January 30, 2023

Hardcore Game Fishing

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2022 Captain of the Year Awards

The Captain of the Year award logo.

Gulf Coast Division

Capt. Landon Bell

Southern Charm // 1,800 points

Louisiana Gulf Coast Billfish Classic

3rd Place – 100 pts.

New Orleans Invitational Tournament

2nd Place – 300 pts.

Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic

1st Place – 500 pts.

Blue Marlin Grand Championship

2nd Place – 300 pts.

White Marlin Shootout

3rd Place – 100 pts.

MBGFC Labor Day Tournament

1st Place – 500 pts.

By Seth Dotson

For Capt. Landon Bell of Orange Beach, Alabama, competitive tournament fishing always seemed like something of a side gig, an excursion of sorts to compliment his day job as a charter captain.

“I’ve always charter fished. I’ve run inshore charters and offshore charters,” reflects Bell. “I’ve done that for the last 15 years or so, and I’ve fished tournaments at the same time as I’ve been charter fishing. I ended up taking a job with Ron Davis on the Southern Charm about four years ago.”

Connor McLeod serves alongside Bell as first mate on the Southern Charm. Bell holds McLeod and his work in nothing short of the highest regard.

“He’s a tremendous help, a great fisherman and has been doing it a long time,” says Bell. “We also have a couple of his buddies, Chase Richardson and Zack Redmond. They’re both great fishermen. They help the team tremendously. They understand what everyone else is doing. They don’t have to tell each other what to do. They jive on the back deck, and the whole thing runs like a well-oiled machine.”

The 1,800 points tallied by Bell and his team over the 2022 fishing season were accumulated over six tournaments, which included two first-place wins. These were in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and the Mobile Big Game Labor Day Tournament in September.

“It was a great tournament,” says Bell, as he reflects on the Cajun Canyons tournament in Louisiana, though the first couple days of the tournament were less-than-stellar. “We went to Green Canyon and started fishing along the north side of the canyon. The first day was really slow for us. I don’t think we had a bite, or ever really marked a fish.”

At first, the second day of the tournament only served to amplify frustrations for Bell and his team. Though they were able to briefly raise a fish, however, the marlin pulled the hook.

“That was heartbreak for us, but we just kept on after it,” he says. “We made another jog, maybe 20 miles southwest of there, marked a fish, fed it a bait, and caught that one. Five minutes later, marked another, and then raised a pair and caught one of them. It was just ‘bang-bang-bang.’ We caught three right there!”

Despite the surprise success of the second day, Bell knew his team needed to pull up at least one last marlin on the tournament’s third fishing day to secure a win.

“We got maybe a 6:30 or 7:00 bite that morning,” says Bell. “Once we caught that fish, we knew we were sitting good. We made a jog a little closer to the house, raised another fish and caught it. By the end of the tournament, we were sitting with five.”

Bell and his team managed the same number of fish at the Mobile Big Game Labor Day Tournament in Alabama three months later, securing their second of two first-place wins of the season.

“On Day 1, we went out about 150 miles to a place called Thunderhawk and ended up catching two right off the bat,” he says. “We had three hours to fish that afternoon and caught two within the first hour. The next morning, we started from the same spot, but it was pretty slow. So at about 10 or 11 o’clock, we made a move north, where we raised a pair and caught both. That set us up with four releases. The next morning, we raised one more and caught it.”

Though resulting in only a second-place position, the most prolific of Bell’s tournaments this year, in terms of the total number of fish marked, was the Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Orange Beach. However, like the Cajun Canyons tournament in June, the Grand Championship started slow.

“We knew going into it, by day 2, that we were way behind, and we were feeling kind of down-and-out,” says Bell. “But we ended up having an incredible day and caught three that afternoon. The next day, we caught two before 7:00 a.m., so we ended up with five blues. Then, we decided to pull out some dredges and do some dink bait fishing to see if we could stack up some more points. We ended up catching two whites and a sail, for a final count of eight billfish altogether.”

