Saltwater Slam Hits Home

Capt. Steve Dougherty October 14, 2011

It was a June for the record books, with nearly two weeks of stiff winds and choppy seas. Summer was getting underway and temperatures were quickly climbing. The coveted PBSC Saltwater Slam presented by Mercury/SeaVee was only a few days away and as usual, there was still a ton of work to be done.

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Photo: Endless Imagery

The PBSC (Pompano Beach Saltwater Circuit) consists of the Saltwater Shootout, the Saltwater Slam and the Saltwater Showdown. This is one series of events Florida Sport Fishing never misses. It’s a perfect opportunity for our fishing team to interact with our readers and for our staff to unwind and enjoy some competitive fishing.

If friendly competition and cold hard cash aren’t enough to pique your interest, registered teams are also automatically entered to win a 29' SeaVee!

With the unusually rough seas limiting baitfishing endeavors and a tight publishing schedule interfering with my rigging duties, it was going to be a long week to say the least. Thankfully, the light at the end of the tunnel was a great day on the water fishing against a field of respected and courteous professionals during the second leg of this highly coveted tournament trail.

The three event series takes place from May thru August, and attracts competitive anglers from around the state. With their sights set on dolphin, wahoo, kingfish, tuna and cobia, more than 100 teams compete in each of the first two legs, with high hopes of qualifying for the invitational Saltwater Showdown.

The Florida Sport Fishing crew consisting of Captain Mike & Leah Genoun, Meir Genoun, Capt. Carlos Rodriguez, Boone Oughterson and yours truly have been enjoying the friendly atmosphere provided by South Florida’s bustling tournament circuit for about four years, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it. From swapping fish tales at the Bacardi-sponsored captain’s parties to reacquainting with old friends at the weigh-ins, our local tournament scene is a great way to experience friendly competition. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the PBSC has a prize structure in excess of $400,000! If friendly competition and cold hard cash aren’t enough to pique your interest, registered teams are also automatically entered to win a 29′ SeaVee! While prize money is exciting, it comes second to the camaraderie it builds amongst our staff.

Unfortunately, our crew was shorthanded for the first event of the 2011 trail as two of our team members were overseas on assignment. Although the remaining members managed to put together a solid catch in the Shootout, it wasn’t enough to qualify for the Showdown. It would all come down to our performance in the Slam, with a top 20 finish needed to secure our spot in the championship event.

With the tournaments now official qualifying events for Division 10 in the Southern Kingfish Association, the competition is stiffer than ever with pro teams like Spiced Rum III, Bandit and Snake Dancer routine entrants. And you certainly can’t overlook seasoned veterans like Native Son, Advanced Roofing and Conched Out. In our opinion, the crews that compete in the PBSC are arguably the most elite live bait anglers in the entire state.

After struggling through a week of long days and nearly sleepless nights, it was finally game time. We were to meet at 6:00 AM sharp. With our proven Strike 37 rigged and ready, all that was left to do was dip our precious live baits. However, it appeared we were missing a key team member. “Someone call Carlos, he must be on island time,” I blurted out as we looked around in disbelief.

Apparently Carlos’ alarm experienced a mysterious malfunction and he was dreaming of smoker kings when the rest of the crew was ready to toss the dock lines. Luckily, we had time to spare. Carlos finally arrived and we proceeded to work our way through the congested ICW to flash our number to the checkout dock.

Making our way out the inlet to jockey into position for the always-exciting Bimini start, we couldn’t help but notice all of the incredibly appointed dream machines. From single, twin, triple and quad outboard-powered center consoles to diesel chugging sportfishers, everyone comes out for the Saltwater Slam.

At 7:00 AM the Bimini start commenced and boats went racing north, south and east. Our Suzuki-powered Strike was steaming north with the majority of the fleet, taking the crisp 4-footers with ease at speeds approaching 50 mph. As is always the case, Captain Mike kept his game plan to himself when suddenly, an unexpected mechanical issue stopped us dead in our tracks. “Looks like we are fishing Boca!” I shouted with a sly grin that I quickly hid under my Buff.

We limped into 140 feet and began our first drift while assessing the situation. As is generally the case with the second event, the fishing proved to be tough and most teams were faced with an undesirable south current and a non-existent morning bite. We finished the drift without a single strike and with the mechanical issue now alleviated, we went on to more fishy water.

Repositioning a few miles north, we quickly set the spread and with two kites aloft and a flurry of flat lines, we were poised for our first strike. Situated in the bow I was working my three kite baits when a solid king crushed one of my gogs. Within a few minutes we had our first fish in the box. No sooner than I reset the kite baits when a flat line comes tight in the bow. After another exciting battle a second solid smoker hit the deck.

The atmosphere on our boat is always friendly, but we throw stingers and if you can’t take the heat, you better get out of the cockpit. “The bow is kicking the stern’s ass,” we exclaimed after quickly putting two quality fish in the boat.

Although landed fish don’t have to be called in, the radio was completely obsolete of chatter and there weren’t any hourly catch reports on the designated tournament channel. Fortunately, Captain Mike’s policy of never leaving biting fish paid off and we ended up fishing the same area for most of the day. Although we only had seven screaming strikes, we made each of them count and didn’t lose a single fish.

With breezy, white-capping conditions now prevalent and most of our bait dead or damaged, and not wanting to get stuck in the mess of boats waiting to weigh-in, we decided to pack it in a bit early and headed towards the weigh station at Hillsboro Inlet. We were the second boat to weigh-in at just after 4:00 PM and with no other results to base our performance, we weighed our four largest king mackerel and headed back to the dock thinking we had no more than a fun day on the water.

Two hours later the Strike was polished up and Bacardi & Cokes were flowing. As usual, we rehashed the day and talked about what we could do to improve our performance when a surprising phone call came in with rumors that we had swept the event. A quick call to Tournament Director Jamie Bunn confirmed we were the unofficial winners with an aggregate weight of 93.38 pounds and our first PBSC win. Covered Up took home 2nd Place with 92.41 pounds and Summerwind took home 3rd Place with 91.28 pounds, a very close event for sure. Overall we couldn’t be happier with the win and are pleased to compete in a series of events that do so much for the IGFA Junior Anglers Program.

If you’re considering breaking into the tournament circuit, visit bluewatermovements.com. You just may end up a winner.

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