Miami anglers 'Rock on' to win World Sailfish Championship

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KEY WEST, Fla. — Captain Scott Leon's Rock Star team lived up to its name, staging a remarkable comeback Saturday, April 19, to win the $100,000 top prize at the World Sailfish Championship in the Florida Keys.

After beginning the third and final day of fishing in fifth place, the team won on earliest time of final release after three boats ended the tournament with 15 sailfish releases.

Leon's team added six sailfish releases to their nine releases posted during the first two fishing days. Single, triple and finally double hook-ups culminated in the release of the 15th sail at 10:21 a.m. on the tournament's final day.

But Rock Star's Miami-based contingent — including boat owner Jorge Piedra, Jorge Ramirez, Rudy Espinosa, Rudy Espinosa Jr., Ovi Vento, Leo Lombera, Henry Jimenez and Kyle Sherman of Miami — endured several nerve-wracking hours after team Jichi reported its 15th release at 11:37 a.m.

At 12:33 p.m., Captain Mike Dinnen's Vitamin Sea Too team reported its 15th release.

"We came out early in the morning and caught six fish before 10:30 a.m. that put us in the lead," said Rock Star's Jimenez. "We didn't catch anything for the rest of the day, but our lead held up."

Jimenez said the team caught the final day's fish about seven miles east of Key West. Rock Star subsequently made a run west off the Marquesas, but couldn't add any sails to the team total.

"We went completely crazy when we found out we won," he said, crediting the win to the captain's skill and anglers' coordinated teamwork. "This is the Super Bowl of sailfish championships."

Second place was awarded to team Jichi with Miami anglers Luis Isaias, Ricky Querejeta, Anibal Moya, Neil Orange and Jonathan Barber fishing with Captain Ricky Linder.

Finishing third was Vitamin Sea Too, skippered by Dinnen and including Tim Maddock and John Hubert of Pompano Beach, Fla.; Mike Reisert of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chris Zidar of Boca Raton, Fla., and John Kreig of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Tournament director Captain Mike Weinhofer reported the event attracted more than 800 anglers fishing on 101 boats, releasing a tournament record of 558 sailfish over the three days of fishing.

For more information, visit the World Sailfish Championship Web site, www.worldsailfish.com.