MIAMI, FLORIDA: Golfito Sailfish Rancho is built along the shoreline of a quiet bay in the midst of a thick jungle growing down from a steep hillside. A gentle waterfall flows from the hilltop through the lodge into the sea below. It is in this tranquil tropical setting that the First Annual Stu Apte Fly Fishing Sailfish Tournament was staged. Lodge owner, Betsy Bullard, along with Stu Apte and his wife Jeannine, welcomed the twenty-eight anglers to this inaugural event. Competitors and observers got to know one another at the kick off cocktail party immediately following the rules meeting at the Rancho.
The fishing day begins early at the Rancho. Anglers were ready to depart the Lodge dock at 6am on February 1st. Each of the boats carried two anglers and an IGFA observer. The Rancho has eleven 27 foot diesel center console boats. The fleet was completed by boats chartered from nearby Banana Bay Marina. The boat Old Reliable with owner Nick Smith and fishing buddy Joe Zimmer filled out the fleet of fourteen boats.
At 6:15am the boats left the Bay and headed west out the Golfo Dulce towards the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. They were greeted by cobalt blue water and calm seas. The conditions were perfect for billfishing. Anglers were required to use Mason twenty pound class tippet supplied by Mason. The hunt for sails began at 7:30am when teasers were allowed in the water. The first fish of the tournament was released by Rick Murphy at 8:22am. Rick was accompanied by his film crew for his popular TV show Sportsmans Adventures.
Action on Day One was very slow. Although the conditions were perfect, the fish did not cooperate. The fleet of fourteen boats covered miles of open water in search of their prey. At the end of the day only eight sails were released. The husband/wife team of Nancy and Richard Swisstack from New Jersey led the tournament with two sailfish releases. Florida resident, Nick Smith, fishing aboard his boat 'Old Reliable', released two sails to lead the angler division. This put Nick and his teammate, Joe Zimmer, in second place on time. Rick Murphy's one fish put his team on the board in third place. Rick's teammate was Steve Stanley.
Unusual weather conditions moved in during the night. The morning of Day Two was cloudy with a light chop on the water. Mike Mondlach released the first fish at 8:20am to begin the action which continued to be slow. Most of the fleet fished close to shore. A few boats ran offshore and found bait balls with sailfish but they wouldn't tease up to the boat. Nick Smith released one sail to stay on top in the angler division. The team of Baker Bishop from Knoxville,
TN, and Kyle Holt from Colorado, made their move up the ladder. Kyle released two sails and Baker released one to put them to the top of the team division.
We had high hopes for the final day of fishing. The weather was still unsettled but the sea conditions were perfect. The water was a deep cobalt blue with lots of current swirls on the surface. The boats ran offshore in search of bait balls and birds working the rips. Gwen Hahn and George Brown called in releases at 8:49am to start off the action. Fishing did pick up as the day went on and the anglers released 22 sails by lines out at 3:30pm. Kyle Holt and Baker Bishop continued to pound away for the win. Each of them released two sails to clinch the victory. Not to be outdone, Nick Smith also released two sails as did his teammate, Joe Zimmer. This secured their team second place. The team of Lloyd Jacobsen and Ron Mazzarella released two sails. Combined with two from the previous days, they slipped into third place team.
In the angler division, Nick Smith's five releases held the lead. Kyle Holt edged out his partner for second place angler with four releases. Baker Bishop was an hour behind Kyle catching his fourth fish and placed third.
The final evening of the tournament all anglers, IGFA Observers, captains and crews gathered at Golfito Sailfish Rancho for a wonderful buffet dinner. The awards were presented to the winners by Stu Apte. Tournament Coordinator, Joan Vernon, announced to the group that $1000.00 will be contributed to the Costa Rican Billfish Conservation Group led by The Billfish Foundation. This money will be used to assist the Costa Ricans in their fight to control the over fishing of billfish in their coastal waters.
First Place Team: Kyle Holt/Baker Bishop 800 points
Second Place Team: Nick Smith/Joe Zimmer 700 points
Third Place Team: Lloyd Jacobsen / Ron Mazzarella 400 points
First Place Angler: Nick Smith 500 points
Second Place Angler: Kyle Holt 400 points
Third Place Angler: Baker Bishop 400 points