April 2015

Anglers Enjoy Calm Seas and High Scores
During 2015 Shell Key West Challenge

35 Teams Compete to Support the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Warm temperatures and calm seas made for beautiful fishing weather for the 35 teams that competed in the 27th annual Shell Key West Challenge. More than 165 anglers fished two days for fifteen different species and the bragging rights of Shell. Sponsored by Motiva Enterprises and Shell US, and fished during two clear, warm days in early spring, the 2015 Challenge pitted corporate teams from Texas, the Southeast region, Canada, the Great Lakes region, the Gulf States, and the Northeast region against one another and Shell Lubricants and jobbers teams, vendors from around the US and a Saudi Aramco team from the Middle East. Although not every team caught record numbers of fish, it appears that all the participants 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 23rd, 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. Because of the record number of teams competing in 2015, the tournament added several light tackle boats to the mix and most of the teams that drew these open fisherman were rewarded with outstanding results. 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, twelve teams had impressive scores of 250 or more points. The lead at the end of day one was held by the Federal Heath Signs team which scored a record 480 points fishing aboard the Super Grouper with Captain Chip Veach.

Day two proved to be equally eventful as a number of teams worked their way into the mix. When the final score was tallied, the Federal Heath team of Dan Hull, Bill Haul, Tim Edwards, and Matthew Lynch maintained their lead and earned top honors with a two-day score of 1240 points. This was Capt. Chip's second victory in three years as the Super Grouper, took top honors in 2013 with the In It To Win It team from Blaylock Oil. The Federal Heath anglers 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. "My anglers 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." Federal Heath Executive Vice-President Bill Faul was excited and perhaps a bit exhausted by the end of the tournament. "We were catching fish all day long, both days, and Capt. Chip knew exactly what he needed to do to win," stated Faul during the Awards Ceremony held at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa in Key West. In addition to capturing first place, the team also had six individual awards for outstanding catches during the tournament. Lynch, Edwards, and Faul actually caught the three largest permit.

Second place went to the Whitney Bank team of Paul Cole, Gene Butler, Rebecca McCullough, Donovan Brossaurd, and Naeem Niazi who finished the two day tournament with a score of 1050. Whitney Bank was one of the sponsors of the Captains' Party and Meeting on the first evening of the tournament and their team ended up being the last one to draw a boat. Fortunately for them the Reef Runner II turned out to be a great fit and their captain was able to lead them to exceptional catches of dolphin, wahoo, and much more on both days.

Shell wholesaler Dave Herndon of Alabama-based Herndon Oil took third place honors fishing on his own boat Imagine and scoring a two-day total of 1035 points. Anglers on Imagine included Rob Thomas, Michele Wit, Paul Stanifer, and Chuck Campbell. The fourth place Motiva Commercial Fuels team of Benny VanOsdell, John Patrick, Fred Sloan, Matt Pfister, and Clint Werth scored 1000 points and fished with Capt. Billy Wickers III aboard the Linda D V. "This is just the second time in the tournament's 27-year history that the four top teams finished with 1000 points or more," 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."

Rounding out the top five finishers was the Shell Canada team that actually fished on two different boats; the Second Generation on day one and the Reel Fly on the final day. Team members Bobby Hood, John Mairena, Carl Mattaliano, and Kurt Bitting enjoyed the light tackle experience, scored a total of 875 points, and had good things to say about their two captains.

Outstanding individual efforts were recognized for largest fish in the target species and for the first time ever three Blue Marlin were caught and released during the tournament. Anglers Jake Anderson, Robert Garcia, and Michele Wit each experienced the thrill of fighting, then releasing, these remarkable fish. Anderson's blue was estimated to weigh 500 pounds, Garcia's 300 pounds, and Wit's 200 pounds.

Representatives from the Diabetes Research Institute thanked the anglers and sponsors during the Awards Banquet on the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort. Over the past nine years the Shell Key West Challenge has contributed more than $600,000 to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. Total charitable contributions since the tournament began 27 years ago is well over the $2 million mark.

As the evening wound down, Motiva Enterprises President/CEO Dan Romasko presented tournament organizers with a $25,000 check for sponsorship of the 2016 Key West Challenge, and the Shell Lubricants Division contributed an additional $10,000 for sponsorship as well. Tournament director Crystal Blaylock Sanchez thanked everyone for the overwhelming support and encouraged anglers to be ready to mark their 2016 calendars for next year's tournament as soon as dates are announced.

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 28th Shell Key West Challenge.

 

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