KEY WEST, Fla. – With 20 minutes remaining in Day Two of the World Sailfish Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops, Team Sandman released its 14th and final fish of the day. That release gave the 63-foot Spencer a total of 34 sailfish for the tournament and what seemed like a comfortable lead heading into Saturday’s final day.
But then the calls started coming over the radio.
Team Advanced Roofing reported a release at 3:17 p.m. That was followed by another release at 3:20 and yet another at 3:22 as they finished off a doubleheader and then a single that took up most of the last half hour of the day.
The end result was, rather than have a lot of ground to make up, the two teams will begin fishing Saturday morning with 34 releases each.
Though not exactly what Sandman was hoping for as it tries to repeat its World Sailfish Championship title from a year ago, it sets up a very intriguing final day of the world’s richest sailfish tournament.
“We had no idea what they had going,” said Sandman Capt. Scott Leon regarding Advanced Roofing’s sprint to the finish. “We didn’t realize all that.”
After an opening day that saw 53 boats catch a single-day record 362 sailfish, anglers checked in on Day Two with 268 releases for a tournament total of 630.
When lines drop at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sandman will be leading Advanced Roofing on time while the other Day One leader, Team 4 Aces, trails by seven fish and what seems like a mile in a very short race. Those teams will have six hours to figure out which one takes home the title of World Sailfish Champion.
In fact, 4 Aces finds itself in a much tougher battle to hang on to third place, as Viva La Vida is one fish back with a total of 26. The Edge and Silent Hunter each have 25 releases, while Jichi (23), Get Lit (22), Blue Time (22) and Qualifier, with 21, round out the Top 10.
Advanced Roofing will be hoping to capitalize on its amazing final half hour on Thursday as it pushes for its first World Sailfish Championship.
“We knew today we had to catch everything we saw, and for the most part, we did,” Advanced Roofing Captain Jeff Scott said. “I think we might have lost one fish and come up on a couple too fast but, other than that, we did exactly what we tried to do. We showed today every fish counts. Now, we’re tied up and seven fish ahead of the next boat. It’s tough keeping up with Sandman; they’re a great team. One of the best, if not the best, around.”
Saturday’s battle has just a little extra spice for those two boats as one of Sandman’s anglers, Robbie Waddick, used to fish with Advanced Roofing and is married to the owner of that team’s sister.
Scott said the rivalry may be friendly, but beating his former teammate and good friend would just add to a lifelong dream.
“Winning this tournament is something I’ve definitely wanted to do forever,” Scott said. “I think we’ve fished it the last six years now, but winning it is one of my dreams.”
The conditions are more than likely going to make things a lot harder for the anglers on Saturday. A south-southwest wind is forecast, which will cause the tailing fish the fleet has been chasing for two days to lay down and the bite to diminish.
That means strategy is going to play a key role in determining who walks away with the trophy.
“On Saturday, four or five fish may win the daily,” Leon said. “When we wake up Saturday, the whole ballgame changes. You get up and you’re going to start something all over again. We just have to stay on top of whoever is catching them. The best offense is a good defense.”