Captain Jeff Donahue provides a thorough breakdown of the all new Hatteras GT59. Captain Jeff runs the Hatterascal, hull number one of the GT59 series, on it’s wide ranging tournament schedule. See how the boat is designed, performs and what all goes into making a Hatteras. You won’t want to miss it.
Have you ever wanted to know the most popular lures used around the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mid-Atlantic? Take a minute and listen in to Grand Slam Sportfishing Supply owner Jim McGrath as he showcases the best lures for 2019. Lures include the recent World Cup and the Mid-Atlantic winner. Don’t wait and order yours today!
De-Bait-Able takes the Win in a Field of 39 Boats
The 56th Annual Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Tournament was held January 23 to 26, 2019 in the Palm Beaches. This year an additional fishing day was added to the format giving teams the choice to fish any two. With two days of near ideal conditions, and a much-anticipated bite pushing into the area from the north, teams were rewarded with steady fishing. After the entire field of top competition teams taking a lay day on Thursday, all 39 boats hustled to release 180 sailfish on Friday and Saturday, The prize, a purse in excess of $352,000, the prestigious and beautiful Buccaneer Cup trophies for the top three boats and anglers, 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, there was a lot at stake.
Courtney Bowden, currently in her sixth year at the reigns of the Buc Cup, did a spectacular job running one of the best organized and classiest billfish tournaments on the coast. Along with her team of volunteers, including staff from TBF and RFA, 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 is most definitely back!
The 56th Buccaneer Cup opened with the Captains meeting on Wednesday held outdoors at the recently completed Tiki Bar at the Sailfish Marina. The meeting was sponsored by the Viking Yacht Company and HMY Yacht Sales. Robert “Fly” Navarro emceed the meeting and went through the rules which included a few changes in 2019 to give the teams more flexibility and fishing options. The meeting included raffle items provided by the long list of tournament sponsors included such as items as Engel Coolers filled with goodies, Costa del Mar sunglasses, Maxel Reels, Tsunami rods and lures, Caza Offshore knife kits and gear donated by Atlantic Marine Electronics (AME), AFTCO, Hi-Liner Offshore Tackle, Grand Slam Sport Fishing, Outrigger Yacht Products, and Mustad.
The competition teams made the unanimous decision to lay on Day One, opting to fish Friday and Saturday which, based on the forecast, held the best conditions of the three available fishing days.
Day Two opened with grey skies, and light east winds and a strong bite with 14 sails being released within the first hour. Martha D called in the first release of the tournament just 17 minutes after lines in at 8 AM. The live baiters seemed to have the edge as Old No. 7, and De-Bait-Able took an early lead, but dead baiters Polarizer and Krazy Salts also made runs to claim the top spot for the day and the Calcutta dailies. By lines out, Old No. 7 racked up 10 releases on live bait for 2,000 points, followed closely by De-Bait-Able just 200 points off the leader. The top dead baiters filled out the leader board with Polarizer and Krazy Salts in the 3rd and 4th spots aided by a late bite that saw six releases in the final 30 minutes of fishing before lines out at 3:30.
Day Three saw a drop in the wind and accompanying slowdown in the action, but the live baiters continued to push their advantage. Based on radio chatter, fishing was best in a small area to the north of Jupiter Inlet. De-Bait-Able, with Capt. KJ Zeher at the helm, put on an astonishing clinic the final day amassing a total of 4,200 points by lines out bringing their two-day total up to 21 sailfish releases and leaving the competition in their wake.
Tournament staff utilized Reel Time Apps for accurate, up-to-the-minute scoring that was available to teams and tournament enthusiasts by simply downloading the free app. The program was linked to the official radio room computer scoring team and updated minute-by-minute allowing teams to follow the leader board throughout each fishing day. At tournament’s end the radio logs were matched against the boat’s catch logs and Reel Time Apps and then verified by video confirmation.
