April 2011

Amazing Catches Highlight the 2011 Shell Key West Challenge

30 Teams Compete to Support the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Light winds from the southeast, enthusiastic anglers, outstanding captains, and cooperative fish combined to make a remarkably successful Shell Key West Challenge. Fished during the last two days of April, the 2011 Challenge brought together Shell US and Motiva teams from the Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf States, and the Northeast region to compete against Shell jobbers, a team from Saudi Aramco, and vendors from around the US. Thirty teams and more than 150 anglers enjoyed Key West’s warm weather and equally warm hospitality while helping raise funds for the University of Miami-based Diabetes Research Institute.

Fishing commenced Friday morning with lines in the water at 8:30 AM.  Anglers got off to a great start thanks to the unique multi-species format that awards points for everything from mackerel to marlin, snapper to sailfish, and tarpon to tuna. Captains are encouraged to move from the reef to the gulfstream throughout the day to maximize scoring. And several veteran captains really came through on the first day of fishing. By the time “lines out of the water” was announced by committee boat chairman Findlay Sinclair at 3:30 PM, eight of the teams had caught enough fish to score 300 or more points. The lead at the end of day one was held by the Results Direct Marketing team which scored 410 points fishing aboard the Jolly Roger with Captain Joe Mercurio.

Motiva Enterprise President/CEO Bob Pease was stranded in the Houston airport late Thursday evening because of bad weather and wasn’t able to make it down to Key West until mid-day Friday. Paul Stanifer stepped in for Mr. Pease and fished with Tofiq Gabsani, Steve Rathweg, and Ibrahim Naimi on Friday, leading Motiva Enterprises Corporate Center to 375 points and second place at the end of day one. This international team worked hard and enjoyed excellent fishing with Captain Billy Wickers III on board the Linda D V.

Day two proved to be even more eventful as a number of teams clawed their way back into the hunt for first place. One of the more remarkable stories of the 2011 Shell Key West Challenge was that of Blaylock Oil Team Two, which had been left stranded at the dock Friday morning when their captain didn’t show. Hayden Blaylock’s youngest grandson, nine-year-old Cameron Sanchez, was scheduled to fish with several of his buddies and Anthony Broad, owner of the design group Fish Skinz. The team’s bad luck on day one turned to incredible good fortune on Saturday when a new captain, 22-year-old Chris Trossett of the Spindrift, led the enthusiastic anglers to the highest score of the day, putting this group of pre-teens on an amazing array of fish, which they caught like they were seasoned pros. Included in the Blaylock Team Two catch were 9 Amberjack, 12 Permit, 2 Tarpon, 3 Yellowtail, 15 Dolphin and 1 Barracuda.

The excitement continued for the other 29 teams as well with the competition for first place overall heating up late in the day. When the final score was tallied, the Results Direct Marketing team of Buddy Kuhn, Jennifer Scott, Stacie Margrave, Lori Van Ryan, David Alexander and Leo Palmer earned top honors with a two-day score of 1070 points. Their captain, Joe Mercurio of the Jolly Roger, has won the tournament several times during the past 22 years and always works incredibly hard to make sure that his anglers have the best time possible.

Second place honors in the 2011 Shell Key West Challenge went to the Motiva Enterprises Corporate Center team under the leadership of Bob Pease, who, after several weather-related delays, had made it to Key West late Friday afternoon. Under the guidance of Bill Wickers III, on the Linda D V, the team caught a number of outstanding fish and scored 950 points. Like Capt. Mercurio, Capt. Wickers is a seasoned veteran with a number of first-place finishes during the history of the tournament.

Rounding out the top five teams were the Shell Oil Products Great Lakes Region in third place with 925 points, the Motiva Northeast Wholesale Team 2 with 870 points in fourth place, and the Motiva South Wholesale Team 1 with 860 points in fifth. Outstanding individual efforts were recognized for largest fish in the target species. Matt Pfister caught a 375-pound hammerhead shark. Randy Seibert’s goliath grouper was judged to be 220 pounds. And Mark Theobold caught and released a 160-pound blue marlin. A total of 12 sailfish were caught, including two by the same angler, Steve Wilcox. Ted Burke and Ibrahim Niami each caught 120-pound tarpon. Troy Henry caught a 45-pound dolphin and Ed Broderick caught a 15-pound snapper.

Crystal Blaylock Sanchez kicked off the Awards Banquet on the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort by thanking the anglers and sponsors for their continued support. She reported that more than $340,000 had already been raised by the tournament for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, with another $60,000 in contributions being projected for the 2011 Shell Key West Challenge.

The evenings festivities were made even more memorable when Crystal announced that Sammy Eljamal of Wholesale Fuel Distributors, which serves Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, had just donated $20,000 to support the cause. Likewise, Motiva Enterprises CEO Bob Pease presented tournament chairman Hayden Blaylock with a $25,000 check for sponsorship of the 2012 Key West Challenge, along with a commitment of support through the 25th anniversary, which is rapidly approaching.

Dr. Luca Inverardi of the Diabetes Research Institute and Matthew Sanchez spoke and thanked the sponsors and anglers, then praised Crystal and her team of volunteers from Homestead based Blaylock Oil Company for putting on another flawless tournament.  The evening concluded slightly before 9 PM after the presentation of the awards and the announcement of the silent auction winners.  As anglers and captains headed toward Sloppy Joe’s Bar for a late night farewell to Key West, strategies for next year’s tournament and remarks about the fantastic fishing of the past two days were overheard up and down Duval Street.

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