With sailfish training south for the winter, participants in the 2011 Sailfish Cup were gearing up in anticipation for the first major event of the season. One of the richest tournaments in the state and the first stop on the highly competitive Sailfish Pro Series, this two-day test of skill and stamina brings together the most elite live bait crews in the state. Making the event even more noteworthy, the Sailfish Cup teamed up with NASCAR and served as the kickoff party for the Sprint Cup Series Championship at Miami-Homestead Speedway.
With preparations made weeks ahead, tournament teams gathered at the Miami Beach Marina for what was going to prove to be a tough two days of fishing. While local teams had the benefit of fishing in their own backyard, many teams trekked down to Miami with bait pens in tow. On the morning of Day One teams were greeted with brisk east-southeast winds to keep their kites aloft. Tournament regulations limit anglers with boundaries 30-miles north and south of Government Cut, which makes captains really have to weigh out their strategies. The day started off on the right foot for Kimbuktu, with their first release coming 27 minutes after lines in and their second fish coming only 13 minutes later. The bite proved to be difficult throughout the morning and many teams had yet to see a fish. As teams looked to make a move and settle in for the afternoon, sailfish began to sporadically pop up and a few releases were heard over the radio.
As the afternoon continued, teams moved north and were hugging the boundary in the vicinity of the Hillsboro Inlet and intercepting sailfish cruising south. At the end of Day One there had been 67 sailfish releases, with Blue Time leading the fleet with 12, Reely Tight with 6, and Sea Hunter with 5. After handing over their camera memory cards for release verification, anglers enjoyed themselves at the Embraer Executive Jets Cocktail Party.
While there wasn’t a whole lot of fish pushing south on the first day, there’s nothing shameful about putting up 12 releases and teams knew where to look on Day Two. While Blue Time had a 6 fish lead over Reely Tight, they knew it wasn’t enough to sit back and relax. As the call came for lines in at 8:00 a.m., it wasn’t long before the first release was called in and hopes were high that the bite would ignite. Kimbuktu was the first to strike gold again with a release at 8:10 a.m. and Blue Time further upped their score with their first release of Day Two coming at 8:29 a.m. Little did they know that the combined 13 releases would be enough to seal the deal.
From this point forward teams called in singles until the radio came alive after lunch with Kumbuktu posting a quick double. This was good enough to earn Kimbuktu and Captain Art Sapp the daily, although nobody could come close to Blue Time’s flurry on Day One.
From here it was time to head over to the Casa Vieja Awards Banquet at Jungle Island, where teams enjoyed gourmet cuisine, top shelf open-bars and live entertainment. Hosted by NASCAR President Mike Helton, the party featured Live and Silent Auctions benefitting The NASCAR Foundation and Speediatrics, a racing themed pediatric unit at the new Homestead Hospital.
While this prestigious event is the second richest fishing tournament in all of South Florida, ranking only behind the World Sailfish Championship, there was much excitement about the exquisite Sailfish Cup awarded in the name of the late NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr.
With a strong showing on Day One, Blue Time was able to hold the lead thanks to a slow Day Two and Captain Bill Wieteha and his crew took home $114,330 and the first win of the 2011-2012 Sailfish Pro Series. Adding to Blue Time’s winnings was Lisa Leon earning the tournament’s Top Lady Angler award with 6 releases. Second place overall went to Reely Tight with six releases good for $65,872. Although Sea Hunter, Rock Star and Kimbuktu all posted five releases, Sea Hunter was awarded 3rd place based on time of release and was awarded $24,748 for their hard work. While Rockstar went home with 4th place and $22,657, Kimbuktu won $39,330 for their 5th place finish and daily win.
With the first event of the Sailfish Pro Series in the books, Blue Time sits on top of the leaderboard with 103 points, followed by Reely Tight with 85, Sea Hunter with 79, and Rockstar with 73 points.
With NASCAR driver and avid angler Jeff Burton in attendance, the Sailfish Cup raised over $115,000 for The NASCAR Foundation, breaking the $500,000 mark for the charity. Be sure to follow the world’s most elite sailfish crews as the Sailfish Pro Series heads to West Palm Beach, FL February 1-3 for the Sailfish Open. If you can’t attend the tournament be sure to visit sps11.catchstat.com for live scoring updates and sailfishproseries.com for info on how to participate in next year’s event.