- Miss AC Wins Triple Crown opener

As the month of January draws to a close each year, it’s time for another season of competitio­n in the always exciting Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown. In what has become a popular kickoff event, this year, 39 lady anglers on 13 teams signed up to fish the second-annual Ladies Only Triple Crown; the ladies fish one day prior to the start of each leg of the Signature Triple Crown. Anglers are also required to hook and fight their own fish unassisted. At stake this year: $32,000 in cash, plus additional prizes and trophies.

Dealer’s Choice, a 58-foot Viking owned by Frank Bongiorno and captained by Scotty Jones, took home the win and an early lead in the three-day series, with anglers Danielle Livia Bongiorno, Stacy Winstead, Danielle Orzech, and Nicole

Paul-Hus in the cockpit releasing five sailfish and four blue marlin for total of 2,500 points.

The ladies aboard DA Sea drew first blood with a marlin release at 8:04 a.m.; by 10 a.m., Billfisher’s star angler, Judy Duffie, had achieved 1,300 points for her team. Dealer’s Choice moved into second with a marlin at 10:21 a.m., and then to first with another marlin at 11:00 a.m., but Billfisher came right back with a marlin just eight minutes later. Team Galati, known for their late-day tournament charges, moved into third with a sailfish release at 12:56 p.m. By 1 p.m., the teams had released a combined total of 53 billfish. Dealer’s Choice took over the lead and never relented, with a double sailfish release midafterno­on, taking them to 2,500 points with five sails and four marlin. They were followed by Billfisher with 2,400 points (four sails and four marlin); Team Galati once again moved up the standings, taking third on time with two sailfish releases in just seven minutes, bringing them to 2,400 points. Max Bet and Fish Tank rounded out the top five. The lady anglers released 89 billfish—57 sails and 32 marlin— over the eight hours of competitio­n, a foreshadow­ing of the next three days.

With 37 boats and 180 anglers, the first leg of the 2022 Signature Triple Crown was set to kick off amid one of the best blue marlin bites in recent memory. Nsatiabill started off with a marlin hookup at 8:04 a.m., releasing the fish just two minutes later. By the noon update, Capt. John

LaGrone and the team on Ohana were in first place with 2,700 points, Scandalous

was in second with 1,900 points, and Miss Victoria in third with 1,800 points. By the time the last fish was released—fittingly, a blue by Outage at 4:12 p.m.—a total of 209 sails and 71 marlin were released. Vaquero

finished the day in first place, scoring 3,000 points with five marlin and five sailfish, followed by Ohana with 2,800 points (four marlin and eight sailfish), and Miss AC in third with 2,700 points (two marlin and 17 sails).

The second day started with a sailfish hookup at 8:03 a.m. by Eight Eights. By 10 a.m., the fleet had released a total of 278 sails and 82 marlin; Vaquero was still in first with 3,200 points, until Max Bet

released a blue at 11:02 a.m. to take over the lead. By noon on Day Two, Max Bet

was up to 3,800 points for first, followed by Vaquero at 3,500 points, and Uno Mas had moved into third with 3,200 points. War Party released the last fish of the day, a marlin at 4:02 p.m. The fleet had released an additional 205 sails and 42 marlin on Day Two alone, for a two-day total of 414 sails and 113 marlin. Max Bet took the daily with 2,500 points after releasing four marlin and five sails, also moving them into the lead with 4,700 points (12 sails and seven marlin), followed by Vaquero in second on time with 4,100 points (11 sailfish, six marlin), and Miss AC in third.

Gallo Pinto started Day Three with a sailfish release nine minutes after lines in at 8:00 a.m. Vaquero released fish No. 570 of the tournament at precisely 10:00 a.m., at which point Max Bet was in first with 4,700 points; 280 billfish were released by 10:00 a.m. on Day Three alone. Always a tough competitor, Billfisher moved to second with a marlin release at 10:55 a.m. Miss AC was on top with 5,100 points by the noon update, Max Bet was second with 4,700 points, and Billfisher in third place with 4,700 points on time. The tournament couldn’t have been more exciting, with the 500-point marlin making all the difference in the scoring.

At 3:45 p.m., Team Galati released a marlin, moving them from sixth place to second. Max Bet was skunked until 3:42 p.m., when they called in to report a

sailfish and marlin double hookup, which they went on to successful­ly release, moving them to third place with 5,400 points. Team Galati finished second on time with 5,400 points from 29 sails and five marlin over three days, and Miss AC took top honors for Leg One with 5,700 points, releasing 32 sails and five marlin.

PELAGIC ROCKSTAR ROLLS ON Record-setting payout sets the stage

With 83 teams participat­ing this year, the sixth anniversar­y of the Pelagic Rockstar Offshore Tournament was sure to be a good one. Held out of Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, Costa Rica, the event has become a favorite for its participan­ts, who are assured of not just great fishing, but a fun, partylike atmosphere throughout the tournament as well. It’s also the largest event of its kind in Central America, with a cash prize purse of $1.29 million.

After a 7:00 a.m. shotgun start, the VHF was soon alive with reports of billfish—more specifical­ly, blue marlin. The bite was in full swing, the best in recent memory. Vaquero’s Capt. Lance Hightower got his team off to a quick start, with Game Plan, Cabana, Outage and Southern Pride all within striking distance of one another after the first day.

On Day Two, the Vaquero team started out strong again, but Cabana and Game

Plan always had an answer as they battled back and forth throughout the day. Top Fly’s Kurt Forsberg made a go of it, and a late flurry paid off with top overall angler honors. By the 4 p.m. call for lines out, despite a tremendous effort from Cabana and Game Plan, it was Hightower and the Vaquero team who took home first place and a check for $634,610.

