KEY WEST, Fla. Fishing on 80 boats, more than 600 anglers from around the U.S. and other countries are battling sailfish in Florida Keys waters during the eighth annual World Sailfish Championship, that began Wednesday morning and continues through Saturday.
The tournament is characterized by three days of hard-fought fishing, a packed schedule of social and charity events, and participation from celebrities like Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and wrestler "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.
According to tournament chairman and founder Chris King, the total cash prize purse is expected to exceed more than $1 million
The sailfish spectacular began Tuesday evening with final registration at tournament headquarters in Mallory Square overlooking Key West Harbor. A mandatory captains meeting was followed by opening ceremonies, a color guard presentation, military flyover, kick-off party and a concert with Randy Houser.
Retired Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and retired Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula serve as honorary chairmen for the event, which has donated $2 million to charity over the last seven years. Other industry titans including auto dealer and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, and Bob Rich fish in the tournament. So do athletes and celebrities including Johnny Bench, Wade Boggs and Carson Daly.
Competition began with lines in the water at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Lines-out is to be called at 3:30 p.m. both days.
After a non-fishing "lay day" Friday, the battle for angling supremacy culminates Saturday with fishing from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Social events include the Sunset Key Seafood Extravaganza at Mallory Square, the Coach's Party at Mallory Square featuring silent and live charity auctions, boat manufacturers' dockside parties and more. The Florida Viking Yachts Dealers Awards Banquet, presented by Galati Yacht Sales and HMY Yacht Sales, follows Saturday's fishing.
More tournament details including links to live scoring are at www.worldsailfish.com.
As the clock expired during the first day of at 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, 258 sailfish releases had been tallied, but some 20 boats were still hooked up to fish, according to tournament director Mike Weinhofer.