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“It was incredible, to say the least. Record-shattering. None of us have ever seen anything like this in Florida or on the east coast. These kinds of numbers are things you see off Costa Rica or Mexico in terms of sails. Guys like Captain Chip Shafer, who have fished for decades, were even blown away.”
Still in awe of the epic action he witnessed at the 39th Annual Pelican Yacht Club Billfish Invitational in mid-January, HMY Yacht Sales Professional Scott Levin recently recounted the now-famous tournament from his vantage point aboard third-place finisher, Champagne Lady, a beautiful 68’ Paul Mann. The crew also included Capt. Josh Chaney, owner Tony Ingram, and mates James Turner, Brad Wilson, and Matt Coppoletta.
Finishing third out of 30 boats is quite respectable. It’s even more remarkable when the top three finishers—Grand Slam (73 catches), Cowpoke (66), and Champagne Lady (58)—topped the previous tournament record for a boat (Grand Slam’s 30 catches at the 2018 tournament) and 17 of the 30 boats finished the 2019 tournament with 30 or more catches.
Let’s not forget this is a dead bait trolling tournament, which many consider a more challenging way to catch sails than live baiting. This time, it may not have mattered. “There were wolfpacks of fish coming up behind the boat waiting to be caught. If we could have had more than four anglers at once, we would have caught even more fish.”
That’s a staggering thought, as several records were still obliterated. Overall, with teams fishing three of the four days, a Treasure Coast-area sailfish tournament record 969 sailfish were hauled in, bashing their own previous record of 736 set in 2012 with 29 boats. For an American sailfish tournament, only the West Palm Beach Fishing Club's 75th annual Silver Sailfish Derby catch total of 1,174 sailfish by 46 boats in 2012 stands ahead.
Additionally, January 10 now holds the honor of the single best day of sailfish action in Florida ever, with 712 sailfish releases in a single day.
OUT OF NOWHERE
Making this epic fish tale even more unbelievable is the fact that in the weeks leading up to the tournament, the fishing had been horrible in Stuart and Fort Pierce. “It would take all you could to go offshore and get one bite,” said Scott. “There was no indication of the potential for this kind of action.”
Due to the slow bite, several teams took their required lay day on the first day of the tournament. Then, of the 18 that did fish the first day, only six finished with double-digit catches while six other teams docked empty-handed.
One boat, however, took a chance and found the honeyhole. Grand Slam captain, Dave Grubbs, heard there might be fish up north. Already 30 miles north of where everyone had gone, he kept going. Eventually he settled in 45-50 miles north of the start, about 16-18 miles offshore of the stretch of Brevard County coastline between Patrick Air Force Base and Ron Jon Surf Shop. It wasn’t a short trip, but it was worth it.
Grand Slam caught and released a tournament record 38 sailfish, which stood for exactly one day. Three boats eclipsed that mark the next day, with catches of 41, 40, and 40.
Word quickly spread and the chase was on. The nearly two-hour travel time each way and 6-foot seas deterred no one. And when considering the drastically-reduced time spent fishing due to the long trek to get to the sweet spot, these numbers are even more remarkable.
SUCCESSFUL FISHING AND LASTING RELATIONSHIPS
HMY is built around genuine, long-lasting relationships with clients, unmatched expertise, and a good bit of fishing. Scott has fished lots of tournaments with Champagne Lady’s captain and owner, who he considers long-time friends. Prior to purchasing Champagne Lady from HMY, Scott helped the owner sell his 67’ Bertram.
They make a great team on and off the water, as Scott was the second-place angler overall this year (his fifth of fishing the Pelican Yacht Club Billfish Invitational) with 23 fish, after finishing first in 2018, as well as a second-place team finish.
Scott and HMY are also connected to this year’s first-place angler, having sold his previous boat (a 50’ Forbes) for him, and they’re ready to help you find your next dream sportfish boat, such as this magnificent 2013 Viking 76’ Convertible Last Stall.
Contact Scott and HMY today to discuss how we can help you find your next perfect boat.
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