Seventy-nine anglers fishing on 22 boats released 50 sailfish over two days of competition.
Captain Trevor Frins lead the “Hillbilly Deluxe” team to first place honors at the 26th Annual Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament held January 16-18, 2016. Anglers Hank Pinder, Parker Cox, Cody Gunther and James Hagen, all from the Upper Keys, released six sailfish over two days of fishing. “This tournament is awesome, and only the second tournament I’ve won so far,” said Frins, who is 22 years old. “Parker (Cox) was so happy that he took a backflip off the tower. It’s gratifying because there are so many more experienced captains and anglers out there,” he said. Frins was also named Outstanding Captain, and James Hagen was named Outstanding Mate. The “Hillbilly Deluxe” is owned by Frins’ family, ASAP Marine Contractors of Tavernier, Florida.
Second Place went to the “Wet Dream,” led by veteran Captain Scott Stanzyck fishing with anglers Kevin Clark, Mike Slocum, Hunter Barron and Sam Worden. They also released six sailfish. A flurry of bites caused some tight competition between the Wet Dream, the Hillbilly Deluxe and the Contagious in the last 15 minutes of fishing. “We caught our last double at the end of the day, and then my 26-year-old nightmare Brian Cone on the Contagious came in and caught our third fish — thanks, Brian,” Stanzyck said with a laugh. The two are good friends and share many fishing stories together.
The Individual Grand Champion Angler was Matt McClean, who released four sailfish aboard the “Last Dance.” Captained by Robert Collins, the “Last Dance” also won Third Place honors fishing with anglers Brandon Hopper, Robert Helms and Bill Sabayrac. The team released a total of five sailfish.
In a long-standing Presidential tournament tradition, the “Challenger 2” team of Captain Rob Dixon, anglers Brian DeVries, Dan Flynn, Chris Jones and Matt Guthrie won the Most Tagged Fish Division.
The first ever Presidential Champion Junior Angler trophy went to 15-year-old Reed Ekey, who released two sailfish aboard the “Eco Fishing Team,” with Captain Danny Perna and Mate Ben Ekey. In a repeat performance from last year, angler Debbie David won the Top Lady Angler Trophy, an award dedicated to the memory of Jay Anna Cohan, a beloved member of the Islamorada community along with her husband Kenny. David released two sailfish aboard the “Relentless,” captained by Paul Ross and his mate, Paul Ross, Jr.
Severe weather on the first day made fishing conditions extremely challenging. Major rainstorms swept through all day, packing winds up to 30 miles per hours with gusts up to 40. Captains and anglers faced near white-out conditions and swells up to eight feet. Waterspouts were spotted throughout the day and lightning bolts struck very close to several boats. In spite of the perilous conditions, 28 hook-ups were reported with 19 sailfish released. The weather was much better on day two, with 38 hookups and 31 releases. In total, 79 anglers fishing on 22 boats released 50 sailfish.