Hosting its 24th year, the Yamaha Contender Miami Billfish Tournament concluded another wildly successful and exciting fishing tournament and fundraiser for marine conservation! The 2006 tournament produced a winning weekend for everyone! Held at the Miami Beach Marina on South Beach in Florida, an record-breaking 497 anglers on 107 boats fished for over $237,576 in cash, plus valuable prizes and trophies! Thanks to its anglers and sponsors, this non-profit organization donated over $58,000 to area marine conservation organizations including groups such as The Billfish Foundation, Florida Keys Marine Laboratory, Costal Conservation Association (CCA) and University of Miami's Rosenstiel School and Experimental Hatchery.
The weekend offered anglers steady fishing each day, ending with 347 fish caught in 2 ½ days of fishing.
On morning one, Friday, April 7th, boats headed out with observers onboard and filled with the excitement of possibly winning big money and prizes. Some anglers were after the $5,000 top Dolphin or $5,000 top Kingfish and others after the glory of being the Top Team in the Lowrance Team Division! With beautiful South Florida weather, the fleet got into the fish right away with Alex Li releasing the first sailfish released in the tournament at 8:04 am, winning him $1,000. The day's fishing stayed strong as four boats each caught and released five sailfish. But at day's end it was Capt. Bouncer Smith, aboard Bouncer's Dusky who took the lead in the tournament with 1,000 points. Game Time was second, followed by Wound Up and Miss Britt, each with 1,000 points. Galleria Girl was fifth with 800 points. In all, the 497 anglers released 120 sailfish.
The excitement did not stop there. The funfish brought to the scales were also in abundance and excitement peeked as Tyler McRae, on Galleria Girl, brought in a 48.9 lb. Dolphin breaking the tournament record held since 1984. Andrew Greenberg, on No
Vancansea brought in the heaviest Kingfish for the day at 37.3 lbs. and Vic Carrillo on Classic Mistake, brought in a 34 lb. Tuna, which would not be beat for the rest of event.
During this time, huge crowds gathered on the baywalks and enjoyed the free daily dock parties and Funfish weigh-ins. Making the festivities even more enjoyable, Budweiser, and Bacardi Girls served up plenty of smiles to thirsty fisherman and spectators. Artist and craftsmen lined the baywalk, along with exhibitors selling and raffling off an abundance of freebies, while local conservation organizations promoted their cause.
Day two brought challenging fishing conditions, but with new resolve and fierce competition among the anglers, they set out for the hunt. With the bite on, everyone still had a chance to be a part of the running, and the lead would change several times during the day. Miss Britt finally took over, leading with nine sailfish releases and 1,800 points. Two other boats nipped at their heels, Wound Up and Get Lit, who also had 1,800 points by lines out. Reel Tension was fourth with 1,600 points and eight fish released, seven of them caught by Pat Wilson, and Barefoot was fifth with 1,400. At days end, the contest was still wide open and the 107 boats competing had now brought the total billfish releases to 255 in only two days with another half day of fishing to enjoy.
In the Funfish division, competition was still fierce. If the excitement of the record breaking Dolphin the first day was not enough, Bob Southard Sr., of Miami, broke the day old record and set a new one with a 54.4-pound Dolphin. Bob, fishing on Off The Hook with his son Robert, caught the boat's first fish of the day using a live goggle-eye on a flat line in 160 feet of water. Serin Mahoney, on No Worries, topped day one's Kingfish with a 47.6. This fish would prove to be the heaviest for the tournament. At the end of the day, there were still no Wahoo brought to the docks, but hopes were high.
The festivities continued again on the docks as Hooters pleased hungry fishermen and the crowd by serving up their famous wings for all to enjoy. The evening wrapped up with Contender Boats' Saturday night BBQ. The docks were packed with happy anglers and their families, along with throngs of people from South Florida, all enjoying hospitality Contender style!
With excitement in the air, the last day kicked off. It was a three-way battle for the lead to the very end between Wound Up, Miss Britt and Get Lit. In the end, it was Capt. John Louie Dudas who scored top team at the Yamaha Contender Miami Billfish Tournament for the second year in a row aboard Warren Sands' 107 foot Wound Up. With Sands' was his wife Janice and mates Roy Huff and Shane Pile. The team ended up with 3,000 points and a total of 15 released sailfish for the tournament. This brought team Wound Up total winnings of $165,480. That included $30,930 for Master Angler, Pot of Gold, Dynamite Daily and first place team, along with $32,300 for Grand Angler's Club and a whopping $72,250 for the 5K Hook-up. In addition, they took home $30,000 for winning the Miami Beach Marina Libertad Challenge, sponsored by Shelley Realty. This prize was for the cumulative points from fishing the Sailfish Shoot-Out, the Capt. Bob Lewis Billfish Challenge, the Florida Billfish Master's Tournament and the final leg in the Yamaha Contender Miami Billfish Tournament. This win also gave John Louie Dudas the award of Top Captain. It was all the team could do to hold up all their awards and checks.
Get Lit placed a close second with 2,600 points and 13 fish released. This placed Ray Rocher as 2nd place Captain for the tournament and Kitt Toomey as Top Inboard Angler. Miss Britt was close behind to capture third with 2,400 points 12 fish released. Pat Wilson on Reel Tension took home the award of Mater Angler and Top Outboard Angler, while Amanda Nichols on Bouncer's Dusky was awarded top Lady Angler. The Nichols Family on Bouncer's Dusky, also took Top Billfish Family.
In the Funfish Division, Sean Sherwood, on No Vancansea, took home $1,000 for bringing in the heaviest Wahoo at 24.60 lbs. to the dock Sunday afternoon. Vic Carillo on Classic Mistake also took home $1,000 for the heaviest Tuna at 34 lbs., while Sean Mahony won Blanchard Machinery's Top Kingfish and $5,000 with a 47.60 lb fish. Finally, Robert Southerd, Sr.'s 54.40 lb. record breaking fish won Kiss Country's Top Dolphin and $5,000. The honor of the Capt. Harry's Fishing Supply Top Family Funfish Boat went to No Vacansea.
The title of Junior Master Billfish Angler went to Jeffrey Fiorentino on Uptight with 600 points. Top Junior Fun Fish Angler went to Adrian Mahoney on No Worries. In the new Pee Wee Billfish Division, nine year old Macky Pesch on JV took first place, while Kevin Bellamy on Reward Won took home the top spot for Top Pee Wee Funfish with his 13.8 lb. Dolphin.
In all, over $58,000 was raised and donated to area marine conservation organizations, fulfilling the Yamaha Contender Miami Billfish Tournament's mission to promote awareness and support marine enhancement, education and conservation.