Sandman Wins Sailfish Challenge, 18 Minutes Shy of $434,000 Payday
Fifty-eight teams competed for a purse in excess of $581,000 in the 15th Annual Sailfish Challenge, leg 3 of the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. With a 3-inlet format and a boundary from south of Miami to north of Jupiter, teams were stretched out from end to end looking for the best conditions and the hottest bite. As it turns out, the bite was fairly spread out on both ends of the boundary, however, team Ice Box/High Gear landed in the fish in a big way on Day 1. Fishing out of Hillsboro Inlet, they ran north on their 37’ SeaVee and got into a red-hot bite off Boynton Inlet. They won the early bite and the late bite on Day 1 with a total of 13 releases and a commanding lead in the tournament.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes on Day 1 were split between the three different inlets in the tournament. Fishing off Miami, team Sandman released 9 sailfish to secure the second place position on Day 1 and $43,600 in daily winnings. Fishing out of Palm Beach, team Good Call released 7 sails and put themselves in contention heading into the final day of competition. Miss Annie had 7 releases on Day 1 in 4th place and De-Bait-Able rounded out the top 5 with 6 releases.
Coming off their 2017 world title in the Quest for the Crest, there were no doubts about whether Captain John Dudas and his Sandman crew could handle pressure when the money is on the line. They stayed hot on day 2, releasing 8 fish to win the daily and a grand total of $189,380 in prize money. Sandman needed just 18 minutes on one of their sailfish releases to run the table in the winner-take-all Release Roundup Jackpot and win an additional $244,800! The pot remains unclaimed and will roll over to the final leg in Key West on April 17-21 where it is expected to exceed $275,000!
Ice Box/High Gear finished the tournament with 15 releases in second place and a $16,675 payout. Team Priceless charged hard on Day 2 in their 39’ Contender, releasing 8 fish to jump into 3rd place overall and claim a $63,265 payout! Team Blue Moon Fish Company weighed the heaviest meatfish of the tournament, a 42.3-pound kingfish, to win the Bluewater Bonanza and $14,770 in prize money. Sandra MacMillan, team Sandman, was the top female angler with 6 releases and her teammate, Alex Castellanos, won the top male angler and master angler trophies with 6 releases as well. Fishing on board Lisa L/The Fishing Experience, Tyler Walsh won the top junior angler division with 1 release. Branch Office was the top non-pro team with 3 releases and a $2,000 bonus payout. They also landed an 18.6-pound blackfin tuna that was the heaviest tuna of the tournament for an additional $1,000.
With 1 leg remaining in the 4-leg series, all eyes are on the burgundy jacket and the #1 title in competitive sailfish tournaments around the globe. Team Free Bird, posted another strong 4th place finish at the Challenge with 11 releases. They remain in first place overall with 85 points followed by Sandman in second with 82 points. Weez in the Keys finished in 9th place at the Challenge with 9 releases to maintain the 3rd place spot overall with 76 points heading into the final leg of the series. It will be a true ‘clash of the titans’ in Key West, FL as we determine who has what it takes to don the coveted burgundy jacket and become the new world champion of competitive sailfishing.
The grand finale of the Quest for the Crest, Final Sail, takes place April 17th – 21st in sunny Key West, FL at the Margaritaville Resort & Marina where a world champion will be crowned. To register for this event visit www.finalsail.com