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Special Report - Fintastic's Second Annual Total Tag & Release Billfish
Tournament Opening Day Report
Zihuatanejo-Rolex-IGFA Invitational Tournament of Champions Qualifying event, Fintastic's Tag & Release Billfish Tournament, kicked off this morning in the shining Pacific Coast waters of Zihuatanejo, Mexico amid great expectations.
Over 40 international contestants, amateurs and professionals alike, in fourteen teams are competing for cash and prizes and the coveted invitation to the Rolex-IGFA Tournament of Champions 2001, in Kona, Hawaii.
If the first day's results are any indication of what is to come in the remaining 48 hours, Zihuatanejo will be the site of some striking Billfishing action.
The first day's yield: Several Marlin, Blue and Black, hook ups were reported and reportedly lost and 19 sailfish were verified caught, tagged and released. With one boat remaining to be counted at press time.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Mexico is gaining recognition as one of the top year round sailfish producing areas in the world. So much, it now attracts some of the best fishermen on the globe to the several tournaments held here each year. Fintastic's Tag & Release, is one tournament that intends to keep it that way.
Day Two Report
The final standings in from day one put the Yellow Fin II with anglers, Bob Carr, Mike Wickham and Lou Esposito tied for 1st with the Raul 3 Marias II, anglers Stan Cross, Barry LeKavich, Terry Taylor and Bernia Polega with 4 sailfish per boat. In 2nd with 3 sailfish was the Whisky II, anglers Paul Phillips III, Michelle Phillips and Hugh Mckenna. Tied for third with 2 sailfish a piece was the Whisky I, anglers Fred Helmer, Dan Hartlen, Wayne Becker and Reg Weins and the Agua Azul with anglers, Dick and Karen O'Neil and Tom and Cindy Baiano.
Day Two was another hot and steamy fishing day with lots of Billfish action, 24 sailfish total were tag and released, no marlins. Day two's leader was the Queen Arantxa with anglers Ken Ellis and Roland Rameriz with 4 sailfish. In second with 3 sailfish were the Whisky II, Raul 3 Marias II and the Shellback, anglers Mike LaRussa and Alan and Bev Eriksen. For third with 2 sailfish a piece were the Kurrirrus, Whisky I, Agua Azul, Marlin Azul and the Secuestro.
Going into the third and final day of Fintastic's Tag and Release Billfish Tournament, the boat to beat is the Raul 3 Marias with seven sailfish total, but by such a close margin its still anyone's game and several boats are right behind them. Start time is 6am and most boats plan an early start to be at the blue water by lines in at 7am. With the sailfish action here in Zihuatanejo this week anything is possible and any angler here could be the next Tournament of Champions qualifier, we'll know by 3pm tomorrow.
Day Three - Final Report
The final day of Fintastic's Tag and Release Tournament was full of action and surprises with a too close to call finish that left anglers impatiently waiting at the docks for every last boat to pull in and be counted.
Saturday evening's awards banquet was held in the ballroom of the Riveria hotel in Ixtapa where they doled out the long awaited judgements with cash and lots of tackle and gear prizes.
Jackpot awards came in at $500 US for daily top team and $250 US for daily top angler.
Daily Jackpot cash prizes went to Team Yellow Fin with 4 sailfish on Day One, anglers Bob Carr, Mike Wickham and Lou Esposito, with Bob Carr being top jackpot angler. Team Queen Arantxa was top team on Day Two with 4 sailfish, anglers Ken Ellis and Roland Rameriz, with Ken Ellis as Day Two's top angler. Day Three's top team with four sailfish went to Team Shellback, anglers Mike LaRussa and Alan and Bev Eriksen with Mike LaRussa as daily top angler.
For the overall grand prizes it was a neck and neck race. At the end of the day, 2nd and 3rd place had an equal number of fish caught and released with an equal number of points. With both the Shellback and the Raul 3 Marias II checking in with 7 fish total for 1150 points, the deciding factor had to be the earliest time of catch. With mere hours deciding the outcome, The Shellback with anglers, Mike LaRussa and Alan and Bev Eriksen and Captain Miguel Alvarez took home 3rd place overall. For 2nd was the Raul 3 Marias II, with anglers Stan Cross, Barry Kevich, Terry Taylor and Bernie Polega and Captain Lenny Alvarez. First Place overall, winning the invitation to the Rolex-IGFA Tournament of Champions 2001 in Kona, Hawaii with a total of 8 sailfish tagged and released was the Whisky II with anglers Paul Phillips III, Michelle Phillips and Hugh McKenna and Captain Jose Luis (Pepino) Servin.
In addition to the cash prizes, winning Captains received a wide assortment of quality rods, reels, tackle and gear.
A huge second year success, Fintastic's Tag and Release tournament caught, tagged and released a total of 71 sailfish in three days, with only 5 reported fatalities during the entire tournament. As further proof of Fintastic's Tag and Release's commitment to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and the continuing conservation efforts of Tag and Release sportfishing, the tournament committee donated $500 US of the proceeds to the local environmental/conservation group Viva la Bahia (Save the Bay) --a great end to a great three days. At the end of the banquet boats were already being reserved for next year and I didn't speak to a single angler who wasn't planning on returning. Fintastic's Tag and Releases Billfish Tournament 2001 is slotted for the same time next November.