EAST COAST DIVISION

Capt. Jay Weaver

Blue Sky // 1,450 points

Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament

1st Place – 500 pts.

Carolina Billfish Classic

1st Place – 500 pts.

Edisto Marina Billfish Tournament

3rd Place – 100 pts.

South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series

Overall Champion – 250 pts.

Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

3rd Place – 100 pts.

By Seth Dotson

46-year-old Capt. Jay Weaver, a South Carolina native, born and raised in Georgetown, a community centered around fishing, both competitive and commercial, has sportfished professionally for nearly half his life.

“I started getting paid when I was around 19, and I was fishing full-time when I was about 24,” says Weaver.

Weaver began his career just out of high school in the late 1990s, fishing commercially between the Outer Banks and the Bahamas. After doing this for about three years, Weaver moved to a charter boat based locally out of Charleston.

“I started as a mate and later moved up to captain,” he says. “That was when I started running boats. I later moved to a traveling boat around 2005, where I did a lot of fishing in the Caribbean and Mexico. I then moved from that to a more ‘serious’ fishing boat called the Day Maker, which I was on for another five or six years after that. I did a bunch of tournaments. I had some pretty good success with that boat. I was still on the East Coast and Bahamas.”

(Photo/SC Gov Cup/The Buckskin Billfish)

In 2016, Weaver heeded an inner call that beckoned him back to his homeland, where he has fished almost exclusively out of South Carolina for the past decade. He says he does not regret his decision to return to locally based fishing, as it allows him to live and work alongside family and old friends.

I get to spend a lot of time at home,” says Weaver. “My boss and his wife live in the same small town that I live and grew up in, and we have a lot of mutual friends and social circles in common.”

Weaver’s current fishing vessel is called the Blue Sky, a 60-foot sportfisher built by Spencer Yachts in 2016 for a separate party, who had to pull out of their contract with Spencer at the last minute. This all took place while the vessel was still under construction. It was saved at the last minute by a car dealer named Greg Smith, a longtime friend of Weaver’s, his current employer, and an angler by hobby. Although Weaver serves as captain of the Blue Sky, Smith remains the yacht’s owner.

“I’ve known Greg for about ten years,” says Weaver. “One of the first things he told me when I started was that all the managers who work for him had been with him since the ‘90s. He likes long-term employees who maintain long-term relationships. His team is a family-oriented group. He pretty much said all the right things to convince me to come work for him. And he has been true to his word through all of it. He and his wife treat me and my wife as though we were family.”

Because Smith’s boat was custom-built for a separate party, he and Weaver have made several modifications to its structure and systems to tailor it to their needs.

“We’ve repowered the boat with 1650-horsepower MAN engines,” Weaver explains. “It’s a fast, real agile boat for doing the tournament series that we do. And in this day and age, with the fuel prices being what they are, a fast boat means you can slow down to make it economical relative to other boats of its size.”

(Photo/SC Gov Cup/The Buckskin Billfish)

However, regardless of the build and performance of their fishing vessel, no captain could expect to succeed in competitive fishing without the aid of hardy and experienced crew. Weaver’s is nothing short of the best.

“Our full-time mate is Donnie Todd,” says Weaver. “He’s from Charleston and still lives there, which is about an hour’s drive from where we keep the boat. He has been with us for three years, and he does a great job. We have another mate who’s fished this latest tournament season with us named Matt Murphy. He lives in Charleston as well. He and Donnie are roommates and have been best buddies since they were in high school, so it’s a good dynamic having the two of them on the boat. It makes it all a lot of fun and makes for a laid-back atmosphere.”

With his crew as well as Smith along for the journey, Weaver was able to place first in this year’s Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament and Carolina Billfish Classic, as well as claiming the title of series champion of the South Carolina Governor’s Cup.

“My crew includes some of my lifelong friends,” reflects Weaver. “It makes for a very easygoing social dynamic on the boat. Everybody is very comfortable with each other. Feelings don’t get hurt and feathers don’t get ruffled.”