New to the Rockstar this year is the grand champion’s perpetual trophy, which is on display at the Pelagic retail location in Marina Pez Vela throughout the year, inscribed with each year’s tournament champion. Vaquero becomes the first repeat champion to have their names inscribed twice on the trophy.

Ohana finished in second place to win $314,050, and Capt. John Brennan put the Game Plan team in third to take home $9,940. In the two days of tournament competitio­n, the 83 participat­ing boats had released an incredible 259 blue marlin, 631 sailfish, 13 striped marlin and one black marlin, for a total of 904 billfish. Outage’s Nikki Nates was the top lady angler with 1,900 points, and Southern Pride’s Jonah Smith was the top junior angler with 1,200 points. Capt. Ronnie Riebe and

Carolina Reel Men received $136,330 for a 43.54-pound dorado on Day One and a 75.8-pound yellowfin tuna on Day Two to win the gamefish division.

JOLENE WINS OPERATION SAILFISH Tournament records fall in 10th-annual event

Celebratin­g a full decade as the opening leg of the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series, Operation Sailfish broke several tournament records this year, with 57 boats fishing for a cash purse of $555,125.

The event, hosted by Sailfish Marina Resort in Palm Beach Shores, Florida, coincided with a hot sailfish bite; the fleet tallied 175 sails on Day One alone. Teams

on Native Son and Jolene traded shots at first place throughout the day, eventually releasing 10 each, but with Native Son taking the lead on time as well as the daily cash prizes. Jolene was runnerup after the first day of fishing, but with a change in weather conditions on Day Two, the fleet would have to scramble to find the fish.

With only 70 sailfish releases for the entire fleet on Day Two, and just two for

Jolene, it would end as an improbable victory for the team in their first tournament win in the Quest for the Crest series—a total of 12 in two days was enough, earning them a total of $191,980, as well as the prestigiou­s champion’s gold dog tags.

Native Son could not find the fish on Day Two but still hung on to third place overall. Their 10 releases were enough for a payout of $114,625. The team on

Fish Tales stayed in the mix throughout the event, releasing nine sailfish on Day One and three more on Day Two, for a total of 12 releases for the weekend. Jolene had them on time, but Fish Tales still finished in second place overall, as well as sweeping the small-boat category in their 37-foot SeaVee.

Operation Sailfish broke several tournament records this year, with 57 boats fishing for a cash purse of $555,125.

TIKI WINS THE CAPTAIN’S CUP Final leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championsh­ip

Located in the Florida Keys, the Islamorada Fishing Club welcomed 60 anglers on 21 boats for the Captain’s Cup Sailfish Tournament, a single-day fishing tournament with $21,000 on the line for the winning boat. The Captain’s Cup is also the final leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championsh­ip.

This year’s shootout was a day full of multiple hookups for many of the boats. The first doublehead­er was called in at

8:54 a.m. by Capt. Roy Lindback aboard his local charter boat, Tiki. Anglers Craig and Seanna Lindback from Islamorada successful­ly released both fish to take an early lead, and never looked back. Contagious called in a double, as would teams on Que Mas, My Sea Cin, Smile Maker and Still

Right throughout the day. Then, with only 20 minutes remaining, Capt. JC Cleare called in a double for Remix. One fish was released, and then the team hooked two more, making it a triplehead­er.

When the committee boat called lines out at 4 p.m., Remix was still hooked up

to their three fish. Tournament rules allow anglers to fight fish after lines out as long as they have been acknowledg­ed by the committee boat. These fish would not only change standings for the tournament, but also the entire Gold Cup series.

Tiki held on to win the Captain’s Cup with five sailfish releases, taking home beautiful Pasta Pantaleo prints, along with the check for $21,000. Remix released two of the triple to earn second place with four total releases for the day. Capt. Brian Cone’s charter boat, Contagious, placed third with three sailfish on time. Remix tallied enough points to win the title of Florida Keys Gold Cup champions. Their two at the end of the day propelled them into first place in the series with a total of 19 sailfish. Angler Mark Mitchell from

Contagious was the top angler for the Gold Cup series with eight sailfish releases.

“The Islamorada Fishing Club Tournament created a great ending to the Florida Keys Gold Cup Series,” says tournament director Dianne Harbaugh. “It was a tight race—not only for the teams, but for the champion angler ring as well.”

COLEMAN TOPS MASTERS Event celebrates its 59th anniversar­y

The very first fish released in the Masters Angling Tournament may have been a premonitio­n of things to come when angler Dennis Coleman released the first Pacific sailfish of the event just after lines in on Day One with a fight time of 2 minutes, 30 seconds. The tournament, well-known for its rules, including a deadboat fight timed using a stopwatch, hosted 22 anglers and 11 boats fishing out of Los

Sueños Resort and Marina in late January.

This year, because of the good marlin bite, the rules committee allowed marlin to be included in the scoring, giving full credit to fish fought unassisted, and half-scores to those fought with help by backing down the boat.

Dealer’s Choice won top boat and top captain honors with 29 fish overall, while Viking Yachts president and Masters angler Pat Healey earned a total score of 465 for the most releases of the tournament and second-place angler overall. Jerry Reynolds, a freshman angler hailing from Macon, Georgia, had a third-place finish with 530 points. Dennis Coleman of Charleston, South Carolina, managed a steady pick over three days of fishing. Scoring two sailfish under three minutes each on Day One, he boosted his score on Day Two with two unassisted blue marlin. On Day Three, Coleman released five fish: three sailfish and two more marlin with boat assistance. Fast fight times, especially on the sails, earned Coleman an additional 277.5 points, for a final score of 577.5 points and the 59th Master Angler honors in a tournament originally created by boatbuilde­r John Rybovich and his friends in 1962.

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Team Miss AC
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Team Tiki

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