Beer Money tops tourney

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  • Chris Stephens, Rich Wolford, Bubba Weeks, from left, and Larry Owens, kneeling, teamed up to top some 24 blue water teams during the 26th annual Amelia Island Blue Water Shootout Saturday. TERRY LACOSS/SPECIAL
    Chris Stephens, Rich Wolford, Bubba Weeks, from left, and Larry Owens, kneeling, teamed up to top some 24 blue water teams during the 26th annual Amelia Island Blue Water Shootout Saturday. TERRY LACOSS/SPECIAL
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“It was the very best sea conditions I have ever seen for last weekend’s Amelia Island Blue Water Shootout,” Capt. Allen Mills said. “We trolled ballyhoo combined with plastic lures from five to eight knots in water depths ranging from 160-250 feet. We also located a nice water temperature break of two degrees, which held plenty of flying fish, birds, weed lines and dolphin.

“However, our best action came when a 200-pound blue marlin jumped within a few feet of my charter fishing boat, the Wahoo II, while chasing a 20-pound dolphin midair. We tried to hook up to that big blue, but without success.”

Team Wahoo finished in fourth place with a nice catch of dolphin and wahoo. But, if they would have caught and released the blue marlin, they would have added 250 points to their score.

Two fishing teams did catch and release sailfish, which gave them a big boost in tournament points of 150 points for each release.

“We hooked and released a nice sailfish just after 10 a.m.,” Chris Stephens said. “We hooked a second sailfish, but the hook pulled loose just as we were going to bill and release that beautiful sail.

“We launched my 31-foot Contender sport fishing boat just before safe light at the Dee Dee Bartels boat ramp. We ran some 80 miles southeast and began trolling in 420-500 feet of water with Islander and C&H lures rigged with large ballyhoo.

“While trolling from 6-7 knots, a 300-pound shark struck one of our lures, and we had to take time to land it to retrieve my expensive lure. However, our day produced plenty of action for dolphin and wahoo, and hooking up to two sailfish was very special.”

Stephens captained his sport fishing boat, Beer Money, to first-place honors with a total of 190.14 points. Team members also included Rich Wolford, Bubba Weeks and Larry Owens. Their catch included a 23.16-pound dolphin, a 50.52-pound wahoo and a sailfish release.

Team Burnin’ Daylight took second with a nice catch, including a sailfish release at 10:16 a.m., a 20.86-pound wahoo and a 21.08-pound dolphin for 155.62 points. Team members included Steve Pickett Sr., Steve Pickett Jr., Jimmy Pickett, Carter Pickett, Charlie Palmer, Chris Gamble, Grayson Hill, Walker Palmer and Brian Lesage.

The Steve Pickett family had a lot of energy in running the annual Amelia Island Blue Water Tournament, which is enjoyed by many hard-core bluewater fishermen. 

The local fishing team actually won last year’s event and always adds a lot of color to our local fishing waters.

“It was actually a last minute decision to run the event because of everything that was happening with the coronavirus,” Steve Pickett said. “Fortunately, we had a lot of sport fishing teams interested, so we went forward with the event only days prior to last Saturday.

“We ran the event from the Amelia Island Yacht Basin with great success, and the weather could not have been better. Keeping with local regulations, we did not hold an awards dinner after the weigh-in.”

The Continental Shelf is located some 50 miles offshore of Amelia Island, where water depths drop sharply from 180 feet to over a 1,000 feet in little over a mile. Blue water fishermen typically target a variety of game fish, including dolphin, blackfin tuna, Atlantic sailfish, blue marlin and the super-fast wahoo.

The most popular trolling technique includes trolling from 6-8 knots with plastic lures, including Islander and C&H plastics. Best colors include blue and white and pink and white when rigged with fresh, large ballyhoo.

A proven blue water trolling tactic includes rigging a Bird teaser to 50-pound class tackle and trolling it at least 100 feet back with a 25-foot length of 100-pound mono rigged to the back end of the Bird and a ballyhoo and plastic lure rigged to the business end of the leader.

Thirty-pound trolling gear is also rigged to both outriggers with dropback distances of 40-70 feet with ballyhoo and plastic lure combos.

A five-pound trolling weight is also rigged with a 25-foot length of 100-pound mono leader, and a ballyhoo-plastic lure combo is set right in the middle of the trolling spread and off the transom. The dropback distance can vary, depending on where most of the strikes are currently coming from, typically from 50-75 feet.

Visit myfwc.com for all of the current blue water fishing regulations.