The Buccaneer Cup: The Great Bait Debate
by Gary Caputi
In 2005 I was invited to attend a meeting of the Buccaneer Yacht Club’s board of directors at Duffy’s in Palm Beach Gardens. The club owned and ran the Buccaneer Cup, one of Florida’s most venerable and well-known sailfish tournaments, but dwindling membership and the loss of the Buccaneer Marina to condo developers had put them in a tough spot.
Several of the board members were also members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, an organization I was affiliated with, and they felt it could benefit from an association with the tournament. My background as a writer and staff member fora number of national fishing and boating magazines also figured into their plan.
Realizing that the club no longer had the resources to continue running the Buc Cup they asked me to take on the positon of tournament director in order to help revitalize it. I agreed with the understanding that the proceeds would be donated to the RFA. We shook hands and I went to work. From the beginning I was saddled with a vexing problem: how should release points be scored for boats trolling dead baits fishing against boats using live bait? The use of circle hooks was just gaining in popularity at the time and we also wanted to encourage teams to start using them.
The 2006 tournament rules states that points would be awarded in the following manner: 100 points for a sailfish on live bait with a circle hook; 150 points on dead bait with a J-hook or 200 points with dead bait and circle hook. It was somewhat confusing, but we began to refine the rules in subsequent years trying to strike a better balance between live bait boats from the south and trollers from the north. Thankfully a lot of great captains and boat owners offered their input along the way (sometimes in heated conversations during captain’s meetings) and they have made the job easier.
So how did the Buc, a live bait competition since its inception in 1963, find itself in a position where trolling became a factor? To gain some background and insight, my first call was to my friend Frank Murray of Murray Products. Frank’s brother, the late great Ed Murray, owned the bar at the Buccaneer Marina in the late 1980s and they were among the area’s elite anglers. Today their fighting chair company remains synonymous with the sport.
“From the beginning the Buc was a live bait, all release, amateur angler event set up so families and weekend anglers could go out and have a good time,” Frank said. “It wasn’t until the mid ‘80s that trolling entered the picture for a variety of reasons, but it did create a scoring problem because of the supposed advantage that live bait had over dead. Remember, kites were not allowed for a lot of years and dredges were yet not on anybody’s radar screen. I remember having lively discussions with my dear friend John Rybovich, an ardent conservationist, about keeping the Buccaneer live bait only, but a lot of the guys that hung around the bar considered him to be something of a pain in the you-know-what. What many failed to realize was…….http://shop.inthebite.com/collections/back-issues/products/inthebite-volume-14-edition-07-octnov-2015-digital-edition