Sailfish in the Keys

OK guys, I’ve just finished my first sailfish tournament. The only thing it had in common with a bass tournament is that they’re both held on water. After that, it’s two different worlds.

To begin with there’s no limit with sailfish — size or number. It’s a matter of catching them and then getting them to the boat for immediate release. They keep score by the boat captain radioing in when there’s a hookup and then radioing again to say whether the fish got loose or was brought in. It’s all about numbers to the boat; a little one counts as much as a big one.

Another thing that’s different is that the anglers aren’t in charge like they are in a bass tournament. The captain takes the boat where he wants, looks for bait or fish, moves when he wants and generally gives orders throughout the day. And the first mate takes care of the tackle. All we did was grab rods and fight fish.

The terminology’s all different, too. It can get confusing for a rookie. You find yourself grabbing the wrong rod on the wrong side of the boat and then feeling like an idiot when you’re corrected. I thought I knew something about boats and water and fishing but now I realize I don’t. My knowledge base is limited.  

For a man who’s been in charge for about 40 years, that’s a tough experience. I’m the guy who gives orders, not the guy who takes them. It’s a different perspective, that’s for sure. I’m not complaining, though. Our captain was good. He’s won a lot of big tournaments and was professional in every respect. It’s just different. Eye-opening is another way to put it.

The money’s good, but not like in the Elites. Here the real money was in the Calcutta. For those of you who don’t know, a Calcutta is basically an auction where you can bid on who will win, or who will finish in various spots. They’re run differently in different sports and in different parts of the country so there are no real hard and fast rules except that you can win or lose a lot of money playing in one.

We finished second on the first day. We made a little money. Day Two was tougher because of a front. That’s one thing that’s the same. Weather has a big effect on sailfish just like it does on bass. I suppose that’s true of all fish.

Overall, I had a ball. This sailfish thing could turn into something I really enjoy. That said, though, I need to get back to Okeechobee. I’m going to do my best to put away my topwater plugs and start flipping grass mats. I’m sure that’s how the next bass tournament will be won.

That’s my biggest problem, you know. I need to force myself to fish the way I should instead of the way I want. Wish me luck with that.

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