The 34th annual Cheeca Lodge and Spa Presidential Sailfish Tournament kicked off on the beach with 84 anglers, plus friends and family. The two-day competition was a game of multiple hook ups and releases. In the end, Hillbilly Deluxe came away with the tournament victory.
The first triple header was called into the committee boat at 10:23 a.m. on Jan. 20 aboard the Tackle Center by Capt. Charlie Scoble. The team successfully released one of the three sailfish.
Hillbilly Deluxe called in their first triple header at 10:31 a.m. and all three fish were released, propelling them to the lead by 11:05 a.m. The next triple of the day went to Back in Business followed by a triple on the Cloud Nine, Relentless and Crisdel.
Day two was another wolf pack kind of day, with triple hook ups on the Killbox and Hillbilly Deluxe, plus a couple of double headers. In the end Hillbilly Deluxe Capt. Trevor Frins led Tavernier anglers Jess Frins, Tyler Webb, Cody Gunther and Hank Pinder, along with Mark Toledo, of Hollywood, and Parker Cox, of Key Largo, to the winners circle with six released sailfish. Photograph prints by Tim Rahn Photography were presented to all winners, including the most outstanding captain award won by Frins and the Outstanding Mate award won by Cody Gunther.
Angler Jess Frins won an original painting from artist and Cheeca employee Osvaldo Fernandez Diaz for the top lady angler award with two releases.
Capt. Greg Eklund, of the charter boat Cloud Nine from Bud N’ Mary’s Marina, led his anglers to second place with five releases. The team included anglers Donald Gibbs, of Fort Lauderdale, Cory Nelson, of Islamorada, and Tavernier anglers Erik Ehlers and Ben Esh.
Third place went to Back in Business with Florida anglers Matt McLean from Naples, John Watson from Parkland, Audrey Koocher and Mike Mason from Islamorada each releasing a sailfish. Capt. Robert Collins, along with additional anglers Robert Helms and Brooks Gregory, all from Islamorada, released four sailfish.
The Tackle Center of Islamorada owner Donny Lange won Top Male Angler with a total of two releases. Top Junior Angler award went to Andy Cone fishing on the Trophy Hunter with his dad Capt. Brian Cone at the helm with two releases. Most tagged fish team was the Hillbilly Deluxe with three.
A total of 42 sailfish were released over the two-day event and six of those fish were tagged. The tournament’s awards ceremonies were held in the new grand ballroom.
“I would like to thank all the anglers, captains and people who helped to make this tournament a great success,” said Cheeca Lodge and Spa’s Bill Coteron. “We are looking forward to our 35th anniversary of the tournament next year.”
The 2025 Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament will take place on Jan. 17-19.