If you’ve ever had the pleasure of fishing South Florida during spring break, then you’re well aware of the crowded waterways when everyone’s favorite target moves in for the taking. No, we’re not talking about bikini-clad spring breakers, but everyone’s favorite pelagic game fish—dolphin. While a majority of anglers are still locked tight in the grips of the remaining sailfish lingering off our coast, in addition to the full-on king mackerel and blackfin tuna migration, dolphin diggers are timing the precise movements of slammer ‘phins in accordance with water temperatures and prevailing wind patterns. The Grove Slam is the annual kickoff for die-hard blue water hunters and the 2010 event certainly lived up to its hype.
If you’ve never chased dolphin with aggression then there’s something you should know; the anglers that compete in this highly acclaimed event are die-hard birdwatchers with vessels equipped to travel long distances at high rates of speed. Dolphin are one of Florida’s top table fish, and the run & gun crews that compete in this prestigious event know precisely where to find them. Because of a dolphin’s seemingly endless need for protein intake, they will never be found far from a quality supply of forage. Nothing holds life better than floating mats of sargassum seaweed, although while en route to the deep blue keen eyed anglers always investigate even the smallest pieces of flotsam.
The bartenders had their work cut out for them, as the sight was comparable to a school of famished dolphin bearing down on unsuspecting forage.
Dubbed The World’s Funnest Fishing Tournament, the Grove Slam is the epitome of friendly competition, but don’t for one second think these anglers aren’t serious. It’s a fish by day, party by night atmosphere and what better venue than Monty’s Raw Bar in Coconut Grove out of Bayshore Landing Marina. Close to the hustle and bustle of twinkling South Beach, the event’s popularity has grown exponentially and now reaches a target audience well beyond the sweltering South Florida arena. In fact, the Grove Slam is one of the most highly attended tournaments in the entire state.
With an impressive fleet of 137 boats, teams from around the eastern seaboard flocked south to search out highly prized, mean green eating machines. For the first dolphin tournament of the slammer season, the festivities began on Thursday with the eagerly anticipated Captain’s Party & Luau. Teams gathered to register, grab their goodies, toss back a few cocktails and talk a little trash—all in good fun. The authentic hula show added to the festivities, but the gathering was all about reviewing the rules.
As a boat/team tournament, all IGFA rules apply and vessels are not permitted to enter Bahamian waters. Five dolphin may be weighed per boat, with the tournament champion determined by the highest combined weight. There are also cash prizes for the largest wahoo, largest kingfish, largest tuna, as well as junior angler and lady angler divisions.
The fishing started on Saturday with one of the most exciting events of the entire tournament—the Bimini start. All 137 teams showed up early in the morning just outside of Coconut Grove to ready themselves for the shotgun start and the beginning of the tournament’s competition.
In typical springtime fashion gaffer dolphin arrived just in time for May’s Grove Slam tournament, but unfortunately they didn’t show up in the numbers anglers were hoping for. This year the fishing was actually quite slow and only four fish in the 30-pound class were weighed with one fish breaking the 40-pound mark. While teams complained about encounters with schoolies and many others ended the day with a dreaded goose egg, the activities on the dock were more than enough to sooth their salty souls. In addition, when the boats returned, the Star-Brite boat wash crews greeted them with open arms. It wasn’t long before anglers jumped ship and flocked to the open bars sponsored by Bacardi and Miller Lite. The bartenders had their work cut out for them, as the sight was comparable to a school of famished dolphin bearing down on unsuspecting forage.
When the action settled and the final fish hit the dock, scores were tallied and it was Vidal Communications who took home the title with a 60.60-pound aggregate weight good for $13,200. Runner-up in the dolphin aggregate division was Hicks & Spics with 57-pounds worth $2,000. Casablanca locked up third place with 53.50-pounds, narrowly edging out El Capitan by only a few ounces. The top female angler was Tracey Preston with a 17-pound dolphin and the top junior angler was Alex Garcia on Hicks & Spics who reeled in a 32.30-pound ‘phin. The Hook Up, with anglers Mike Sanchez, Edgar Rodriguez and Stephen Donvito, weighed the largest dolphin of the event—a 49.6-pound whopper good for $13,170. The Miami-based team spotted a diving frigate bird in 450-feet just south of Fowey Light. Chasing the frenzied frigate the crew spotted a lone dolphin swimming on the surface. With lines deployed the tournament winning fish inhaled a rigged ballyhoo skirted on a black/red Ilander. In 5-years of competing in the Grove Slam, this was their first time on the leaderboard.
Wet Hooker weighed the heaviest kingfish, a smoker 41.7-pounder worth $300. The largest tuna, 30.45 pounds, was caught by Sea-Gar, while Cayman Sider weighed the heaviest wahoo at 17.65-pounds. In addition to the fishing prizes there were awards for the wettest team, with winners receiving four Gill IN7 jackets from gillirect.com. The dirtiest team was awarded a complete set of Star-Brite cleaning products, and the best team name received four embroidered Hook & Tackle shirts. Most tournaments’ action ends after the awards ceremony, but in Miami the party never ends. The Grove Slam isn’t your typical fishing tournament and the day’s festivities finish with the Miss Hot Fish Bikini contest.
While dolphin lose their brilliant colors only moments after being boated, the memories of their incredible acrobatics and amazing hues never die. One thing is for certain. Next year’s 10th Anniversary Grove Slam will be an event for the record books. For complete results and info on how to compete in next year’s extravaganza, visit www.groveslam.com