The winning boats were De-Bait-Able on top, Old No. 7 securing second place, with Sandman just 200 points behind in third. The competition was a nail biter between the top boats and was capped by a great run by Wrapped-Up breaking out of the pack in the final hour of the tournament trying valiantly to catch the leaders. In addition to several Calcutta categories, Old No. 7 also won the Charity Calcutta which includes an entry fee to the 2019 Buc Cup. They have been a regular in the tournament the past few years and no doubt the crew will be back next year trying to top their second-place finish.
The top angler trophies went to Bill Bryan on the Old No. 7 in first, beating Chris Weaks on the De-Bait-Able in second by time (both had 1,400 points), and Sandra MacMillan on the Sandman taking third as well as the Top Female Angler, which was also a tie broken by earliest catch.
The Buccaneer Cup Tournament cash award for the Most Points on Live Bait ($10,000) went to the De-Bait-Able team, which pocketed $110,800. Most Points on Dead Bait ($10,000) went to Polarizer, the team receiving a check for $66,610 in total purse for their win. The InTheBite Top Captain loving cup was awarded to Captain KJ Zeher, who skippered the De-Bait-Able to victory.
New for 2019 and created in memory of a long-time participant in the Buccaneer Cup, the Walter Johnson Award trophy for the largest meat fish went to the Bertram 61 for their 34-pound dolphin landed on Day 2. Pat Healey explained that the award was created as a posthumous honor that recognized his love of catching meat fish, and for his contributions to the development of the MTU engine, which has become the standard in sportfishing boats, during his tenure as the top executive at Johnson & Towers.
The awards banquet was held at the Sailfish Club of Florida and sponsored by MTU Marine Power, Florida Detroit Diesel Allison, and Johnson and Towers. The awards dinner was emceed by Robert “Fly” Navarro. Pat Healey, President of Viking Yachts and member of the RFA Board of Directors, presented Ellen Peel of the Billfish Foundation with a $5,000 check to aid the organization in its ongoing efforts to advance the science used for billfish management and assessment.
This event would not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors including MTU Diesel, Florida Detroit Diesel Allison, Johnson & Towers, Viking Yachts, HMY Yacht Sales, Yamaha Outboards, Jupiter Beach Spa & Resort, Contender Boats, American Custom Yachts, Akzo Nobel-Interlux Paint, Seakeeper, Garmin, Cummins Marine Power, American Venture Boats, Bahama Boat Works, Christi/Travelers Insurance, Atlantic Marine Electronics, American Fishing Wire/Hi-Seas, Release Marine, Viking Service Center, The Buccaneer Marina & Resort, Reel Time Apps, Sailfish Marina, and Outrigger Marine Products.
We look forward to seeing all our teams and more next year for the prestigious 57th Buccaneer Cup where we can make sportfishing history again.
Congratulations to Captain Joe Garberoglio & the Fragrant Harbor crew! The champions of the 82nd Annual Silver Sailfish Derby with 13 releases overall and being Top Boat Day 1.
There were 43 boats in the tournament. The total number of sailfish released in the two days of fishing was 201.
Whether you’re running the boat, manning the rod or trying to get your team in shape, everyone could use a refresher on making the most of your bites. In this video, originally published in 2017, acclaimed tournament angler Fred Hardwick outlines an ingenious, practical way of getting a fell for the drop back. If that were not enough, check out what the best fishing teams on the professional series are doing in 2019. For even more from the archives, check out the bottom link– a 2014 round table with some of professional sportfishing’s best…. Have things changed? Are they the same?
More ITB Sailfish Articles to Read –
Fishing for sails in Florida is a numbers game. Those who play it seem to be getting faster and more efficient with every passing season.
