ISLAMORADA, Fla. Never wavering from the gameplan, Kenny Spaulding and his Caribsea team landed 17 sailfish, all with ballyhoo bait, to score victory at the Don Gurgiolo Sailfish Classic presented by ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series, the season-ending Redbone event.
Spaulding attributed his team's success to the supreme confidence they had in the ballyhoo bait. Other competitors used a variety of methods including kitefishing and sightfishing but Spaulding and his crew resisted temptation and wisely stuck with what was working.
After staking a comfortable lead Saturday with 12 sailfish, the Caribsea team followed up Sunday with five. In addition to confidence in their tactic, Spaulding felt the unique build of his boat gave him an advantage over the other competitors.
"That boat is as old as me," said Spaulding, 38. "But it sure gets the job done. It's a glass-wood hybrid and it runs quieter and makes it easier to get the fish in the boat. You feel isolated when you are out there. I built the glass portion myself so you can bet I think it's great."
Spaulding was joined by Becky and T.J. Hopson, who were recently married. T.J. Hobson took top angler honors landing 13 of the 17 sailfish his team tallied.
With temperatures dropping and the wind direction changing, the bite proved slow Sunday. The overall results were indicative of the slowdown as the 15 teams landed 85 sailfish on Saturday but just 43 Sunday.
Captain Alex Adler, who lead his team Kalex to second with 11 total sailfish, felt the changing conditions muddied the water up and caused the fish to be confused, causing the bites to dwindle. Adler's team landed four sailfish Saturday to maintain their second-place position after catching seven Saturday.
With 45 years of experience on these waters, Adler has seen it all. The keys to his success were staying in tune with the current and noting the geography of the reef line.
"A lot times guys who enter these things just wing it," said Adler. "But out here, it is important to know what you are doing. Experience is huge."
In third was team Relentless with 10 sailfish. In the event, anglers were restricted to a maximum of 12-pound test main line and no more than 15 feet of leader, which can be of higher strength than the main line.
In its first year as part of the Redbone Series, the Don Gurgiolo Sailfish Classic, named after legendary captain Don Gurgiolo who died in 1999, attracted 15 boats. Gurgiolo's daughter, Tammie, who started the tournament nine years ago in honor of her father, served as the tournament director.
The tournament marks the final tournament in 2008 of ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage of select Redbone events. Footage from the Series will be aired Sundays on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m. starting in April 2009.