ISLAMORADA, Fla. All three leaders in the Light Tackle Division of the Florida Keys Outfitters IGFA Inshore World Championship needed one fish to complete a five-species slam, and all three ran at least 45 minutes in opposite directions from the morning take-off point at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada.
All three anglers also completed the slam on the final day of fishing, but it was the extra catch after the slam that led to a victory.
Roger Fernandez of Pinecrest, Fla., sat in second place based on a tie of the number of species caught and points going into the day, and had two bonefish, a seven and nine pounder by 9:40, but he couldn't catch the extra two species he needed to win.
Leader Jake Turek of Tavernier, Fla., caught the permit he needed to complete the slam, but couldn't get a second fish.
That was all good with Barry Shevlin of Bay Harbor Island, Fla., who caught a redfish early, then a second and added a bonefish midday. It was the bonefish, Shevlin's second of the tournament, that gave him the win in the Light Tackle Division.
Shevlin, who qualified for the tournament by winning the Herman Lucerne Memorial Fishing Tournament out of Islamorada, was fishing with Capt. Frank Ortiz.
"We ran all the way to Flamingo, pulled up on a flat in a Bight and immediately saw a school of redfish," Shevlin said. "It was brutal in the morning with 25-knot winds and low visibility, and we had a big school of fish pushing.
"The first redfish I caught was 34 inches, which is a big fish for here, and the second was a lot smaller, so after catching that big fish I thought the second one was going to be too small, but it was 22 inches."
All fish in the IGFA Light Tackle World Championship must meet minimum size limits. The redfish minimum size is 18 inches.
Shevlin's first redfish gave him a slam plus two species, the second gave him a slam plus three species. Yet his guide Frank Ortiz knew that Turek already had three additional species and was ahead on overall points, so a slam would win it for them. Ortiz decided to go after tarpon and bonefish in hopes of picking up a fourth species or a second slam.
"We ran all the way back to Islamorada and started bonefishing and I had two hook-ups right away and pulled the hook on both fish," Sevlin said. "It took us a couple of hours of patience but we finally caught a bonefish. I've had five hook-ups on bonefish the last two days that either pulled the hook or broke off."
The bonefish gave Sevlin a slam plus four species, but only 850 points if the tournament got down to a tie based on the numbers of slams plus additional species caught. At that point in time, Fernandez, fishing with guide Rob Fordyce, was in Biscayne Bay ahead in points with 900, but two species behind Shevlin.
"We got the bones really easy, but couldn't get the tarpon. It took the whole day up trying, and if somebody's going to catch a tarpon in this tournament, it's going to be Rob Fordyce," Fernandez said.
"Every fish we caught in this tournament we earned," Fordyce said. "We had great shots and plenty of fish that should have eaten but didn't for some reason. Every fish we caught was a tough shot where a good cast and a little luck got the fish to eat."
To the south of Islamorada, Capt. Dave Denkert ran to the Seven Mile Bridge off Bahia Honda Key, where his angler Jake Turek spent the morning dealing with the wind and glare. They saw plenty of fish, but because of the conditions the fish were so close to the boat by the time the spotted them that they spooked or wouldn't eat.
"We had 11 sightings but only one shot, and that fish came up and looked at the crab but wouldn't eat it," Denkert said. "We just had to dig deeper and let the fish come to us."
Turek caught his fish dead baiting, or blindly drifting the crab into the current in hopes a permit would find it, as opposed to spotting the fish and casting the crab to it. The large fish immediately headed to the bridge.
"We ran up on the fish when it was right next to the boat and Jake eased up on the pressure and the fish turned back out to open water. At that point we needed another permit or tarpon, but it just never happened. We didn't see another fish," Denkert said.
Although Turek and Denkert finished with the most points in the tournament (1050), they only had a slam plus three additional species, and thus their points were trumped by Shevlin's slam plus four additional species.
In the Fly Division, Robert Collins of Islamorada led going into the final day with two species and 575 points based on a bonefish and three redfish releases. In second was Brower Moffit of West Palm Beach, Fla., also with two species (one tarpon and one bonefish) but only 400 points.
Neither angler managed to catch a fish on the final day, giving Collins the win, his fourth in the IGFA Inshore World Championship and his first in the fly division. Third Place went to Kathryn Hoar of Hanover, Penn., with three redfish releases and 375 points.
"We dedicated our entire day to trying to catch a tarpon," Collins said. "We saw a bunch of fish, had some great shots but couldn't get them to eat. We did the right thing, had good light, but just couldn't get another fish. We were lucky because I thought it would take at least four species on fly to win this."
Collins' win didn't come easy. He caught three reds the first day but the fish were skittish all morning and required 80-foot casts. Bad light the second day made bonefishing tough. After spooking several fish, a small group tailed and Collins got the fly to one that ate.
"That's how the fishing is here in Islamorada, at any time you're one cast away from a great day on the water," said Mike Myatt, COO of the International Game Fishing Association in Dania Beach, Fla. "The quality of the fish caught and the quality of the anglers and guides really shine in this event, and when you throw in the strategy of chasing a slam, it really brings out the best in the competitors."
Twenty-three anglers caught a total of 78 fish over three days of fishing the flats and backcounty of the Florida Keys.
Each of these anglers qualified for the Florida Keys Outfitters IGFA Inshore World Championship by winning an IGFA sanctioned tournament, yet not a single fish was caught on fly during the final day of fishing and four anglers in the event did not catch a fish, giving credence to the belief that some of the most discriminate fish in the world live in the waters of the Florida Keys.
All five species must meet minimum length requirements to count as a catch. Bonefish must be at least 18 inches; tarpon 36 inches; permit 18 inches; snook 24 inches and redfish 18 inches.
In the Fly Division, anglers score 200 points for every bonefish release; 200 points for a tarpon; 300 points for a permit; 150 points for every snook and 125 points per redfish. In the Light Tackle Division, anglers can use bait, artificial or fly, with different point values awarded based on the difficulty of the catch. A bonefish on bait scores 100 points, on artificial 150 points and on fly 200 points. Tarpon score 100 points for bait, 150 for artificial and 200 for fly, while permit score 150 points on bait, 250 on artificial and 300 on fly. Snook count as 50 points on bait, 100 on artificial and 150 on fly, while redfish score 50 points on bait, 100 on artificial and 125 points on fly.