Sailfish 2.0 (click here…)
A Q&A with 4 of the Best Captains in the Business
The Art of Sailfishing (click here…)
by Dave Ferrell
Capt. Peter B. Wright, a guy that’s caught quite a lot of giant marlin, often says that the best fishing teams aren’t determined by how big a fish they catch…It’s how many they catch that matters. Wright’s logic says that you can’t determine the exact size of the fish that takes your bait, but you can control how many bites you get, and how many fish you successfully capture out of those bites.
Therefore, it is the team that can get a bite, catch a fish and then redeploy the baits quickly to get yet another bite that usually comes out on top in a numbers-based release event. It is for this reason that any team that places in the top five of an east Florida sailfish tournament can probably be plopped down in any of the world’s billfish hot spots and be kicking butt in no time at all. Fishing for sails in Florida is a numbers game. Those who play it seem to be getting faster and more efficient with every passing season.
Change is Good
While it might not seem like it to those close to the sport, a lot of things have changed over the years for those targeting sails. Not too long ago, it was wire leaders and split-tailed mullet that caught all the sails from West Palm to Key West. These days its dredge fishing, circle hooks, 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders and live-bait kite fishing that dominates the scene. When the bite gets hot, usually during the winter months, double digit days become commonplace and good crews can really rack up the numbers. Catching double digit Florida sails is not as easy as many people think…Atlantic sails can be finicky on the bite and only a tight-lipped white marlin is harder to hook than a petite Palm Beach sail.
Two changes are perhaps the most profound. For one thing, we don’t keep them anymore. That leaves a lot more of them available for you to catch. “The first Miami Billfish Tournament was a one-point-per-pound event. The second year it was a hybrid with points for release and killed fish,” says Capt. Ray Rosher, owner the Miss Britt out of Miami, Florida. “Later on, we all complained bitterly when we were forced to use circle hooks in the tournaments. Now we would pay double to get to use them…sometimes, change is good.” Those two changes alone, the advent of the release ethic and the use of circle hooks, probably contribute as much, or more, to today’s double-digit numbers than any learned technique. Besides knowing how to kite fish, of course.
The practice of fishing live baits on circle hooks, dangling the baits just at, or below the water’s surface, is probably the most effective way to catch good numbers of sailfish, especially if they are concentrated in a certain area or depth. Capt. Bouncer Smith, who charter fishes his Bouncer’s Dusky, out of Miami, is an expert kite fisherman and has seen quite a few innovations in the game. “I had a customer one time that was watching me struggle with some helium balloons on a calm day. He decided he was going to help me out and invent a kite-shaped helium balloon,” said Bouncer. “He tinkered with the idea for a couple of years and tried to come up with a helium-filled kite that measured 36 x 36 x 4 inches. It had a lot of potential, but it never came to fruition.”
“Probably the two most notable things I’ve seen recently are the use of Mylar dredges in the kite spread and the use of underwater lights during the daytime,” says Bouncer. “They will take a dredge teaser, fill it with Mylar strips with ballyhoo or some other baitfish imprinted on them, and then hang it under a bullet float in between two kites.” Wave and wind action bobs the loaded dredge up and down and brings fish into sight range of the kite baits. “Guys are also strobing their underwater lights during the day to get fish’s attention as well,” says Bouncer.
“I usually use a sea anchor most of the time so that requires power fishing. This winter I plan on hanging one of those mylar dredges right underneath the center console. I think it will do well underneath the boat,” he says.
Not one to stay comfortable in the way he does things, Bouncer is willing to give anything a go if he thinks it might bring more action. “At one time, we put some underwater speakers out to see if they would attract sails and get them to come to the boat. We played the same noise that scientists use to call sharks [low frequency, pulsed, white noise], but it didn’t seem to work for us,” said Bouncer.
“I’m waiting for the day when a guy pulls his kites in and starts flying his lines out on a pair of drones! Can you imagine that? Not having to worry about the wind? Just two drones sitting out there at the perfect height…not even having to watch them? That would be the cat’s meow,” says Bouncer.
