Early summertime fishing opportunities had south Florida anglers eager to get on the water and test their luck in pursuit of kingfish, dolphin and wahoo. The 18th annual Palm Beach County KDW Classic took place in early June with over 1000 participants fishing aboard 230 registered boats. The KDW Classic is hosted by the venerable West Palm Beach Fishing Club (WPBFC) and is among the largest one-day saltwater tournaments in Florida. The Marine Industries Associations of Palm Beach County is the presenting sponsor of the event.
Brandon Ochar, fishing aboard the Survivin, weighed in an impressive 43.4 lb. wahoo this year. A wahoo this size is usually a lock for first place in the KDW Classic. In fact, some year’s just one wahoo in total is caught. But the impressive striped pelagic would only hold up for a few hours until angler Craig Gerlach and the Chances R arrived at Riviera Beach Marina not long after the 2 pm “lines-out” with a fish to weigh.
Fellow Chances R crew member, Buddy Yarbrough, explained they landed the fish “Late, just after 1 pm. Our last catch of the day while fishing in 150 feet off Lost Tree, trolling a ballyhoo with a pink and white sea witch.” Teams don’t often switch back to wahoo fishing after the morning bite passes. Yarbrough commented, “That’s what the crew said too, but I convinced them to try it anyway. Lucky guess.”
Chances R’s wahoo hit the scale weighing in at 45.1 lbs., not even 2 lbs. heavier than the current leader. It was the biggest fish of the tournament and earned Craig Gerlach the coveted King of the Classic title, for being the male angler who landed the heaviest eligible weight fish. On the lady angler side of things, Heather Ruiz earned Queen of the Classic honors with her 30.6 lb. kingfish caught aboard the Doing It All. Serious bragging rights go with these titles, including their names being engraved on the KDW Classic perpetual trophy which is featured in the NPB Brass Ring Pub year-round.
Team Black N Blue had a day to remember, landing the heaviest dolphin and kingfish of the 2021 KDW Classic. Angler Patrick Gambale caught the 25.5 lb. dolphin, and Trey Lytal landed the winning 36.0 lb. kingfish. Lytal described the catches in saying, “The kingfish hit a live bait down on lead in 125 feet just south of Juno Pier around 9 am. We drifted from Lost Tree to the Pier 6 to 7 times with the SE wind starting in 220 feet and ending around 100 feet.”
Lytal continued, “We headed offshore around 11 am to try for dolphin and found a temperature break in 550 feet. It went from 78.5 to 80.5 degrees. Lots of scattered weed made trolling challenging. Around noon the planner rod with a skirted ballyhoo goes off and within 5 seconds the other line knocked out of the outrigger, but nothing was on. We dropped that line in free spool for 6 seconds, engaged the drag, and a big bull dolphin shot out of water. It spit the hook while in the air. That bull was over 40 pounds. But we caught the cow on the planner rod and it won the dolphin category. It was a great day!”
The top Junior angler this year was Greyson Schroader who landed a 21.1 lb. kingfish aboard the One On One. Recognizing junior anglers and promoting family fishing has always been an exciting aspect of the tournament.
The Palm Beach County KDW Classic raises money for scholarships, youth fishing programs and marine conservation initiatives conducted by the WPBFC and its charitable affiliate, the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation. “The support we receive from our dedicated team of volunteers and sponsors is what makes all this possible. We are so very grateful to have them on board.”, concluded WPBFC Chairman of the board, Pete Schulz.