White Marlin Open, 1st Place Release – 500 pts.
MidAtlantic, Most Points Overall – 500 pts.
It never hurts to have a former champ in the driver’s seat and for the third time in five years, Capt. Russell Sinclair of Merritt Island, Florida, has earned a coveted Captain of the Year Cup. And with his 2020 showing, Sinclair is the first captain to win different divisions. With tournaments being forced to shutter across the globe, this was unlike any fishing season anyone had ever experienced. “So, we started last year in March and had some great fishing in the Abacos. We had two trips down there. And right before the closure, we moved the boat back to the U.S. and we sat there waiting during the whole quarantine thing to see what to do with our season. We wanted to go down to St. Thomas and fish the BVI and USVI, but we finally just pulled the plug on everything and went to the Northeast. We kinda weren’t supposed to be there,” Sinclair says.
One big reason the Wave Paver is often atop the leaderboard is a sharp focus on being consistent. Another key is the mental toughness that it takes to grind it out day after day, regardless of the waters they are fishing or conditions they are faced with. “We got to Ocean City in July and the water was really cold and dirty. We were fishing 20 miles off the edge in temperature changes moving at two knots. Crazy water conditions. I hadn’t fished in the Northeast for seven years and I never really fished out of there as a captain. I don’t like the long rides.”
While the White Marlin Open’s top prize went to the local boat Canyon Blues for their 97-pound white, Sinclair guided his Wave Paver crew to what’s considered the most prestigious division of the Open. In the Top Release category, the Cape Canaveralbased team posted 1,155 points with nine white marlin releases and three blue marlin releases. Sinclair was also named WMO Captain of the Year and owner Junior Davis was third place angler overall. And, there’s no asterisk for this year’s winners, with the WMO fleet swelling to 433 boats, the second-highest participation in tournament history despite a global pandemic.
A commercial fisherman in his free time, Sinclair always has his eyes on the water. The road to Wave Paver’s name on the prized perpetual trophy continued at the MidAtlantic in mid-August where they were awarded high point boat with 22 white marlin releases. The dominating performance began with a lay day on Monday, followed by six releases on day two, eight releases on day three and an additional eight releases on their last eligible day of fishing. Sinclair elected to fish three days straight, which always makes for a tense moving day. Despite the tournament fleet posting significant billfish releases on Friday, including Uno Mas with 10 fish, the Wave Paver crew remained four fish ahead of the second-place boat Point Runner, who added three fish to their tally on Friday. “You have to believe in what you’re doing and that you’re making the right decisions,” Sinclair says.
Given the many moving parts and the time and resources that go into a tournament-winning campaign, Sinclair is humble in accepting the win, attributing his success to a well-oiled team. “The cool thing is that we fished in an area that our program normally doesn’t fish in and we were able to be successful, for a lot of reasons, not just because I drove the boat. There’s the crew and their persistence, then the guys you network with on the water and all that entails.”\
There are many talented pairings between a captain and owner capable of putting together the right strategy at any given event, but few have the continued success of Capt. Russell Sinclair and owner Junior Davis. “We’ll hopefully start fishing back in March. Maybe a little sailfishing this winter, but nothing too serious. Maybe by the end of February we will start fishing in the Bahamas if everything turns outright. So that would be our game plan at the moment,” Sinclair says.
When posed with the question if there’s a chance Sinclair will become the first captain to win three different InTheBite Captain of the Year Cup divisions, the answer was decidedly determined. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of winning the Cup and I look forward to doing it again, but we aren’t going to be flying any kites any time soon,” Sinclair chuckled.
- 2020 Capt. Russell Sinclair // Wave Paver // 1000 Points
- 2019 Capt. Ryan Knapp // Top Dog // 1000 Points
- 2018 Capt. Alan Neiford // Mister Pete // 1750 Points
- 2017 Capt. Chucky Moore // Gryphon // 1050 Points
- 2016 Capt. Harvey Shiflet // Anticipation // 1000 Pts
- 2015 Capt. Gary Richardson // Reel Passion // 2250 Points
- 2014 Capt. Mike King // Stream Weaver // 1100 Points