Good numbers only breed more innovation, as crews try to catch just one more fish than the guys in the next slip. Few work harder at trying to catch more fish, quickly and efficiently than Rosher. On top of his charter boat operations, Rosher also owns R&R Tackle – a company that manufactures all manner of innovative tackle and accessories. Most of the products he sells came about by trying to fulfill a need that he encountered on his daily outings.
Even so, he doesn’t make or sell either of his first two picks for recent great sailfish innovations. “One of the big changes,” says Rosher, “is the use of super-fast electric kite reels to retrieve the kites. Consequently, these reels have taught the guys the benefits of speed. We all have a basic understanding of how to take care of our baits, make the proper rigs, set up for a drift correctly etc. Now, it’s become a lot like NASCAR, where the quickest pit crews get the cars around faster. In fishing, the crew that gets the bites, and then redeploys quickly, catches more double and triples…and wins more tournaments,” says Rosher.
Rosher uses Hooker kite reels for several reasons. “I believe they are the fastest kite reels out there,” he says. “I don’t have experience with a lot of the other brands, but these are pretty fast reels. Guys used to be happy just having ANY electric reel, now we have these ultra-fast ones that can clear big marks. This allows you to put four clips on a kite line instead of three, which allows you to fish four lines on each side. And all four clips can fit on one kite reel.”
Even something so seemingly insignificant as a kite clip can become an item of intense scrutiny in Rosher’s quest for increased speed and efficiency. Rosher’s newly designed M2 clips are a fraction of the weight of traditional clips and excel on day’s with very light winds. “They work in all winds actually, but they really help on calm days. Even if you are using helium assist, kite lines will sag on calm days, and any added weight makes them sag even more. If your kite line is sagging and you get bit, a fish can burn through your other baits in an instant. Elevation is your friend in kite fishing. If your kite isn’t sagging you can lift the other baits out of the water and then get another bite. These clips allow you to fish more clips on very calm days.”
The additional clip also gives you the option of putting more baits out when one gets bit. “If the long gets bit, you can advance the other two baits and add another short. This puts a new bait right back into the spot where you got the first bite and results in a large number of doubles and triples,” says Rosher. “During a recent event we had some pretty tough fishing, but we got a bite on our right long – our shallowest bait. We backed up on it and caught it. I decided to put all of our stuff out a little shallower. By the time we had caught that one fish, all of our baits were up in our little tubes and I was moving an 1/8th of a mile back up in front of the pack. We ended up catching seven of them and doubled the next boat. I’m not trying to be some kind of braggart either, I’m just saying that good team work – speed and efficiency – wins tournaments.”
Advancements in kite design also allow you to spend more days on the water. “Kites have improved significantly,” says Rosher. “With both Lewis and SFE putting a lot of emphasis on light and heavy wind models. The ultralights really help if they can keep me from having to blow up a balloon with helium.”
As always, picking the right reel for the job is critical, especially when dealing with the long distances and light tackle commonly used when targeting sails with kites. “All of my reels are designed specifically for live bait sail fishing. Which means they have to have a high speed retrieve and very consistent drags. The reel I use is the Penn Fathom 40 NLDHS (Narrow Lever Drag High Speed). It retails for $249 and that’s very reasonable…I’m currently on my third season with the reels on my boat. There are others that do the same thing, but these are the ones I can talk about because I use them every day.”
Details Make a Difference
Nowhere was it more evident on how far Rosher will go to improve efficiency than when he talked about the design on his new rigging needles for live baits. “We like to bridle our live baits when kite fishing and we use a needle that we made to use with our specific bands,” he says. “Instead of a hole, it has a restrictor that lets you snap a band in place quickly and easily. It’s a synthetic needle [not metal] with soft edges so you can’t snag or damage a band. I tried to make them of metal, but I couldn’t make them as soft as I needed them to be. These are plenty strong enough to do the job, plus I can round the edges and flatten the sides to keep them from rolling around on a flat surface.”
