Slow bite but big payoff in the Sailfish 400

The sailfish bite was painfully slow off the Southeast Florida coast Friday and Saturday with the top four boats in the 43-boat fleet of the Sailfish 400 releasing only six fish apiece for two days.

But a nearly $175,000 paycheck for the nine-man crew of DeBaitAble who won the tournament on time likely made up for the ponderous fishing.

Captain K.J. Zeher of North Palm Beach said his crew kite-fished in depths ranging from 120 feet to 350 feet between Haulover Inlet and Government Cut, with angler Taylor Walsh of Islamorada scoring four of the team’s six releases to win top angler honors.

“The bite was horrible, probably because of the south current,” Zeher said.

Runner-up Asian Pearl, skippered by captain Jeff Kosiba, released its six sails fishing between central Miami Beach and Government Cut in 130 to 150 feet of water.

Marie Diaz of Miami was top female angler with three releases. The crew took home $88,800.

“Real tough fishing,” Kosiba said. “It was anybody’s ballgame.”

Third-place OCD out of Naples won $9,500 for its six sails while fourth-place Priceless picked up $36,700.

The boats in fifth through 10th place each released five sails, and the fleet totaled 119 releases.

The event is the second leg of the four-event “Quest for the Crest” tournament series. The Sailfish Challenge will be held Feb.5-8 out of three South Florida Inlets and the Final Sail will be April15-18 in Key West.

▪ Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Illinois, won the three-day B.A.S.S. Southern Open Tournament on Lake Toho in Kissimmee with a total weight of 52 pounds, 7 ounces. Morgenthaler won the first spot in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic and a fully-rigged bass boat. Lakeland’s Bobby Lane was second with 48 pounds, 13 ounces, followed by third-place Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, South Carolina, with 48 pounds, 1 ounce. A field of 200 anglers competed.

▪ Anglers aboard Captain Paul Ross’ Relentless caught and released a dozen sailfish to capture top honors at the 25th Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament that ended Saturday in the Florida Keys.

Ross’ team, which included Fenton Langston of Key Largo, Jimmy and Debbie David of Fort Lauderdale and Jim Hendrix of Tavernier, scored 11 releases during Friday’s first day of fishing.

With six fish, Debbie David was the tournament’s high-point angler and top woman angler, winning the inaugural Jayanna Cohan Memorial Trophy.

“Friday was one of the best days we’ve ever had in a tournament,” Ross said. “It included a quad hookup, and we scored all four fish.”

In second place was the Catch 22, skippered by Scott Stanczyk, with anglers Kevin Clark and Sam Worden of Traverse City, Michigan, Mike Slocum of Philadelphia and Hunter Barron of Islamorada. Contagious, skippered by Brian Cone, secured third place with team members Dr. Travis Bennett of Islamorada and Tavernier residents Dan Naumoff and Scott Naz.

Andy Newman

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