PALM BEACH, Fla. - The World Fishing Tour moved its annual Sailfish Open to Palm Beach for the first time this year as nearly 200 anglers battled a rough bite to put together one of the most dramatic finishes in series history.
Team Hard Way, one of the smallest boats in the tournament, released its eighth and final sailfish of the tournament with less than a half hour remaining in the contest but was forced to bite their nails as they waited to see how Team My Doris’s day ended. That boat was fighting a quad and fish No. 4 was the potential winner.
“It was nail biting the last 45 minutes just sitting there listening to the other boats report their releases,” said Capt. Mark Lamb, who led the 32-foot Mercury powered Contender Hard Way. “We’re not getting bit, My Doris has a quad and we can’t do anything about it. We didn’t know what happened.”
It wasn’t until Lamb received a text message from tournament headquarters during the run home that his team was able to celebrate. The win netted Hard Way more than $86,000 of the record $300,000 payout and continued the boat’s sailfish tournament streak.
Lamb said the only reason they were able to fish the Sailfish Open was because they had won a tournament three weeks earlier in Jupiter. Those circumstances were quite a bit different from Friday’s finale.
In that tournament, it was Hard Way scoring two releases in the final six minutes to win by one fish.
My Doris owner Mark Modist said his team knew the situation as they fought the quad past the lines out time. Describing the scene as “cockpit chaos,” Modist said he was thrilled to compete with one of the strongest sailfish fields you’ll ever find.
“I knew if we caught all four we were the winner,” he said. “We caught the first two, No. 3 got off and we landed the fourth one. It’s amazing to think that these are the greatest fishermen in the world and eight fish wins the tournament.”
For Team Hard Way, the former tournament bass fishermen turned sailfishers proved knowing the local waters is the key to any tournament, no matter how heavy the tackle.
“I told Daryl this morning when we came out of the inlet that we were going north,” Lamb said. “We still had a chance to win this thing. When we got to our spot by the Juno Pier, there were no other boats around. We were all by ourselves.”
The tournament featured a charity division, which was won by Team Sandman with five releases. With the win, Sandman owner Sandra MacMillan was able to donate $15,000 to the Billfish Foundation.
The Sailfish Open is the third of the four-tournament Sailfish Pro Series. Team Sea Hunter, buoyed by its five releases in the Sailfish Open, jumps to the top of the Sailfish Pro Series standings, leading Team DeBaitAble by 16 points headed into the final qualifying tournament, the World Sailfish Championship (WSC), which will be held in Key West April 17-21. The WSC is sport's highest profile and richest tournament paying out more than $1 million last year. It is the event’s 10th anniversary in 2012.
The Sailfish Pro Series is a series of quality tournaments designed to showcase professional sailfishing. The Sailfish Pro Series begins with the first of four events Nov. 14-16 when the Sailfish Cup takes place in Miami Beach. The next event is the Sailfish Open in West Palm Beach, Feb. 1-3 and then the World Sailfish Championships in Key West, April 17-21. The Sailfish Pro Series Finale in Miami Beach will take place for the top ranking teams after completing the season. For more information visit www.sailfishproseries.com.