“Our rigging bands come in two sizes, ½-inch and 1 3/8-inch, in either black or clear. They are made to our exact specifications because it’s really hard to get that sweet spot of being strong but not too strong. They need to hold the bait, but then let it go away on the hookup. You don’t want them to stay too well attached. I saw in Australia how those big baits tied on with 130-pound Dacron wouldn’t come off and the fish would come up shaking its head, throwing the whole thing away.”
It’s no secret that boats frequently placing near the top of most sailfish tournaments in south Florida use pen-raised live baits. Rosher, who does quite well in tournaments, is known as a master at raising and keeping live baits. “I put all of our focus on products that I needed…things I couldn’t find out in the marketplace. Our bait pens come with a food tray in them, and we even sell food…wet or dry. Our double fine mesh bait nets allow you to transfer large amounts of live baits very quickly, without damaging the slime layer. They even have a clear plastic bottom that holds water to keep them lubricated, but also fools the baits into swimming straight into the net instead of trying to avoid it.” Rosher even makes small bait tubes for pilchards and goggle eyes that feature adjustable, individual flow controls and that allow you to store bridled baits ready for deployment as soon as the boat stops.
Old School Too
Kite fishing might have inched ahead with more recent sail fishing innovations, and that’s just fine for traditional troll fisherman like Tony Huerta, owner of the Lo Que Sea. Huerta and crew are regular top five finishers in many of the most prestigious marlin and sailfish tournaments in south Florida and the Bahamas. Huerta chuckled when I asked him what, if anything, he’s been doing differently over the last few years that he thought might have improved his odds.
“We are doing the exact same things. We might pull a bigger dredge on tournament days – triples or even quads, but nothing much is different. We’ve got a blue and white dredge on one side, and a blue and black on the other. We still pull green squids and a blue and white express with a mackerel in it. We prospect one side, all day long, even in sunny conditions. A lot of boats use high speed reels, but we still use TLD 20 two speeds. I think a lot of anglers pull the baits away from the fish with the high speeds. There’s really not much to it…run them over and hang on to the ones you see,” he says.
Oh, if it were just that easy.
An interesting man in many contexts – Captain Bouncer Smith catches quality fish of many species (from swordfish to tarpon to sailfish and snapper). Here’s the full Old Salt interview with Capt. Bouncer at his slip in Miami Beach Marina.
For more on Bouncer’s story, check out the December Issue hitting the docks this week!
While Americans enjoy a holiday weekend full of turkey, pie and football, the end of 2016 is rapidly approaching. While winter means different things to different people, the eyes of the sportfishing community in South Florida turn to sailfishing. The tournament season is fast upon us. Not only are their tournament checks and bragging rights on the line, but the Contender Florida Division of the ITB Captain of the Year is a close race. The Captain of the Year will be determined by how the remaining 2016 tournaments play out.
The Palm Beach Sailfish Classic took place from Nov. 18-20. The tournament scoring system awards differential tallies to dead bait and live bait-caught fish. These tournaments provide an interesting element of strategy. Should you try to catch more fish with live bait, that are worth fewer points each? Should the captain and crew target fewer, more valuable fish on the troll? The approach of the top three teams is evident in their their scores. While the top boat caught eight more fish than the second place crew, it’s point total was only 200 points more than second place. Here is how it played out:
Top Boat: Doing it All– 22 fish, 4400 points.
Second Place: Martha D– 14 fish, 4200 points.
Third Place: Hellreyzer– 14 fish, 2800 points.
Which approach would you take?
So while the remainder of the world relaxes their way through Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays, the professional sportfishing community of South Florida is already in high gear. Far from being relaxing, it is the winter time in which they earn their money. Winter means sailfish in South Florida. Sailfish mean tournaments. If you’re anything like us, you’re looking forward to seeing how it plays out. Good luck to all. Happy Thanksgiving, too.