HAWAII DIVISION

Capt. Teddy Hoogs

Bwana // 2,200 points

Rock ‘n Reel Tournament

1st Place – 500 pts.

Kona Kickoff

3rd Place – 100 pts.

Skins Marlin Derby

1st Place – 500 pts.

Big Island Invitational Tournament

2nd Place – 300 pts.

It’s a Wrap Tournament

1st Place Heaviest Marlin – 468 lbs. – 500 pts.

It’s a Wrap Tournament

2nd Place – 300 pts.

By Seth Dotson

Since the moment he was born, competitive sportfishing has been an intimate part of the life of Capt. Teddy Hoogs. In fact, this is already the second time Hoogs has received this esteemed recognition. He also earned Captain of the Year in 2019 with a final score of 1,900 points, against this year’s 2,200 points—a 300-point increase!

Born in Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island, a district renowned throughout the world for its active volcanoes and quality coffee, Hoogs has fished his entire career in the Hawaiian Islands. He is the son of celebrated Hawaiian fisherman Capt. Peter Hoogs, who passed away last May at age 86 after a historic sportfishing career spanning nearly 50 years. The elder Hoogs was born in the Islands, though in Honolulu on the smaller island of Oahu. He began his sportfishing career in the 1960s on a Japanese-built Hawaiian Sampan vessel called the Pamela, supplementing his day job as a charter fisherman with a penchant for underwater photography. In the late ‘60s, he compiled a body of his photography work into a book entitled Colorful Hawaiian Fish: Natural Undersea Photos, published in 1971. The junior Hoogs now carries the torch of his father’s legacy.

Because his father picked up the trade early, the younger Hoogs has always been immersed in the sportfishing world and has now fished professionally for over 20 years. He is also an active contributor to InTheBite, compiling and reporting the results of Hawaii’s various competitive fishing tournaments.

Hoogs’ fishing vessel is the Bwana, a custom 46-foot twin diesel Gamefisherman sport yacht, built in 2008 and brought to Hawaii in 2011.

“It’s an eye-catcher,” says Hoogs, reflecting on the vessel’s sleek curves, large cockpit and distinctive aqua-tinted hull. “It’s a great boat for Kona because of our proximity to the fishing grounds and calm conditions, compared to the conditions in a lot of other parts of the world where they go with these bigger boats. Here, we’re fortunate because we don’t have to run very far. A lot of our fishing is close to shore, and we’re in the lee of the island, so the water is generally calm. With the big fish we must chase down here, these smaller boats are ideal because they’re more maneuverable.”

The present crew aboard the Bwana includes Logan McCollum, Carl Shepard and Bobby Cherry. Hoogs has known Cherry the longest. The two are childhood friends, having played in Little League together, and each of the men now operates their own charter fishing operations out of Kona. Shepard has been with the Bwana for about seven years, since 2015. McCollum is something of a newcomer to the team, having joined Hoogs and his crew two years ago.

Shepard used to live on the Islands with his family, but they recently relocated to Texas. Shepard himself comes back to Kona to spend the summer there during the tournament season.

“All three of them are highly experienced fishermen in their own right,” says Hoogs. “I feed off each of their strengths and experience. They’re great at maintaining a positive mindset on the boat; we have lots of fun fishing together.”

Hoogs’ crew also includes, as their primary angler, Craig Lindner, owner of the Bwana.

“We have fished together since 2011 when Craig first brought the boat to Kona,” says Hoogs. “He has a great touch with hooking fish, getting them to bite again, and staying connected. Craig allows us to compete at our fullest potential, backs any decisions whether things go to plan or not, and stays optimistic.”

The 2,200 points that won Hoogs and his crew this year’s coveted title were accumulated over the 2022 fishing season across five different tournaments. Those in which Hoogs and his team placed first were the Rock ‘n Reel Tournament, the Skins Marlin Derby and, in a category-specific first, an award for the heaviest marlin weighed in at the It’s a Wrap Tournament.

