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The Ultimate Release

A Sailfish Tournament to Remember

Josh McFarland February 15, 2019

Winter is a special time of the year in South Florida, as anglers from across the Eastern Seaboard gather to take part in the highly competitive tournament circuit along Sailfish Alley

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Illustration: Reysart.com

On the night before the first event of the season, teams gathered for the captain’s meeting and excitement filled the air. Considering crews would be waking up in the wee hours of the morning, this was meant to be nothing more than a pleasant, low-key event and early night to bed.

Apparently, our newest team member didn’t get the message. Jeff was known throughout the circuit for being a great fisherman, but was somewhat of a liability when it came to being responsible. He had bounced from boat to boat over the course of the last few seasons and happened to find a spot on Sweet Release for 2017.

As we gave the tournament director our undivided attention, Jeff was taking full advantage of the open bar. At 8:00 p.m. we left to handle a few last minute rigging duties—Jeff told us he was going to stay for just one more drink.

We all woke up feeling fresh in the morning and found Jeff passed out on the couch with a half eaten burrito in his clenched fist. Knowing he would be feeling the sting from the bar, we let Jeff sleep to the very last minute before we had to shove off the dock. A few cups of coffee and a breakfast sandwich did the trick and he was good to go by the time lines in was called over the radio.

Before long, we hooked up and landed a quad, and then a triple, and then a double. Things couldn’t have been better. By 10:00 a.m. winds were howling out of the north at 25 knots and we were atop the fleet by two releases. Though the rough conditions turned on the bite, Jeff started to complain about a pounding headache and upset stomach. While the rest of the guys were celebrating each and every exciting release, Jeff couldn’t even muster up a high-five.

High noon rolled around and Jeff was really feeling it. “It must’ve been the ham in the breakfast sandwich, my stomach is killing me!” The action hadn’t stopped and the last thing Jeff wanted to do was get sick, so he kept working the lines and waiting on the next bite while all of his teammates laughed at his misfortune.

Soon enough, there was a break in the action and Jeff could finally sit down and try to recover. With teams gaining ground on our lead we were now tied for first based on time of release. The rest of the team was eagerly awaiting the next fish, but Jeff couldn’t care less who won the tournament and was only hoping that the day would soon be over.

Another hour went by and we were now sitting in second place just one fish behind the leader. Finally, it all came to a head—so to speak—and Jeff couldn’t take it any longer. The double-digit shots of cheap rum and the year-old microwave burritos that he could barely remember eating were waging war in his stomach.

Unfortunately for Jeff, there wasn’t a working head on the boat and there weren’t many other options. “Everyone move to the upwind side of the boat…I need to air drop ASAP!”

Before long, Jeff was hanging his backside over the gunnel for every other team down the line to see. Call it a coincidence, call it what you will, but Jeff’s unorthodox way of chumming the water turned the bite right back on and put our team in position to win the tournament. As the brown sludge drifted beneath the left kite a trio of sailfish came to surface and engulfed the long, middle and short baits. Though the fluorocarbon was slightly stained, we were able to touch the leaders and successfully call in the triple-header release just minutes before lines out. After hoisting the trophy at the end of the day, Jeff bought the team a round and was back to his old self. I guess some people never learn.

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