For the past two years, Starlight Productions has filmed
The Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament in Islamorada,
Florida. We filmed the tournament as one of our weekly television
shows, ADVENTURES IN FISHING WITH CAPT. RAY KELLY. This
tournament is one that should not be missed. According to
Tournament Director, Julie Perrin, It is one of the most
prestigious tournaments in the Florida Keys. Julie is the
Director of Public Relations for Cheeca Lodge which sponsors
the tournament along with many others. The Presidential
Sailfish Tournament is two-day fishing tournament that is
This year, we filmed on board the TOP LUCK, captained by
Glen Miller. As we all know, you just never know with fishing,
especially sailfishing, if you will catch fish or not. I
was told by Julie that Capt. Glen was a great captain. I
met him at the Captain's Meeting and he was looking forward
to us filming aboard the boat. He was a real personable
guy and I like that. You know how some captains can be.
Arrogant and the know-it-all type with no personality but
Glen was just the opposite and I must say he is a real gentlemen
and truly a great captain.
My cameraman, Chris Lewkovich, had never been sailfishing
before and was very excited. I was also excited. Chris and
I arrived at Bud n' Mary's Marina the next morning at 6:00
AM. We were introduced to the two anglers, George Fisher
and Tevy Wellens, and the two mates. In tournament fishing
two mates are very common. You could tell that George and
Tevy were experienced anglers when you spoke to them. You
could also tell they wanted to win this tournament. Glen
explained that they were going to catch live bait. Live
ballyhoo is one of the best baits to use when you are sailfishing.
Castnetting the live ballyhoo is an art unto itself. The
TOP LUCK sailed away from the dock and Capt. Glen anchored
the boat just north of Alligator Light which is where they
would attempt to catch the ballyhoo. Capt. Glen and the
mates chummed up the ballyhoo. This can take sometime but
it is truly worth the wait. When the ballyhoo were behind
the boat, Glen threw the cast net and as he pulled it in
you could see the shiny lively ballyhoo in the net. The
ballyhoo were placed in the live well and Glen casted again
netting two or three hundred ballyhoo in the two casts.
The time was 8:10 AM.
Glen started the boat and headed to his favorite spot three
miles north of Alligator Light. As soon as the boat arrived,
Glen spotted a sailfish off the stern of the boat. It was
free jumping as they say but the lines could not go into
the water until 8:30 AM. We had ten minutes to wait. 8:30
arrived and the cast was made. The sailfish was still to
the stern of the boat. Capt Glen had positioned the boat
perfectly. The sailfish immediately hit the bait but was
not hooked. Another bait was casted but the sailfish was
The three other lines were set out, two on outriggers and
two on flat lines. Glen trolled the boat. Trolling is a
great way to cover the area and also looking for baitfish
on the surface. There are many times when we saw showers
of baitfish and the lines were quickly reeled and and the
race was on as the other boats also witnessed the fleeing
baitfish and were heading towards them. The mates, Haines
and Sky, would cast the ballyhoo following Glen's instructions.
Glen saw the sailfish much easier from the bridge (at times
the tower). As soon as the bait hit the water, George and
Tevy were given the rods and seconds later the ballyhoo
and the hook were taken. Tevy's fish spit the hook but George's
fish took drag and skyrocketed in the air. At times, the
sailfish danced on the surface. After an hour fight, the
sailfish was tagged and released. It should be noted there
is an award for the most tagged fish. The tournament is
strictly a release tournament.
About an hour later, Tevy was hooked up with another sailfish.
The fish was hooked good and could not shake the hook as
it thrashed it's head while it was making it's jumps from
the water. Tevy fought the sail like a true professional.
As this sailfish was beside the boat, Haines tagged this
fish also and it was released. You could see the excitement
in the crews faces. Two more sailfish hit within seconds
of each other about two hours later. Both fish were lost.
George and Tevy did not lose their enthusiasm. Capt. Glen
raced to another school of baitfish breaking the surface.
The lines were casted and another immediate hookup. George
was back on the rod and reeled this sailfish in after a
short battle. This sail was not tagged but released as soon
as the mate touched the leader. That is the rule the mate
must touch the leader and there are many times when the
leader is just out of reach of the mate and the fish is
lost. All of a sudden came a severe rainstorm which lasted
about an hour but as soon as the rain stopped the sun came
out again and the fish started biting again. Another sail
was caught by Tevy and the TOP LUCK fishing team was sitting
pretty good in the standings. Four sailfish for the first
day of fishing. The HOW ABOUT IT fishing team was in first
place. Everyone slept great that night.
The second day was even better. Tevy and George lost a
couple of sailfish but then were hooked up to a double and
as they were fighting these two another sailfish hit the
right rigger. George put his fish in the rod holder and
tried to fight the third sailfish but it quickly threw the
hook. George got right back on his other sailfish and Tevy
and George had to do some fancy maneuvering of the rods
and both went from the right side to the left and back again.
Tevy's fish was landed first. George's sailfish was then
close enough to the boat and tagged. This sail was going
to be billed and boated for us to film and photograph. After
another fifteen minute fight, the mate grabbed the bill
and held on while it thrashed at the boat. It calmed down
and was lifted into the boat, was filmed, photographed and
then released for another angler to catch again. As most
of you know, it is a fantastic feeling when you see that
sailfish swim away.
Tevy fought another sail which was lost inches from the
mate grabbing the leader and you could see the agony of
defeat on Tevy's face as he slammed down on the transom.
An hour later, George lost a fish. The fishing was hot.
Glen kept chasing schools of bait and again Tevy was hooked
up. The sailfish danced on the surface and came right at
the boat almost jumping in it. The sail was landed and this
put the TOP LUCK in second place with an hour left. With
fifteen minutes to go the HOT SHOT fishing team moved to
second place (8 Sailfish) with the HOW ABOUT IT still in
first (10 Sailfish) and the TOP LUCK dropping to third (7
sailfish). The fishing ended with the teams staying in that
position. What an exciting finish. That night Cheeca Lodge
held the awards banquet and when I say banquet I mean it.
It's great. I knew we had a fantastic show filmed for our
television show. For those who enjoy fishing you will really
enjoy this tournament. And remember - "Let's get kids hooked on Fishing...NOT on