Wire-to-wire win for Lopez in 35th Mercury Outboards Bonefishing World Championship
fishes with 61-year old legendary guide in weeklong fishing tournament and
ISLAMORADA, In the Fla. Keys ---Miami’s Jose “Pepe” Lopez held his wire-to-wire lead Friday to win the weeklong 35th Annual Mercury Outboards Bonefishing World Championship/Islamorada All-Tackle Tournament.
Lopez, 40, fishing with the oldest guide of the tournament Capt. Billy Knowles, 61, Islamorada, had only two release fish on Friday to bolster their five-day total of 6385 points.
Lopez/Knowles also captured their fourth championship. The guide/angler team previously has won three grand champion titles in ‘93, ‘96 and ’98.
More than half of their points were scored on Monday when Lopez hooked into a 14-lbs. 8-oz. bonefish. The huge fish’s weight alone calculated out to 1724 points, and is the largest bonefish ever caught and recorded in the tournament’s history. They ended Monday with 3584 points helped by a second large weight fish and 10 release fish counting for 100 points each.
The previous record bonefish was 13-lbs. 14 ozs., caught in 1994 by Tavernier angler Jim Bokor, guided by Capt. Bruce Stagg, both who also competed this week.
Lopez and Knowles hold the record for the most points in the history of the tournament at 7212 set in 1996.
“He’s the legend,” said Lopez of Knowles a veteran guide of 42 years on the Florida Bay waters. “He’s amazing. Some of the younger guides half his age were staked up waiting for fish, but Billy was poling all week, much of it into the wind. No one worked as hard as he did,” Lopez said of the Mercury pro team member.
“Monday was the best tournament day I’ve ever had fishing and I’ve had some great days with Billy,” said Lopez. “We think that (the 3584 points) could also be a one-day record in this tournament.”
Lopez and Knowles hold the record for the most weekly points in the 35-year history of the tournament at 7212 set in 1996.
To start their scoring the 19 anglers representing seven states each had to bring a weight fish of eight pounds or over to the scale. No more than two weight fish could be weighed each day with a maximum of five for the week.
Lopez and Knowles had five weight fish and 20 release fish for the week.
Jumping to second place with 4513 final points was Islamorada councilman Jim Mooney and his guide Capt. Rick Miller. Mooney, owner of the Trading Post, had an 1l-lb. 6-oz. weight fish and one release fish Friday good for 928 day points.
Slipping to third was Dan Zicari, Vero Beach, guided by Capt. Mark Krowka, Davie. The team, in second for most of the week, fell short searching for one “big” bonefish as their final weight fish of five allowed. They were unable to catch any release fish either and ended with a total of 3831 points.
Defending champion Mark Cockerham and Capt. Rick Moeller, both of Islamorada, came in fourth with a late run for 3208 pts.
Tom Siska, Saddle Brook, NJ, was the only angler to complete the all-tackle category by catching bonefish on bait, spin, plug and fly. He was guided by Capt. Duane Baker, Tavernier, and finished in fifth place overall.
The largest bonefish brought to the scales on Friday, and also the second largest of the tournament, was 13-lb.3-oz., caught by Gary Hirsch, Chicago, Ill. Capt. Ken Knudsen, Islamorada, guided him.
Weigh master/scorekeeper Capt. Jim Willcox, Islamorada, said 46 weight fish and 93 release fish were caught in the tournament. All the fish were safely released.
The tournament, one of the oldest and most prestigious in the Florida Keys was held out of the Lorelei Restaurant docks.
The anglers and guides experienced “picture perfect” days on Monday and Friday bordering three days of thunderstorms and high winds midweek
19 angler/guide teams from seven states entered
1st -- Jose “Pepe” Lopez, Miami guided by Capt. Billy Knowles Jr., Islamorada; 6385 pts.
2rd-- Jim Mooney, guided by Capt. Rick Miller, both of Islamorada; 4513 pts.
3rd---Dan Zicari, Vero Beach, guided by Capt. Mark Krowka, Davie; 3831 pts.
4th --Mark Cockerham and Capt. Rick Moeller, both of Islamorada; 3208 pts.
5th---Tom Siska, Saddle Brook, NJ, and Capt. Duane Baker, Tavernier; 3142 pts.
6th---Gary Merriman, Atlanta, Ga, guided by Capt. Tim Hoover, Marathon; 2984.5 pts.
7th---Jim Trice, guided by Capt. Mike Ehlers, both of Islamorada; 2840.5 pts.
8th---Gary Hirsh, Chicago, Ill, guided by Capt. Ken Knudsen ; 2580 pts.
9th---Carl Anderson, with Capt. George Wood, both of Islamorada; 2476 pts.
10th--Moe Slayton, Avon, Conn., with Capt. Greg Poland, Duck Key, Fla.; 2165.5 pts.
11th --Carl Hiaasen, and Capt. Tim Klein, both of Islamorada; 2142 pts.
12th—Jim Bokor, Tavernier with Capt. Paul Tejera, Plantation Key; 1912 pts.
All-tackle Award: Tom Siska, Saddle Brook, NJ, guided by Capt. Duane Baker, Tavernier, the only angler to catch bonefish on bait, spin, plug and fly.
Largest bonefish: 14-lb.8-oz. new tournament record: Jose Lopez, Miami, guided by Capt. Billy Knowles, Islamorada.
Second largest bonefish: 13-lb.3-oz -- Gary Hirsch, Chicago, Ill., guided by Capt. Ken Knudsen, Islamorada.
Most release fish: 20 releases; Jose Lopez, Miami, guided by Capt. Billy Knowles, Islamorada.
Fly Division Champ: 6 total fish -- Dan Root, Leawood, Kan. Guided by Capt. Kevin Guerin.
Total fish: 46 weight fish (over 8-lbs); 93 release fish.