Atlanta’s Merriman wins 36th Mercury Outboards Bonefishing World Championship

Long runs for fish helps to win weeklong fishing tournament


ISLAMORADA, In the Florida Keys --- Atlanta’s Gary Merriman increased his total and held his lead on the final day of fishing Friday to win the weeklong 36th Annual Mercury Outboards Bonefishing World Championship/Islamorada All-Tackle Tournament.    

Guided by Capt. Tim Hoover, who made long runs south to his home  waters of Marathon escaping the high tides in the middle Keys, Merriman caught one weight fish (over 8 lbs.) of 10 lbs. 14 ozs., along with six release bonefish (under 8 lbs.) to add another 1222 points to his score.   He finished the five day event with 4883 points.

“He won with that weight fish and one release fish,” said tournament weigh master/scorekeeper Capt. Jim Willcox. “Everyone else was in by 4 p.m. and the suspense was growing as we waited to see how Merriman and Hoover made out.”

Merriman, a sporting goods/fly fishing shop owner (The Fish Hawk), said he put his fly rod away early on in the tournament.

“It was windy and hard to see the fish.  After I hooked one and lost it, Tim made me put the fly rod away and stay with the shrimp and crabs the rest of the time,” Merriman said. “I’m glad I listened to him. 

“When I first heard about this event five years ago, I thought it would be an easy one to win but this tournament is the hardest damn thing to fish at 42-1/2 hours over the five days,” the exhausted but elated winner said. “You’ve got to have a lot of luck.”  

“I usually have won the fly division in this event in past years, but Hoover opted for using shrimp and crabs this time. We caught three release fish here (Friday) in Islamorada and then went south catching the weight fish and three more release fish there.”

It was the first victory for both angler and guide in what is one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments in the Florida Keys.

            Making a hard charge for points was second place finisher Kal Blumberg, Ft. Lauderdale, guided by Capt. Mark Krowka, Davie, Fla. Blumberg added 1536 points on his two weight fish (10 lbs. and 11 lbs.13 ozs.) along with a release fish.  He ended with 4184 points.

            Each of the 17 anglers representing six states was allowed a maximum of two weight each day and no more than five total for the week. The bigger the weight fish the more points were awarded on a predetermined scale of points.  Release fish were awarded 100 points each.                Making the biggest final day jump with two release fish and a single release was Richard Stehly, Minneapolis, Minn., guided by Capt. George Wood, Islamorada. They came from the middle of the pack to finish third with 3166 points.

Fourth place was won by Ed Casale, Westfield, N.J., guided by Capt. Rick Moeller, Islamorada, with 2598 pts. Casale also caught the biggest permit of the tournament at 33 inches to win that category.

Finishing fifth was four-time winner and defending champion Jose “Pepe” Lopez, Miami, guided by Capt. Billy Knowles Jr., Islamorada.  His total was 2456 points.

The biggest bonefish (14 lbs. 4-ozs) caught in the tournament was by sixth place finisher Dr. Fred Troxel, Big Pine Key, Fla. Guided by Capt. Dale Perez, Tavernier, Fla., the former three-time champion ended with 2196 points.

Two-time tournament winner Miami Herald columnist and best selling mystery novelist Carl Hiaasen, was able to catch 11 release fish but could never make it on the scoreboard with the needed weight fish as release fish points could exceed total weight fish points.

Merriman’s win also advances him to the Third Annual Rolex/IGFA Inshore Tournament of Champions where he’ll compete against some 40 winners of other similar tournaments from around the world next spring.

Money raised from Mercury Marine’s sponsorship and entry fees goes to conservation and environmental efforts in South Florida. The awards banquet and weeklong camaraderie was at the Lorelei Restaurant and docks. 




Day 5-Final standings - 36th Mercury Outboards Bonefishing World Championship – Islamorada, Fla. Oct. 14 – 18

17 angler/guide teams from six states entered


1st---Gary Merriman, Atlanta, guided by Capt. Tim Hoover, Marathon, Fla., 4883 pts.

2nd-- Kal Blumberg, Ft. Lauderdale, guided by Capt. Mark Krowka, Davie, Fla., 4184 pts.

3rd-- Richard Stehly, Minneapolis, Minn., guided by Capt. George Wood, Islamorada, 3166 pts.

4th---Ed Casale, Westfield, N.J, guided by Capt. Rick Moeller, Islamorada, 2598 pts.

5th---Jose “Pepe” Lopez, Miami, guided by Capt. Billy Knowles Jr., Islamorada, 2456 pts.

6th---Dr. Fred Troxel, Big Pine Key, guided by Capt. Dale Perez, Tavernier, Fla., 2196 pts.

7th---Brower Moffitt, Palm Beach, Fla., guided by Capt. Bruce Stagg, Islamorada, 2038 pts.

8th—Dale Cliff, Boca Raton, guided by Capt. Craig Brewer, Islamorada, 1830 pts.

9th---Jim Bokor, Tavernier, guided by Capt. Paul Tejera, Tavernier, 1595 pts.      


 Totals: 25 weight fish;

104 release bonefish caught on bait; five release on spin; 11 fly releases