Three re­leases in the fi­nal hour were the dif­fer­ence in the Quest for the Crest se­ries kick­off


Scott Robins and his team aboard Weez in the Keys have ex­pe­ri­enced roller-coaster tour­na­ments be­fore, but noth­ing was quite like the 2017 Op­er­a­tion Sail­fish event, held in West Palm Beach, Flor­ida, and pro­duced by Blue­wa­ter Move­ments. The re­sult was a mem­o­rable week­end for the crew, capped off with as dra­matic an end­ing to a fish­ing tour­na­ment as can be imag­ined.

Robins, Capt. Chris Zielin­ski and the rest of the Weez in the Keys team re­leased three sail­fish in the fi­nal min­utes of the an­nual tour­na­ment, the first leg in the Quest for the Crest se­ries, and edged se­cond- and third-place teams

Utopia and Seraphim, re­spec­tively, by just one sail­fish re­lease, 14 to 13. The late push earned Weez in the Keys $210,000 in win­nings.

“It was seven hours of pure tor­ture,” Zielin­ski says. “We were pass­ing the guys who had passed us [on the leader­board]. Then we were able to take ad­van­tage of a cer­tain area where we didn’t have to share the bites. There were no other boats around.”

The rest of the eight-per­son crew in­cluded Brett and Jane Du­das, Roy Huff, Reid Kline, Wes Stevens and Mike Tarmey.

“In the last hour, we were able to mirac­u­lously find three sails and catch all three,” says Robins, the owner of the 58-foot Merritt. “We took the lead with 15 or 20 min­utes be­fore lines out.”

He and the crew’s week­end started strong and ended strong, with a lot of frus­tra­tions in the mid­dle. Their 11 re­leases on Fri­day, the first day of the two-day tour­na­ment, was three bet­ter than the se­cond-place team.

With bad weather ap­proach­ing Satur­day, for­tunes seemed to be in their fa­vor.

“We had great ex­pec­ta­tions and hoped

we could fish out Satur­day be­cause the con­di­tions were so good,” said Zielin­ski, who has been the cap­tain of Weez in the

Keys for four sea­sons. “We were pretty much di­aled into the bite.

“We left Fri­day think­ing we’re in great shape and we’re up three fish on ev­ery­body, and we knew we had a bad-weather day com­ing,” Robins says. “In bad weather, the ba­sic fish­ing skills be­come a lot more dif­fi­cult. Fish­ing in wind and rain is an art we prac­tice all the time, but it’s some­thing not many other boats are re­ally good at.”

How­ever, the tour­na­ment of­fi­cials can­celed fish­ing on Satur­day, push­ing the last day to Sun­day. Robins didn’t agree with the de­ci­sion, and it left him and his

crew scram­bling to book an ex­tra day of lodg­ing and pre­pare for a day off, halt­ing their mo­men­tum from Fri­day.

“It’s usu­ally very good for the lead­ers when there is bad weather on the fi­nal day of fish­ing,” he says. “We were ex­tremely frus­trated when fish­ing was can­celed. You know how dif­fi­cult it is when all the teams are sit­ting around think­ing you’ll be go­ing home and then you have to stay an ex­tra day.”

Sun­day didn’t go any­thing close to as planned. The team missed its first three sail­fish bites in the morn­ing and strug­gled to find fish af­ter that.

“The weather was the com­plete op­po­site of the first day,” Zielin­ski says. “Now you’re shar­ing the bites with all the other boats be­cause they fig­ured it out too. We stayed in the same area and it was sin­gles, six to eight fish. We didn’t see any of it. That was frus­trat­ing.”

The Utopia and Seraphim teams passed Weez in the Keys by two re­leases, and the fi­nal hour re­quired a mir­a­cle for Robins and his team­mates.

“They thought Sun­day would be great fish­ing be­cause of hard north winds and a lot of cur­rent,” Robins says. “Usu­ally af­ter a cold front comes through, there is good fish­ing. In the last hour, we were able to find three fish and catch all three. We took the lead with 15 or 20 min­utes be­fore lines out.”

It wasn’t a triple­header, or even a dou­ble and a sin­gle: It was three sin­gles, back to back to back, with the crew rac­ing against the clock to tip the leader and tally the of­fi­cial re­lease. The Weez in the

Keys crew used Penn spin­ning gear and Alutec­nos 20-pound-test con­ven­tional reels for kite-fish­ing. Their top baits were gog­gle-eyes and threadfin her­ring.

“Right when we re­set, we had an­other one,” Robins says. “It could’ve been off the same group, but we kept re­set­ting. A lot of these tour­na­ments are roller­coaster rides, but this was es­pe­cially so.”

Al­though Weez in the Keys fin­ished in first, the team on Utopia took home plenty of cash for se­cond place.

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