshore division. Only six offshore boats participated last year.