April 2014

Team Romasko Victorious in 2014 Shell Key West Challenge

One hundred and sixty one anglers fishing aboard 30 of the Florida Keys’ finest charter boats took to the waters surrounding Key West in 2014 to compete in the 26th annual Shell Key West Challenge. After two days of heated competition, spectacular weather and great fishing, the Motiva Enterprises' Team Romasko from Houston, Texas captured top honors while fishing with Capt. Bill Wickers III on board the Linda D V.

Joining Motiva President/CEO Dan Romasko on the winning team were Travis Capps, Todd Fredin, and Bill Spurgeon. Despite light north winds and slower than usual action, the team scored a two-day total of 1125 points and caught virtually all of the target species . The unique format challenges anglers and captains to catch up to three fish of the same species each day. The number of points awarded for caught fish varies depending upon the species, with billfish garnering the most points. Considered by some of the local captains to be the “scavenger hunt” of fishing tournaments, the top captains prepare a wide variety of bait and tackle in order to make each catch a fun and challenging adventure.

Target species include billfish, dolphin, tuna, wahoo, mackerel, kingfish, bonito, amberjack, cobia, snapper, grouper, barracuda, tarpon, permit, and shark. Outstanding catches were recorded by all four anglers on the Linda D V as Dan Romasko caught and released a 50# goliath grouper, Bill Spurgeon released a 110# tarpon, Todd Fredin caught a 16# kingfish, and Travis Capps released a tarpon estimated at 65#.

During the Awards Ceremony after the win, Capt. Billy Wickers III said, "We had a great team that pulled together to land the fish we needed in order to score the most points." He added, "It's always rewarding when each angler makes a major contribution." This was the first time that Dan Romasko fished the Shell Key West Challenge. "We were pleased to have drawn the Linda D V and thrilled with our victory, but even more excited knowing that the tournament is supporting the efforts of the Diabetes Research Institute," said Romasko as he and his team members shared stories with Capt. Billy and his family on the Ocean Key Resort Sunset Pier after the tournament.

Founded by Hayden and Jo Blaylock in 1989, the Shell Key West Challenge is the Keys' longest continuously running tournament and has contributed well over $2 million to charitable causes since its inception. In 2007, shortly after Hayden's then six-year-old grandson Matthew Sanchez was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, tournament organizers, anglers, and sponsors decided to dedicate the fundraising efforts to benefit the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI).

Internationally acclaimed for their work in islet cell transplantation, the DRI leads the way in cellular therapies aimed at restoring insulin production and reversing diabetes in those who suffer with the disease. For more than thirty-five years they have pursued innovative avenues of investigation and are renowned in the medical community as pioneers in the search for a cure.

“We’ve been so impressed with the work that the Diabetes Research Institute does in their laboratories at the University of Miami School of Medicine,” stated Crystal Blaylock Sanchez. “If funding from the Shell Key West Challenge can help them find a cure for diabetes, nothing could make us happier.” During the past eight years the tournament has contributed nearly than $600,000 to the cause.

Second place went to the Houston-based Joint Ventures team of Rob Anderson, John Salerno, Tim McCamy, Jason Tantillo, Jeff Williams, and Troy Eberhat fishing with Capt. Jimmy Bailey on the Hooked Up. The team scored 1015 points, finishing just ahead of last year's victors, the IN IT TO WIN IT team, whose South Florida anglers Matthew and Cameron Sanchez, Dylan, Tyler, and Neno Mironti, and Anthony Broad scored 980 points fishing with Capt. Chip Veach on the Super Grouper.

Fourth place was captured by the Pleasanton, California based Blackhawk Network Team of Chris Crum, Jack Lord, Todd Parsons, Robert Nuara, and Lori Van Ryan. Fishing with Capt. Joe Mercurio III aboard the Jolly Roger II, the team scored 875 points. Rounding out the top five finishers was the Saudi Aramco Team of Charlie Diggans, Khalid Naji, Nabeel Amudi, Ibrahim Naimi, and Ahmed Subae. The team scored 865 points fishing aboard the Double Down with Capt. Brice Barr.

An interesting side-note to the 2014 Shell Key West Challenge is that all of the top five boats and captains have at least one prior first place finish in the tournament. Capt. Billy Wickers III and Capt. Joe Mercurio III have multiple wins and have fished the waters off Key West their entire lives. Additionally, they are both third generation charterboat captains, continuing the tradition of their fathers and grandfathers.

Although teams compete for "bragging rights" only, the competition can be fierce and many of the teams that finished "out of the money" still had great fishing experiences as anglers were able to score a cumulative total of 16900 points. Two anglers, Michele Wit fishing aboard the Imagine and Todd St. Romain on the Conch II caught and released sailfish, while the largest fish released during the 2014 tournament was a 200# shark landed by Mark Henry on the Scarlet Rose. Other outstanding catches included Fergie Theriault's 43# wahoo, Milissa Gannaway's 35# kingfish, Bill Frye's 75# amberjack, and Rusty Barron's 38# grouper. Fishing is historically great during the annual Shell Key West Challenge and over the years several noteworthy catches - including a 250# blue marlin, a 475# goliath grouper and a Key West-record 68# bull dolphin - have been recorded.

Thanks to great tradition, outstanding captains, and world-class fishing, anglers are anxiously awaiting the 2015 Shell Key West Challenge, scheduled for April 23rd through 26th.


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