Cold water and a full moon set the stage for the 24th Annual Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament, culminating on Saturday, Jan. 18. Ninety-five anglers fishing on 27 boats released 97 fish over two days of fishing in the Florida Keys. One hundred twelve hook-ups were recorded and 11 sailfish were tagged for research.
First Place went to Team “Swagger” with anglers Larry Amyotte from Silver Springs, Fla., Sean Smith from Pompano Beach, Erich Overhardt from Key Largo and Daniel Hassan from Boca Raton. The “Swagger” released 10 sailfish under the guidance of Tavernier’s Captain George McElveen and Mate Justin Miller. Swagger Angler Daniel Hassan brought home the Grand Champion Angler trophy as well, with Capt. McElveen winning Outstanding Captain honors and Miller taking home the Outstanding Mate trophy.
The last half hour of competition was a nail-biter for “Swagger” which was sitting in first place with 10 fish until 2:30 p.m., when Team “Relentless” came up with a double-header. Both fish were released, putting the Relentless in solid second place with minutes to go on the clock. “We were a little nervous and on edge, because if anyone can come back it's Paul Ross (captain of the Relentless),” said Captain McElveen. “It definitely spiced things up and took me out of my comfort zone,” he said.
“Relentless” ended up releasing nine fish. Anglers were William Fenton Langston, Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy David and Debbie David, all from Key Largo. Captain Ross of Islamorada and Mate Mike Walter led that team.
Third place Awards and Most Tagged Fish trophies went to “Olympic Gold.” Captained by J.C. Cleare and Mates Fulton Ivy and Nick Carullo, the anglers were Doug Mientkiewicz of Islamorada, Max Tower of Miami, Reggie Rodriquez of Coral Gables and Eric Darvill of Miami with seven releases. Each angler on the “Olympic Gold” tagged one fish for a total of four tags.
The “Contender One” took fourth place with seven fish on time. “The “Catch 22” came in fifth, also with seven fish.
The 25th Annual Cheeca Presidential will take place Jan. 15-17, 2015 in Islamorada. For more information, contact Tournament Director Julie Olsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-517-4449.