Though per tradition, Hoogs himself receives sole recognition as Captain of the Year, he stresses that tournament fishing is a team effort, and that no single person can justly receive credit for the work done by an entire fishing crew. Each member of his crew is an indispensable contributor and deserves recognition as such, as well as their families who have supported them both materially and with their time.

INTERNATIONAL DIVISION

Capt. Pete Zook

Sea Striker // 1,050 points

Bermuda Billfish Blast

2nd Place – 300 pts.

Sea Horse Angler’s Club Billfish Tournament

1st Place – 500 pts.

Bermuda Triple Crown Series

Overall Champion – 250 pts.

By Seth Dotson

The 2022 fishing season kicked off with a complicated course of musical boats for Capt. Pete Zook, his owner, and crew. Zook, whose family has been in the sportfishing business for several generations, took it all in stride and ultimately to great success.

“We have two boats,” says Zook, whose granddad charter fished out of New York and later moved to Morehead City, North Carolina, where he started teaching captain courses. His dad charter fished since a teenager, and Zook was born and raised doing the same. He’s fished full-time since age 17, and he’s 39 years old now. “We have our original 61-foot Jarrett Bay, Sea Striker, and then we have a new 55-footer.”

Zook says the team hoped to run the entire season on the brand-new 55.

“We started in December and got the 55 and spent until May trying to get it in the water in time to bring to Bermuda to leave there, but we weren’t able to do that in time,” Zook laments.

Therefore, they unexpectedly had to fish the majority of the 2022 season on the older, larger Sea Striker. Built in 1999 as Hull No. 23 and Zook’s primary fishing vessel for the past seven years, the 61’ Sea Striker has enjoyed a legendary reputation among its fishing circles. It again proved its prowess this year.

“It’s kind of a legendary boat, and it’s one that I’ve always wanted to work on because its owners won first in the Big Rock Tournament,” explains Zook. “After we did a repower, we won about $1,200,000 in the Big Rock, coming in second place. We lost first by about 3/10 of a pound. So it’s a pretty lucky boat. It’s older, but we repowered it with twin-cylinder MAN engines three years ago.”

Adrian Holler is the Sea Striker’s owner, and fishes on Zook’s team as an angler. Other members of Zook’s crew include first mate Morris McGahey, Dave Pfeiffer, Christian Bedsworth and Rom Whitaker.

“He’s a good friend of ours,” said Zook, referring to Whitaker. “He runs a charter business out of Hatteras called The Release.”

Zook and his team had won the 2022 Bermuda Triple Crown Series.

(Photo/Out Your Front Door)

The action started with a second-place finish in the Bermuda Billfish Blast, July 3-7, where Holler reeled in a blue each of the three days of fishing. A white marlin release three minutes before lines out on the final day boosted Sea Striker to runner-up on the podium with 1,600 points.

“In the Bermuda Billfish Blast, we lost out on a first place by about 10 points, because we had a killed fish,” explains Zook. “We actually caught more fish than anyone else in the tournament, but the killed fish put us back.”

In the second tournament, the Bermuda Big Game Classic held on July 14-18, consistency paid off, with the Sea Striker team releasing another three blues. Though ending 7th on the scoreboard, the effort moved the team into the Series lead with 3,100 points heading into the final leg.

The best was yet to come as the team won the Sea Horse Angler’s Club Tournament in Bermuda, July 21-25, with six blue and one white marlin released for 3,100 points. The three-tournament total of 6,200 points secured Sea Striker’s 2022 Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship victory.

“Going into the Sea Horse Angler’s Tournament, we were really hoping for the best,” Zook says. “We set out on the first day and ended up catching three blue marlin and a white. We then caught one on the second day and then two blues on the third day. I’ve been going to Bermuda every year since 2008. This is the first year I’ve won the Triple Crown.”

FLORIDA DIVISION

Capt. Quinton Dieterle

Contender One // 1,050 points

Sailfish Challenge

1st Place – 500 pts.

Final Sail

2nd Place – 300 pts.

