KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- For veteran angler Tim Maddock of Pompano Beach, Fla., months of preparation and three days of intense fishing paid off with a $100,000 first prize at the World Sailfish Championship that ended Saturday, April 22.
Owner and captain of the Vitamin Sea Too, Maddock powered his team to a first-day lead they never lost despite a nail-biting final afternoon without spotting a single sailfish.
Maddock and the team -- Chris Zidar of Boca Raton, Fla., Mike Reisert and Mike Dinnen of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bryan Schultz of Pompano Beach and Jon Krieg of Deerfield Beach, Fla. -- had virtually no previous experience fishing Key West waters.
"We made the decision not to fish the Miami Billfish Tournament so we could come down here to learn it and get everything right for this, because this tournament was more important for us," said Zidar, who reported spending more than a week pre-fishing and becoming familiar with area waters and conditions.
The hard work paid off with six releases on the first fishing day and six on the second, giving Vitamin Sea Too a three-fish lead over its closest competitors. On the final day, Maddock released a sailfish shortly after 8 a.m. and a second one midmorning, bringing the team's total to 14 -- two fish more than the second- and third-place finishers.
Maddock, who said he had kept a supply of live goggle eyes penned up at his house since December as bait for the tournament, credited the Vitamin Sea Too's victory to the team's commitment, dedication and research.
"We've won tournaments all over the world -- Australia, Venezuela, Costa Rica -- but this is by far the biggest win," Maddock said. "It's huge. I can't wait till next year to do it again."
The tournament's second-place honors went to Sea Wolf, skippered by Dave Morris of Islamorada, Fla., with 12 releases.
Third-place team Counter Culture, co-captained by 17-year-old Matt Neber of Miami Beach, Fla., and Chip Sheehan of Boynton Beach, Fla., also released 12 sails -- including four on the tournament's final day -- but finished behind Sea Wolf based on the time of the last release.
"They caught that last fish pretty early in the day, and we had a tough time catching up," said Neber, who said he was about 9 years old when he won his first major billfish tournament.
The World Sailfish Championship drew a field of 116 boats. Participating anglers released 394 sails during the tournament's three fishing days.