April 2013

Record Scores Highlight the 2013 Shell Key West Challenge

33 Teams Compete to Support the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Brisk breezes from the northeast, enthusiastic anglers, outstanding captains, and cooperative fish combined to make the 25th Shell Key West Challenge a resounding success. Sponsored by Motiva Enterprises and Shell US, and fished during two clear, crisp days in early spring, the 2013 Challenge pitted corporate teams from Texas, the Southeast region, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf States, and the Northeast region against one another and Shell jobbers, vendors from around the US and a Saudi Aramco team from the Middle East. Thirty-three teams and 159 anglers enjoyed Key West’s sunny weather and equally warm hospitality while helping raise funds for the University of Miami-based Diabetes Research Institute.

After arriving in Key West Thursday, April 25th, anglers met their teammates and captains during an evening party on Ocean Key Resort's Sunset Pier overlooking Key West harbor and the Northwest Channel. A random drawing during the Captains Party teamed up boats and anglers, and fishing commenced the following morning with lines in the water at 8:30 AM. Things got off to a great start thanks to the unique multi-species format that awards points for everything from snapper to sailfish, mackerel to marlin, barracuda to bonito and tarpon to tuna. Captains are encouraged to move from the reef to the gulfstream 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, nine teams had impressive scores of 300 or more points. The lead at the end of day one was held by the Authentix team which scored 475 points fishing aboard the Reef Runner with Captain Tony Saldano.

Day two proved to be even more eventful as a number of teams clawed their way back into the hunt for first place. When the final score was tallied, the Blaylock Oil "IN IT TO WIN IT" team of Matthew and Cameron Sanchez, Tyler and Dylan Mironti, Daniel Kemmerer, and Anthony Broad earned top honors with a two-day score of 1290 points. Their captain, Chip Veach of the Super Grouper, has fished the tournament several times, but this was his first win. Veach is one of the young captains who fish out of Hurricane Hole Marina in open Conch 27 outboard powered light tackle boats. Tournament organizers have predicted it was only a matter of time until one of the light tackle open fishermen took top honors. Capt. Chip was quick to praise his young anglers, who traded creature comforts, like air conditioning and double berths that can be found on many of the more traditional charter boats, for non-stop action. "The boys did an excellent job of catching virtually every species we targeted," stated Capt. Chip. "I was able to find the fish and they did the rest, so we made a great team."

Vendors took second place honors in the 2013 Shell Key West Challenge when the Royal Performance Team of Tom Gilbert, Chris Suess, Mark Hill, and Bryan Jendra scored 1225 points while fishing aboard the Double Down with Capt. Brice Barr. This was the second year in a row for a team fishing aboard the Double Down to finish "in the money" as Capt. Brice led anglers from Oklahoma to victory in 2012.

Third place went to day-one leaders Kathy Payn, Kevin McKenna, Dan Little, John Stewart, Steve Kirkham, and Craig Schneider of Team Authentix who scored 1185 points while fishing on the Reef Runner. Also breaking the century mark with a score of 1020 was the veteran Shell US Team One of Mark Swanson, Rick Campbell, Bob Hubbard, Lifford, Lutheringer, Dave Selph, and James Roosa. The fourth place team fished aboard the Jolly Roger II with Capt. Joe Mecurio III. "This is the very first time all top four teams finished with over 1000 points," stated Committee Boat Chairman Sinclair during the awards ceremony. "As our captains have become more familiar with the multi-species format we've known it was just a matter of time until we had a number of teams enjoying such high scores."

Outstanding individual efforts were recognized for largest fish in the target species. Fishing aboard the Scarlet Rose, Rod Onsky caught and released a 400-pound shark. Justin Macdonald, fishing with Capt. Chuck Butler aboard the SeaClusion caught a 50-pound dolphin. Anglers Trey Smith and Paul Cole on the each caught and released tarpon in the 50-pound range. Jeff Argast caught and released a 49-pound permit and Sal Jamal caught a 35-pound kingfish.

A total of 10 sailfish were caught and released, including one by angler Matt Roach of Roach Energy in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Matt was fishing with Capt. Jim Sharpe aboard the Sea Boots and this was his first sailfish, but what makes the story even more interesting is the fact that Matt's grandfather Doug, dad Steve, and uncle Scott have all fished in previous Shell Key West Challenges, making this the first family with three generations enjoying the great fishing offered by the tournament.

Dr. Luca Inverardi and Tom Karlya, speaking for the DRI, thanked the anglers and sponsors during the Awards Banquet on the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key. Over the past seven years the Shell Key West Challenge has contributed more than $500,000 to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. Total charitable contributions since the tournament began 25 years ago has now topped the $2 million mark.

As the evening wound down, Motiva Enterprises General Manager Paul Stanifer presented tournament organizers with a $25,000 check for sponsorship of the 2014 Key West Challenge, and tournament director Crystal Blaylock Sanchez thanked everyone for the overwhelming support during the past quarter century.

Once the trophies had been presented and the accolades disbursed, teams headed up Duval Street sharing stories of the fish that got away and the ones they'll catch next year during the 26th Shell Key West Challenge.


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