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Three permit caught to win annual Key West Merkin tournament

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Dr. Greg Smith of Laguna Vista, Texas, caught and released three permit measuring a combined total of 66.25 inches to win the 2014 March Merkin Permit Tournament that ended March 20.

Smith was named the tournament's grand champion angler for the third consecutive year. He was guided by Captain Scott Collins of Marathon, Fla., who earned top guide honors for the third consecutive year.

Smith credited the win in great part to Collins' ability to find the fish.

"Scott taught me how to permit fish, and I've been fishing with him a lot," Smith said. "We can’t catch them if we can't find them, and (then) it's a matter of getting in front of fish and making them eat."

"When the opportunity comes up, he's able to take advantage of it better than anybody," said Collins of his angler, adding that Smith "can see really well and cast really well and feed the fish."

The tournament's first runner-up was Nathanial Linville of Key West. Guided by Captain John O'Hearn of Big Pine Key, Fla., Linville released two permit that measured a combined 60.75 inches.

Linville also released the tournament’s single largest permit, a 30.75-inch fish.

Ned Johnson of Charleston, S.C., was named second runner-up angler for catching one permit that measured 28 inches. His guide was Captain Doug Kilpatrick of Cudjoe Key, Fla.

Twenty-seven permit enthusiasts fished the tournament, coming from as far away as California, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, New York and Maine to participate.

Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, which helps conserve and enhance global fisheries and habitats of bonefish, tarpon and permit.

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