Quest for the Crest Series

Overall Champion – 250 pts.

By Carol M. Bareuther

“In it to win it” is the best way to describe Capt. Quinton “Q” Dieterle. A native of Miami, Florida, Dieterle has fished the waters off Miami, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas his entire life, including over 34 years as owner-operator of his Key Biscayne-based charter boat, the 45’ Hatteras Cutting Edge. He also runs the Contender One/Costa, aka C1, the factory boat for owner Joe Neber.

“The C1 Team for 2022 consisted of a group of captains and mates that have worked with me for years. Three of the guys—Cap Hinkley, Mike Lawson and Lucas Nido—started with me on the Cutting Edge,” tells Dieterle. “We also have long-time sailfishing captains Steve Cunningham, Jon Cooper and Kenny Pontari, and our flat line angler Ivan Soto, who all also work at Contender. Jon Cooper, who only missed two sailfish in the 2022 season, Cap [Hinkley] and I also worked together for nine years on the Get Lit boat owned by Kitt Toomey and had remarkable success there. Joe Neber put the team together about five years ago, and we have had good success over those years. And, we’ve had a lot of fun.”

(Photo/Mike Finiquerra)

The 2022 season started off well, says Dieterle, with the expectations of winning the Burgundy Jacket in the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series, which boasts over 70 teams entered, and hopefully doing well in the Jimmy Johnson (JJ) tournaments as well. After all, the team was well prepared. There were no details left out. Plus, the team’s combined experience is hard to beat, and the determination, Dieterle adds, will never be beaten. The team chose the Bluewater Movements Quest Series, and the JJ tournaments, because those were the ones that were the most competitive and fit everyone’s schedule.

“Fishing on a new 44’ Contender, and with a lot of strong brands backing us, we had no excuses,” says Dieterle. “All of our team specialize in sailfishing with the kites and spot fishing. Fishing together for so long we feel that as a team there are really no boundaries. All the guys on this team have been a part of other winning teams in the past so they know what it takes to win.”

The Sailfish Challenge, the second leg of the Quest Series held February 23-27, 2022, out of Fort Lauderdale, proved the perfect example of a plan coming together.

“Everybody was fishing together, and we were catching the fish we saw. Several free jumpers lead to multiple bites, which the team needed after trading the lead with another team throughout the day,” says Dieterle.

In the end, with 14 sails released, and a triple header all caught and released in the final 45 minutes of the first day of fishing, C1 topped the leaderboard. On Day 2 once again, they caught all they saw, missing zero fish, and never slowed down, showing how intense they were. In the end, with 18 total, C1 took first and bested the second-place finisher by two releases.

The Final Sail, the third and final leg of the Quest Series held April 6-9, 2022, out of Miami Beach, has always been the tournament that takes years off your life, says Dieterle. And 2022 was no exception. After all, the World Champion Title in competitive sailfishing was on the line.

“The first day we clearly screwed up by moving south 15 miles at 10 a.m. Then, we realized the conditions were better where we left so we ran back, wasting 60 minutes. But once we cracked the code, we started to catch fish, but it was too late for a daily comeback,” he tells.

C1 finished Day One with six releases and 16th on the leaderboard.

Dieterle admits that on the second day, he was just trying to hang on to at least make a respectful finish. But the team started off like gangbusters, with a triple and then a double in the first hour.

“I started to feel this was going to be a battle to the end. And it was! We just keep on finding little things that would get us another fish. A tailor, a free jumper, some flyers popping up stuff like that. Then with 20 minutes left, I took a chance and ran 10 miles south, which only gave us about 10 minutes to fish, but it paid off with a five banger, a second-place finish in the tournament and an overall series win. The series win was a simple formula, stay close to the winners and hope you pull something amazing off and we did,” says Dieterle.

The entire C1 team will be back and ready to go in 2023.

The post 2022 Captain of the Year Awards appeared first on InTheBite.

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https://www.hardcoregamefishing.com/spot-zero-whats-under-your-tree/

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