KEY WEST, Fla. -- After struggling to find fish on Day 1, the second day of the World Sailfish Championships proved to be a much different story.
The 71 registered boats managed to release more than twice as many sailfish on Thursday and several boats took advantage of the increased bite to make some big moves up the leaderboard.
One of those boats, Team Lights Out, jumped from way back in the pack to the top of the board, releasing 10 sails to bring their tournament total to 12. That number leads a tight pack at the top of the standings as the teams take Friday off to regroup before finishing the tournament on Saturday.
Team Sandman is in second with 11 releases (10 of which came Thursday), followed by Miss Britt at 10 and Sea Hunter/Conched Out and High Standards at 9 each.
For the tournament, 220 sailfish have been released, including 155 on Thursday. Conditions were calm again Thursday as boats battled slick seas, focusing on free jumping fish, as opposed to drifting with their kites up, which has been a challenge due to the lack of wind.
Capt. Ray Rosher of Miss Britt said he has seen jumping fish, but not enough to bank on making a day out of chasing them. Miss Britt is using helium to keep its balloons up and that has paid off with consistent catches of three fish on Day 1 and seven on Day 2.
“We’ve just been picking, chipping away at them,” Rosher said. “It’s been tough. They’re not jumping that much. The conditions have been a little better than I expected, the water color has been good and there has been a good east current. We definitely could be in worse conditions, but you don’t get away with missing any.”
Miss Britt anglers, including Charmain Rosher, who ranks third in the Top Female Angler standings, are 10-for-13 for the tournament.
Neil Orange, captain of the second-place Sandman, has been using the tactic of sight fishing the jumpers he can see and hoping it turns into a doubleheader.
Orange and his team on the 63-foot Spencer entered Day 2 with one fish to their credit. About a half hour into Thursday’s fishing, they had already tripled their number and by 2 p.m. they had released eight fish for the day.
Sandman finished up with releases at 2:19 and 2:32 p.m. to climb within one of Lights Out, which released its final fish at 2:01 p.m.
“Today everything gelled,” Orange said. “Everybody worked great together, their mindset was right. Watching the crew work together was really neat.”
Orange said his anglers are 10-for-12 for the tournament and were buoyed by that quick start Thursday morning.
“We were able to catch a couple fish right off the bat and that helped us focus our fishing in a certain area,” Orange said. “Getting bites early like that allows you to get your mind right and it ended up paying off there in the end as we caught 10 fish today.”
Of course, catching fish in one area in a tournament like the World Sailfish Championships tends to draw a crowd as other boats take notice of where the bite is and move in for some action.
By the end of the day Orange said he could look east from his tower and see nearly half the fleet in his area. But he was good with all the action.
“I think there is a lot more action when you have more boats around,” Orange said.
Friday is a lay day, meaning the anglers and captains can catch their breath, tend to their tackle and explore all that Key West has to offer. All the anglers that is, except for those on Sandman.
“Even though it’s a lay day and I’m sure these guys want to go out and have a beer or two, I’m going to be that bad captain and make them come out Friday,” Orange said. “I’ll probably do a little tackle work in the morning and then get back out there. I think that’s part of being consistent and keeping everybody’s mind right, plus just seeing what the conditions do, see if anything changes for that final day.”
Conditions are forecast to pick up a little bit Saturday, with seas increasing to 3 to 4 feet outside the reef and winds picking up to 10-15 knots. That will change the bite and cut down on the sightfishing.
It also means teams will need to be on top of their game, Rosher said.
“It’s never a bad thing to have more fish,” Rosher said. “But one thing being that close to the lead does is mentally, for the whole team, it really puts everybody on full alert. They know they better have their A game to have a chance. Everybody will be highly motivated. I’d rather be on top, but I’m not unhappy here.”
For our Day 1 coverage, click here.
Photos courtesy Endless Imagery