42˝ Hours of Intense Fishing On Line In 35th Annual Mercury Outboards Bonefishing World Championship
& guides set for one of oldest, prestigious tournaments in Florida Keys
ISLAMORADA, In the Fla.
Keys --- To backcountry and flats fishermen it's considered one of the most
intense and prestigious tournaments for both angler and guide alike. Nineteen
teams of guides and anglers from seven states will take to the Florida Bay
waters for five challenging days as the 35th Annual Mercury Outboards
Bonefishing World Championship/Islamorada All-Tackle Tournament kicks off
42˝ hours on the water, their sole goal is the grey ghost of the flats; the
wily, hard-fighting bonefish. The tournament is all catch and release.
from New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, Kansas, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and
Florida, are pre-registered for the tournament, where luck is a four letter word
precluded by keen preparation, skill, accurate casting, hard fishing, serious
guiding, and plenty of mind-games.
spokesman Dr. Fred Troxel, Big Pine Key, said the event is also unique in
that all four prominent tackle styles can be utilized, depending on the weather
conditions, as well as the interests and skills of each angler.
may choose from bait, spinning or plug casting with artificial, or traditional
fly tackle," said Troxel. "Prizes are awarded to the top finishers in
all of those individual categories. In addition, there are prizes for most total
points, most releases, largest single fish, largest permit, and an all-tackle
champion that requires catching fish, two over eight pounds, with each of the
four tackle styles.
factored in for points are a maximum of five weigh fish, usually in the 9 – 13
lb. range that anglers bring to the weigh scales and then release,” Troxel
added. "That is if they can
winners will take home original artwork by nationally known marine wildlife
artists along with an array of prizes donated by national and local merchants.
raised from Mercury Marine, other sponsorships and entry fees goes to
conservation and environmental efforts.
Hoping for favorable
competitors are wishing for mild weather throughout the week to do more sight
fishing than allowed in past years.
year’s tournament was one of the most
physically challenging and windiest tournaments any competitor can remember. For
the entire week winds blew as high as 52 mph as anglers and guides came back
each afternoon red faced, wind burned and fatigued.
In 1999, the tournament was called on the fourth day
to give way to Hurricane Irene and the evacuation of the Keys.
are in at 7 a.m. each morning with the weigh-in and live release activity taking
place at the Lorelei (bayside MM 82), throughout the day. Lines are out at 3:30
The Teams: Anglers and
defending champion is Mark Cockerham, Islamorda, who will be guided again
by Capt. Rick Moeller. Moeller
himself had won this tournament in ‘91 and ‘94 as an angler before becoming
winners are also back including three time champions Jose "Pepe"
Lopez of Miami, guided by veteran Islamorada Capt. Billy Knowles, and
Fred Troxel with his guide Capt. Mike Guerin who Troxel recently
persuaded to move back from New Mexico. Lopez won the Bonefishing World
Championship in '93, ’96 and ’98. Troxel
did it in ’90, ’92 and ’95.
competing is two-time champion Carl Hiaasen, Islamorada, guided by Capt.
Tim Klein. Hiaasen, a popular Miami Herald columnist and
award-winning novelist (Stormy
Weather, Sick Puppy and Strip Tease) won his titles in ’97 and
again in ’99 during the interruption of Hurricane Irene. Hiaasen finished as the runnerup to Cockerham last year.
face some stiff competition from top South Fla., anglers including Jim Bokor,
Tavernier, Fla., Dan Zicari, Vero Beach and Pat Dorsey, Miami.
is fresh from his win this past week at the Mercury Outboards Baybone at Key
Largo. He’ll be guided by Capt. Paul Tejera.
won the Mercury SLAM in Key West in early September, and Dorsey won the IGFA/Rolex
Inshore Championship this past summer held in Islamorada.
Zicari is teamed with Capt. Mark Krowka, Davie; Dorsey with Capt.
Dave Denkert, Miami.
local competitive teams include Brower Moffit, Palm Beach, with Capt.
Bruce Stagg; Jim Mooney, Islamorada with Capt. Rick Miller, and Carl
Anderson, Islamorada guided by Capt. George Wood.
Capt. Kris Bacen and Capt. Mike Ehlers will guide two other
Islamorada anglers in Jim Rhyne and Jim Trice respectively.
from out of state are Chicago's Gary Hirsch, guided by Capt. Kenny
Knudsen; Ed Casale, Westfield, N.J. with Capt. Craig Brewer; Tom Siska,
Saddle Brook, N.J. with Capt. Duane Baker, and Gary Merriman,
Atlanta, Ga., with Capt. Tim Hoover.
From Lehighton, Pa, is Paul Wingrove with Capt. Steve Thomas;
Moe Slayton, Avon, Conn., with Capt. Greg Poland, and Dan Root,
Leawood, Kan., guided by Capt. Kevin Guerin.
the guides it's a chance to be listed among the elite of their profession
alongside former top guides and legendary skiff captains like Eddie Wightman,
Bob Reineman, Cecil Keith, Steve Huff, Harry Spear and George Hommell.
Factor: The mind games
Keys tournaments are one or two day events where luck and a good guide can make
all the difference in winning. In
this tournament of five days, preparation, skill and physical endurance play out
to the end with anglers and guides alike trying to eliminate the mind games that
begin and end at the leader board each afternoon.
such as "if I had caught my bonefish with a jig instead of live bait I
could have picked up 50 more points" or "had I used a fly during the
days with less breeze I could be in the lead with 100 points more than the bait
fishermen," invade many of the competitor's brains.
the water anglers try to judge which bonefish eight pounds and over to release
and which to bring to the scales (later released) when the extra points of five
tournament weigh fish becomes a factor.
only mind game you should have is with yourself." said Bokor. "If you
begin to compete against anyone besides yourself you're that much closer to
losing, You need to just go fishing, concentrating on the best skills you have
whether it's with live bait, artificial or fly. It's five days of intense fun
but what is really nice.... you're fishing!"
camaraderie is great among the competitors," added Bokor.
"We have a good time at the weigh-in and afterwards talking about
the fish we caught, the one's we lost and the one's we should have