ISLAMORADA, Fla. — With his guide, past title holder Robert Collins of Naples, Fla., had a game plan for Wednesday, the final day of fishing in the seventh annual IGFA Inshore World Championship.
It worked … twice.
Collins was awarded the Grand Champion title for accumulating the most points for all five targeted species, beating out 27 other competitors from around the world. He had also won the International Game Fish Association tournament in 2005.
Hailed as the "super bowl of inshore fishing," the world-class catch-and-release format had the anglers stalking the surrounding waters of the Florida Keys for bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and redfish.
A field of 22 men and six women light tackle and fly anglers from as far away as Uganda, Africa, and Darwin, Australia competed in the "tournament of champions" event.
Guided by Capt. Larry Sydnor of Key Largo, Collins needed a snook and a redfish to complete the five fish slam to put him in the running among a dozen competitors still in contention after two days.
By 8:45 a.m. he had caught and released three snook off Flamingo and then just an hour later he also had three redfish.
"I was just one bonefish shy of a second slam," he said. "Larry headed to the Atlantic Oceanside of the Keys and we searched for the fish and I finally caught one at 2:22 … just 38 minutes from the close of the tournament.
"This tournament had all the makings of a wild finish."
Both Collins and his guide also credited Sydnor's wife Sharon with getting up at 4 a.m. and driving to Dade County to buy the biggest live shrimp she could for the next day of fishing after first acclimating them to the high temperatures of the Florida Bay waters.
Troy Pruitt of Naples, Fla., also completed the five fish slam but fell short by one fish to compete a second one. He was awarded runner-up grand champion based on points over defending champion Joe "Pepe" Lopez of Coral Gables, Fla., who also collected a slam.
Entering the final day guided by Capt. Greg Poland of Islamorada, Pruitt needed a tarpon to complete his slam. He got three by 9:30 a.m.
"At that point I just needed a bonefish to complete a second slam," said Pruitt, who like others in the heat of the day came up short on that critical bonefish. "Had I got it, with my extra fish caught on circle hooks earlier, it would have been a closer finish with Robert. It was my second world championship and I already won a qualifier to return."
Richard Black of Tavernier, a young first-time competitor to the IGFA IWC who lead in overall points through the first two days, needed a tarpon and a permit to compete his first five fish slam. Black, a soft-spoken 17-year-old, said he and Capt. Billy Dahlberg of Islamorada, went for those two species but the only interest he got was "the bonefish and tarpon circling my bait."
Without any action he went back to a proven area in the back country for more redfish and snook adding points to his artificial division run to win that title.
David Collier of New York won the fly division title, capping off the final day with two permit and one tarpon on fly guided by Islamorada Capt. Chris Jones. Previously he had one snook and three bonefish on fly, just a redfish shy of a slam.
Barry Shevlin, Bay Harbor Islands won the bait casting divisions with a final day rush of a permit, a bonefish, three redfish and a snook with guide Capt. John Guastavino of Key Largo. He caught six bonefish the previous two days.
Ms. Glenda Kelley of Ft. Lauderdale was the only other angler to score a slam.
In a captain's draw each angler was matched with a different guide for each of the three days. The top guides based on points of their anglers were Capt. Mark Gilman, Islamorada; Capt. Chris Jones and Capt. Andy Thompson, Homestead, Fla.
Each of the anglers gained entry winning one of over 55 fly and light tackle IGFA sanctioned tournaments during 2006 held in eight countries around the world representing nearly 3,000 anglers on four continents.
The contestants were vying for engraved timepieces in the prestige tournament. Trophies and merchandise were awarded for second and third place divisional winners in the three categories. Point values of the fish were determined by species and the angler's preference choice of fly fishing, artificial lure or bait.
Fishing and daily scoring originated from the World Wide Sportsman marina.
Sponsors include Mercury Outboards, Bacardi, Costa Del Mar, G. Loomis, Hook and Tackle, Islamorada Fish Co., Islander Resort, King Sailfish Mounts, Rapala, Shimano, Stiffy Push Poles, 3M Scientific Anglers, Reel Life Art, World Wide Sportsman, Zane Grey Lounge, KD & G Sea Life Masterpieces, Redbone Gallery, Image Graphics 2000, Momoi and Daiichi.
Pasta Pantaleo is the official artist of the IWC.
The IWC is the second in a series of world wide competitive fishing events that includes the eighth annual IGFA Offshore World Championship held in May in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping. It was founded in 1939 and has members in over 125 countries. The association welcomes visitors to their 60,000 square foot IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. The IGFA web site is igfa.org.
For further information, contact Ms. Hartman at the IGFA, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida 33004; (954) 927-2628; Fax (954) 924-4299; Email: DHartman@igfa.org.