KEY WEST, Fla. — It was 3:58 p.m. when the call came across the radio sitting in from of Quiznos Madfin Shark Series tournament director Steve Bowman.
"Quiznos hooked up," the radio screamed, two minutes before anglers had to pull their lines out of the water.
It was hard to tell exactly how it was going to play out, but Team Quiznos — made up of captain Carter Andrews and captain Robert "RT" Trosset — was right on the edge of elimination.
They started the day in fourth place with 850 points, and things weren't exactly rolling on Day Two. Ten minutes later, the radio screamed again.
"Quiznos hook release," Andrews voice came through in a not so thrilled tone. But nobody would know exactly what happened until they pulled up to the dock a half hour later.
"We saw something swim under the boat that was moving like a hammerhead," Andrews said about those last 15 minutes of the day. "There were two shadows and I was trying to present my bait to the larger one when all the sudden the other jumped up and took it.
"It was a nurse shark. We pulled the hook and let it go."
With a removed hook, a nurse shark is worth exactly zero points. Trosset shook his head in disappointment.
"We were one fish away from making it to the next day," he said, implying that if the hammerhead would have taken the bait, they'd be one of the four teams that will fish the final of the Quiznos Madfin Shark Series on Friday.
He didn't know just how accurate he was. The teams that started the day tied for fifth — Team Andros and Team Under Armour — had completely opposite days. Andros caught them better than anyone, scoring 2600 points, while Under Armour struggled, scoring only 300.
"We didn't see much of anything," said Stevie Impallomeni, who fishes for Under Armour with teammate Rush Maltz. "Team Andros was on them. We were close to them but we couldn't get that kind of bite. We could see Andros and they were on a pot of fish."
With Andros comfortably in and Under Armour uncomfortably out, focus went Team Mercury, who scored 1400 points on Day One. They didn't spend much time on the radio Thursday and only ended up only scoring 300 points on Day Two. Quiznos finished Thursday with 800 points to add to their 850 from Day One — leaving them 50 points out of the final.
Trosset thought they needed a hammerhead to get in the final, when all they really needed was a lemon (100 points for the shark and 100 points for the release).
"We started off the morning and we decided we were going to need more points than we'd be able to get on the inside, so we decided to go for the big boy — the hammerheads," Trosset said. "We went out in the reef line, the water color changed and it wasn't there."
After three hours without any luck, they decided to start looking for lemons and black tips. But when they hit their spot, three boats were working the area — including team Andros. They tried finding their own spot in the area, but eventually decided to make another change.
"By the time we moved, we started seeing some fish, but it was too late," Andrews said. "We had a plan, but it just didn't come together."
They were around fish, but they didn't think the smaller sharks would get them into the final, so they decided to head back out for the hammerhead with the last hour.
Trosset said he didn't regret the decision. He and Andrews had a plan and they stuck with it.
"We wouldn't have done anything different," he said. "It was a great tournament — we just weren't able to find the bigger sharks."
The four teams left in the final will zero weights for the Final Day, and a champion will be determined Friday afternoon.