May 2008

2008 Shell Key West Challenge Enjoys Record Year

Following two days of great fishing, the 2008 Shell Key West Challenge wrapped up on Saturday, June 14th with a cocktail party and awards dinner at Guy Harvey’s Grill on Greene Street in Old Town. Tournament chairman and founder Hayden Blaylock reminisced about the first 20 Key West Challenges, and thanked the many sponsors, board members, and volunteers who have made the tournament such a resounding success. In his opening remarks, Hayden mentioned that he was particularly pleased with this year’s group of anglers and captains who weathered two summer storms on Saturday and caught virtually every targeted species of fish.

The unique multi-species format provides a great variety of fishing experiences, from trolling for sailfish in the Gulfstream to sight-casting live bait to tarpon on the flats. What has become known as the scavenger hunt of fishing tournaments by local charterboat captains was conceived by Rules Committee chairman Findlay Sinclair, who records all of the scores during the tournament and handles the awards presentation ceremonies each year. Findlay is not only a great administrator, but is also a world-class angler. In fact, he caught and released a sailfish from the committee boat during this year’s Shell Key West Challenge.

On the final day of fishing, Capt. Billy Wickers III on the Linda D V led the team of Bennie Van Osdell, Mark Swanson, Lifford Luthringer, Phil Near, Delph Selph, and Bill Fisher from Shell Mid-Continent Wholesale to victory with 1080 points. Capt. Billy not only had his anglers working the reefs and Gulfstream waters, but also brought them inshore for great tarpon action as well, catching and releasing their limit of three tarpon each day.  Team leader Bennie Van Osdell stated, “I never had a better time fishing in all these years and Captain Billy was determined for us to win. All of our anglers had been to this event before, but this year we worked harder than ever reeling in so many different species of fish, and we look forward to defending our title in 2009.”

Second place was captured by the Motiva North Atlantic team of Art Driscoll, Konrad Maliska, Sal Jamal, and Aziz Saba, with a score of 900 points. The team fished aboard the Jolly Roger with Captain Joe Mecurio. The Convent, Louisiana team of John Cancienne, Keith Jones Jr., and Jerry Crail was kept busy during both days of fishing, scoring a total of 895 points to take third place while fishing aboard the Second Nature.  The Motiva North Atlantic team, fishing on the Wild Bill, took fourth  with 855 points. And the Afton Chemical team scored 850 points to capture fifth place fishing aboard the Scarlet Rose.

There were also several outstanding individual efforts as Richard Wheeler caught and released a 170-pound goliath grouper and Aziz Saba caught a 225-pound shark. Phil Goyette, Sal Jamal, Tim Gordon, and Terry Fitzgerald all caught and released sailfish. And, last but not least, Tammy Browning caught a very nice African pompano.

As the tournament awards ceremony wound down, Matthew’s father John Sanchez thanked the captains and anglers and reminded everyone in attendance that the big winners are the young men and women like Matthew, who are being helped by the Diabetes Research Institute.


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