Lowe's By A Nose

 KEY WEST, Fla. — After all the boats returned to King's Pointe Marina on Day Three, Quiznos Madfin Shark Series tournament director Steve Bowman shuffled the last scorecard into the laminated pile he held. But the beeline made to the gathering of cameramen unloading their gear revealed his hand.

 "Who was with Key Limey and Spear One, today?" Bowman asked, referencing the radio call signs of both teams. The tournament director needed raw footage which corresponded with the catch times documented by the shark anglers themselves.

 After a studied, 30-minute review, multiple shark measurements finally confirmed Team Lowe's Tony Murphy and Carl Masiello had successfully defended their two-time Quiznos Madfin Shark Series championship.

 The local anglers scored 2,650 points, including the pivotal biggest shark bonus worth 500 points. The 1,000-point swing between Team Lowe's and Team Academy's Steve Rodger and Jake Perry would have named given the championship to Team Academy if it weren't for just two inches.

 Instead, Rodger and Perry ended up in third place with 1,750 points, 50 points behind Mike Mahan and Robert Moore of Team Andros. Team Mercury — Rob Fordyce and Bill Brown — finished fourth.

 Even with team scores zeroed after the second day, these two anglers knew every point and bonus point would mean a battle on Day Three.

 "I said you'd need 2,800 points to be in it to win it," Masiello said. "Tony said 2,500."

 Determined to nab first shark of the day bonus points, Murphy and Masiello's day began in a frustrating manner but quickly improved. The team headed west, only two miles away from the launch site, because of a change in wind direction. They soon chummed up hungry lemon sharks.

 Although Team Lowe's had several cracks at the bonus, the sharks decided against it.

 "We pulled three or four hooks before we heard Steve (Rodger) get the bonus," Murphy said about the sharks which had escaped.

 The team eventually landed a limit of scoring lemons but also encountered five or six others too small to measure. Murphy's game plan of catching a limit of one species then moving on to the next seemed like a winner. But lemons caught and released after the limit only gave the team 25 points each. The pressure to maximize their catch finally forced them to move.

 "We left fish to go find fish," Murphy said.

 Yeah, it's the Golden Rule of what not to do," Masiello added.

 The team motored away in search of bull sharks to pad their total. Bull sharks score 100 points each more than the lemon. None were found.

 With the sun now bursting in and out of cloud cover, Team Lowe's moved back to a spot in another channel where they had landed blacktips on Day Two. A few hours later, the team had caught a limit in the species and soon began catching and releasing others for quarter-points, just like the lemons."They were off the side of the boat but we got them to eat later," Masiello said.

The bite slowed for all competitors after the morning hours, but Murphy didn't care. The team had a busy morning, "but we sucked after that," he said.

Team Lowe's landed the occasional lemon or blacktip through the remainder of the afternoon but nothing like the action seen during the morning hours.

In the end, the points Murphy and Masiello had accumulated would hold in spite of the lethargic afternoon and numerous video replays.

Murphy and Masiello captured their third straight Quiznos Madfin Shark Series tournament.