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GPS numbers key to winning offshore

They left Anna Maria Island on Friday night, headed 100 miles offshore to fish 10 spots they’d never sunk a bait into.

From that time until Sunday afternoon, Capt. B.J. Grant and Blake Trace would sleep about two hours each. They would pull maybe 100,000 yards of anchor line, battle amberjack and sailfish and a 41-pound black grouper, and whack cases of Mountain Dew and Red Bull.

The 25-year-old friends from Parrish have been fishing together for 10 years.

They’d done pretty well fishing local inshore tournaments, so they decided to go offshore for last weekend’s 26th annual Sam Crosthwait Memorial Tournament at the beautiful Bradenton Yacht Club.

And what do you know?

They won.

See, these weren’t just some spots they found by tossing darts at an overblown map of the Gulf of Mexico.

Grant said they purchased the spots from Capt. Tommy Butler, a successful tournament fisherman in his own right.

Butler wasn’t on the boat. But Grant said Butler received 10 percent of their $3,000 payout.

“I have no problem telling someone else a number or using someone else’s number,” Grant said. “Blake and I were joking before the tournament that offshore is easy. Offshore is about numbers and what numbers are gonna win the tournament.”

But this joke had no punch line. The GPS numbers were crucial.

“It’s also about anchoring on your spot, and they were tough fish to catch,” Grant said, “but without Tommy Butler we wouldn’t have done what we did in the tournament, that’s for sure.”

The estimated 6-foot sailfish was landed right off such a Butler spot and landed as Butler had advised.

“He advised us while we were grouper fishing, constantly throw dead baits out the back of the boat, and have dead cigar minnows,” Grant said. “We used a Boston mackerel, we had that out behind the boat sitting in the chum line.”

That’s right. They even chummed up a sailfish.

In the end, Grant and Blake said rule changes for this year that eliminated Warsaw grouper, cubera snapper, swordfish and all marlin from the tournament, enticed them to fish offshore instead of inshore. The rule hoped to encourage the average offshore angler to fish this amateur tournament. It worked, and 17 offshore boats participated instead of six last year.

“If they stick with that, we’ll see a lot more nearshore and offshore anglers in the tournament,” Grant said.

n One name was left out of the tournament, and it wasn’t on any trophy.

The Bradenton Yacht Club had guaranteed the American Cancer Society $3,500 from the tournament. They were short.

During Sunday’s weigh-ins at the BYC, Palmetto resident Debra Ross, an incoming BYC commodore, found out.

So she cut the BYC a check for $1,000.