The 57th Annual Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Tournament was held January 22-25, 2020 off of Palm Beach. A total of 160 sailfish were released, The prize, a purse in excess of $250,000, the prestigious and beautiful Buccaneer Cup trophies for the top three boats, and bragging rights for placing in one of the oldest and most enduring billfish tournaments in the world.
Add to that the knowledge that the tournament proceeds benefits the Recreational Fishing Alliance and The Billfish Foundation, made the event all that more important. Teams fish a format giving them the choice to fish any two out of three possible days. With a cold front pushing through just before the first day, teams were rewarded with steady fishing. Although damp conditions put a damper on day two a northwest wind kept the bite consistent through lines out on the last day.
Courtney Bowden, currently in her seventh year as director of the Buc Cup, did a spectacular job running one of the best-organized and classiest billfish tournaments on the east coast. Along with her team of volunteers and committee members including staff from the RFA and TBF, she has made the Buc one of the most exciting and talked about tournaments of the season. The comradery displayed by the teams in attendance proved to everyone that the Buc Cup is most definitely back! Having team after team noting this was the most fun tournament they had fished in a while.
The tournament opened with the Captains meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22 held outdoors at the recently completed private Tiki Bar at the Rybovich Marine Center (North). The meeting was sponsored by Yamaha, the Viking Yacht Company and HMY Yacht Sales. Robert “Fly” Navarro emceed the event, with his signature electric energy. Although it was cold and damp, participants raved about the pig roast dinner, texting Bowden, “it was the best food they have ever had at a Captains meeting.”
A few changes were made for 2020 adding an all-new TBF tagging category and junior angler award. The meeting included raffle items provided by the long list of tournament sponsors, featuring: Engel Coolers filled with goodies, Costa del Mar sunglasses, Maxel Reels, lures, AFTCO, Hi-Liner Offshore Tackle, Grand Slam Sport Fishing, Avid sportswear, Outrigger Yacht Products, Kohler, Kraft Power and Mustad to name a few.
Time for the competition!
The majority of the fleet decided to fish on day one, and lay on Friday. Leaving Saturday which, based on the forecast, held the best conditions of the three available fishing days.
Tournament Director (Bowden) wrote; “This year each day was a wild card. And we never knew who would pull into the lead at any point. The Wicked Wahine slayed day one with consistent releases and 2400 points on dead bait. Team Two Cats was not far behind having consistent days on one and two. But Sandman is the team who came out on top with a total of 2800 points on live bait taking the lead in the last hour of the tournament and taking home over $131,900!
In addition to the top three teams, Team Good Call, took home the first-ever sailfish tagging award with a total of 7 tags deployed safely and in accordance with TBF guidelines. History was also made by Jill Yates, of The Eights Eights who became not only our top female angler but also the TOP OVERALL ANGLER of the tournament, making her the first female top overall angler in the history of the Buccaneer Cup.
“We had a phenomenal group of competitors and teams this year! History was made, fishing was consistent and you certainly won’t find any other tournament having this much fun on the radio” said Bowden.
To add to the excitement, Sportfish Outfitters provided a chase boat for one day and the Buccaneer Marina generously donated the use of their helicopter and pilot for the official photographer, Steve Momot of @ah360views to take aerial photos of the fleet on the final fishing day! And what an exceptionally beautiful day it was!
The winning teams flooded The Sailfish Club of Florida on Palm Beach Island, Saturday Jan. 25 to receive their awards and celebrate with a full surf and turf buffet that the historical club is known for, seating over 250 guests for the awards dinners and taking home some very large checks and the coveted Buccaneer Cups!
Check out some of the praise the tournament has received from the 2020 teams below:
“Thanks for putting on a great tournament! It’s come a long way in the past few years thanks to your dedication. Well done!” – Richard Robinson (Southern Run) “Just wanted to congratulate you on an amazing job coordinating the Buc Cup. It was my first time competing and in comparison to other sailfish tournaments you do a top-notch job. Bravo to you and your volunteer staff”. – Juan Ruiz (Team Gypsea)
“What a fantastic event this was! We were so incredibly happy to be a part of a very prestigious venue with great fishermen! The Buccaneer Cup is a high-class event and we loved being a part of it. Thank you, Courtney for a spectacular event – we will see you next year!” – Frank Fini and Gerrard Weigold (Double Diamond/ Outnumbered)
“Thank you for putting on an awesome weekend for us, we all had a blast. And, the best food I’ve ever had at a captain’s meeting too. This will surely be one of our regular yearly tournaments now.” – Taylor Sanford
The top angler trophies went to Jill Yates on the Eight Eights, who also took home the top female angler award.
Top 3 teams: Sandman, Wicked Wahine, Two Cats
The Buccaneer Cup Tournament cash award for the Most Points on Live Bait ($10,000) went to the Sandman, which pocketed $131,950 total. Most Points on Dead Bait ($10,000) went to Wicked Wahine, the team receiving a check for $24,580 in total purse for their win. The InTheBite Top Captain cup was awarded to Captain John Dudas, who led team Sandman to victory.
New for 2020 the TBF top tagging team was awarded to Team Good Call with 7 total tags successfully and safely deployed with video validation.
The awards dinner was emceed by Robert “Fly” Navarro and Courtney Bowden. Pat Healey, President of Viking Yachts and member of the RFA Board of Directors, welcomed participants and spoke on the
importance of the support the industry receives from the RFA. Pat presented Ellen Peel of the Billfish Foundation with a check to aid the organization in its ongoing efforts to advance the science used for billfish management and assessment.
Great strides are being made by both organizations to ensure the longevity of our fisheries and industry. The awards banquet was sponsored by MTU Marine Power, Florida Detroit Diesel Allison, and Johnson and Towers.
Sponsors included YAMAHA OUTBOARDS, MTU Diesel, Florida Detroit Diesel Allison, Johnson & Towers, Viking Yachts, Viking Service Center, HMY Yacht Sales, The Buccaneer Marina, C. Nicklaus Starling, Jupiter Beach Spa & Resort, Downey Yachts, Contender Boats, American Custom Yachts, Akzo Nobel-Interlux Paint, Seakeeper, Garmin, Kohler, Electrosea, Sportfish Outfitters, Christi/Travelers Insurance, Atlantic Marine Electronics, American Fishing Wire/Hi-Seas, Release Marine, Reel Time Apps, Rybovich Marina, and Outrigger Marine Products.
2021 dates for the 58th Buccaneer Cup TBA.