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Miami Billfish Tournament News 4/19/05


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Hosting its 23rd year, the Yamaha Contender Miami Billfish Tournament presented by Berkley concluded another successful fishing tournament and triumphant fundraiser for marine conservation! The 2005 tournament produced a winning weekend for everyone! Held at the Miami Beach Marina on South Beach in Florida , 469 anglers on 105 boats fished for over $187,000 in cash, plus valuable prizes and trophies! Thanks to its anglers and sponsors, this non-profit organization donated close to $52,000 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 started with a bang and never slowed down! With 554 fish caught in 2 ½ days of fishing, this year’s tournament broke all records.


Boats headed out with observers onboard Friday morning, April 8th, 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! Despite violent morning storms, the fleet caught and released 100 sailfish by noon . Scott Shane on Scatterbrain released the first fish caught in the tournament winning him $1,000. At day’s end, there were 124 fish caught, and the husband and wife team, Esther and Walter Vasquez on the Freedom, took the lead with eight sailfish releases for 1,600 points. Sea Hunter was second with five releases, and a battle ensued between the third through sixth place boats, Scatterbrain, Rodholder, Capt. Gas and Cutting Edge all with four releases each. Fun Fish brought to the scales were also in abundance. Howard Tharp on Reward Won brought in the heaviest Kingfish for the day at 45.19 lbs... Jack Agramonte on Jichi, brought in a 33 lb. Tuna, and Troy Carlis, aboard Milly's Angler, showed off a 26.20 Dolphin.


While the anglers were fighting their fish, huge crowds gathered on the baywalks and enjoyed the free daily dock parties, Fun Fish weigh-ins and the festivities. The weather broke to reveal a picture perfect evening, which continued through the rest of the weekend. Making the evening 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. To top it off, Hooters pleased hungry fishermen and the crowd by serving up their famous wings for all to enjoy.


Day two brought new resolve and fierce competition among the anglers as they set out for the hunt. With the bite on, everyone still had a chance to be a part of the running, but even strong determination couldn’t slow the momentum of team Freedom skippered by John Louie Dudas. Freedom was able to release another seven sailfish, bringing their total to fifteen. Boat owner Walter Vasquez of Coral Gables , Florida , held a strong lead for top angler with nine of the fifteen releases. His wife, Esther Vasquez, and teammate Roy Huff caught the balance of the fish. Not far behind, the Miss Britt, skippered by Alex Castellanos, had now released 10 sailfish with team member Cindy Shufflebarger taking the lead for top lady angler. Holding on, Rodholder took third with nine releases. To add to the excitement, Tripper White, onboard Barefoot, caught a Spearfish and Miguel Murias, on Wicked, caught a Blue Marlin. At days end, the 105 boats competing had now brought the total billfish caught to 204 in only two days with another half day of fishing to enjoy.


In the Funfish division, competition was still fierce. Although no one brought in any Kingfish or Dolphin heavier than those from day one, Troy Carlis aboard Milly’s Angler was able to add his name to the top Wahoo category, while still holding the lead for top Dolphin. Sandra Kirkpatrick on Sandman was able to take the lead for top Tuna with a 34.10lb.


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 with a whopping 61 fish in 60 minutes! Total fish for the tournament would then jump to an incredible 554 fish. Although it seemed as if fish were waiting for the anglers to arrive, it looked as if no one might take the lead from Freedom. Rodholder, with teammates Ray Rodriguez, Reggie Rodriguez, Max Tower and Scott Alvarez, were able to edge out the Get Lit for second place with 16 releases and 3,200 points. This brought team Rodholder winnings of $12,630 for the Pot of Gold, Dynamite Daily and second place team. Get Lit in third with teammates Kitt Toomey, Peter Miller, Jan Cooper and Charmain Rosher was able to capture the 5K Hook-up for $29,750 plus $10,267.50, bringing their overall winnings to $40,017.50 for the Pot of Gold, Dynamite Daily and third place team. Miss Britt was fourth with 15 fish released, while keeping Cindy Shufflebarger as top Lady Angler and second place angler.


As the day closed, team Freedom took the tournament with 11 more sailfish released, bringing their final score to 26 sailfish releases and 5,200 points Friday through Sunday. Boat owner Walter Vazquez of Miami accounted for 13 of those releases cinching the title of Top Angler. His wife, Esther Vasquez, able to take second place Lady Angler, while John Louie Dudas captured Top Captain and Roy Huff took Top Mate. The rest of the team included Carlos Larrieu and Manny Diaz. Together they took home a whopping $93,145 in prize money, of which $30,000 was awarded for taking the Shelly Realty Libertad Challenge. Other awards included Lowrance Top Angler, the Yale Mortgage Grand Angler, Hook & Tackle Dynamite Daily and Saltwater Sportsman’s Fifth Place Angler. It was all the team could do to up hold their many checks for photos. 


In the Fun Fish Division, Troy Carlis on Milly’s Angler took home $1,000 for the heaviest Wahoo at 14.90 lbs... Rafi Montalvo also took home $1,000 for the heaviest Tuna at 40.40 lbs., while Howard Tharp won Blanchard Machinery’s Top Kingfish and $5,000 with a 45.19 lb fish, and Angel Velez won Kiss Country’s Top Dolphin and $5,000 with a 33.30 lb. fish. The honor of the Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply Top Family Funfish Boat went to Brindle.


Junior Fun Fish Angler awards went to Joshua Sehvlin, Rafi Montalvo, Jr., Manuel Fernandez, Jr., Jeffrey Fiorentino, with Junior Master Angler going to Jorge Sanchez on Priceless. Eight year old Macky Pesch on JV came in third, but also captured the Youngest Junior to Catch a Fish award for the second year in a row, with three sails and a 10.10 lb. Kingfish.


In addition to all the excitement in this record breaking year, another milestone was reached for the tournament as Gary Lawson, fishing on the Boat Center, released the 4000th billfish in the Tournament’s history at 11:29am Sunday winning him $500 for the achievement.


In all, close to $52,000 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.




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