Buccaneer Cup/Palm Beach Double Shot 2013
Story by: Greg Moore
PALM BEACH, FL – Fifty years after legendary billfish captains and crews met in this famous Palm Beach landmark, ten International Game Fish Tournament Observers gathered around a large round table in the Buccaneer Restaurant receiving boat assignments for the first day of the Palm Beach Double Shot.
The Double Shot is two tournaments in one: The Buccaneer Cup Sailfish Release Tournament celebrating its 50th anniversary and the 10-year old Florida Fish for Life Billfish Tournament.
Observers took a few minutes away from discussing tournament rules to send best wishes to longtime IGFTO observer Lee Fickinger, who last month was diagnosed with cancer. The fact that all the proceeds from the Fish for Life Tournament goes to finding a cure for cancer makes this event more worthwhile.
Before the sun came up the next morning, we all reported to our boats. As the boats left the Lake Worth Inlet, they found 4 to 5-foot seas and a north wind. The sky was severe clear and the morning was cool - perfect conditions for South Florida sailfishing.
January is the height of the Palm Beach sailfish tournament season, drawing boats from Montauk to the Keys. The Sailfish Marina on Singer Island was full of the most spectacular sport fisherman on the East Coast. At least 12 Vikings - all over 55 feet - a couple of Spencers, a 74-foot F&S and a beautiful black hull 58-foot Merritt entered in the competition. The boats were manned by some of the most experienced captains and crews in the world – many of them having won prestigious billfish tournaments from Cape May to St. Thomas.
During the next three days, IGFTO observers witnessed the catch and release of 195 sailfish in the offshore waters from Fort Pierce to Boca Raton. Three boats swapped the leads in both tournaments with the Viking 55, captained by Ryan Higgins, winning the 2-day Florida Fish for Life Tournament. Weez in the Keys was second and Fa La Me a close third.
On the final day of the Buccaneer Cup, those same boats were at the top of the leader board. With slightly more than 20 minutes to go, the Viking 55 and the Fa La Me, a brand new 70-foot Viking, were tied with 3900 points. Weez in the Keys had 3800 points.
The two top boats were trolling dead baits side by side offshore of the Fort Pierce Inlet, when a sailfish jumped and an angler’s line tightened. Fa La Me angler Tyler Beckford had hooked up the sail. When the leader tipped the rod, the observer shouted release. Seven minutes later, Fa La Me angler Daniel Davis caught and released another sailfish, assuring the Fa La Me of a historic tournament first place win. Boat owner Frank Rodriguez popped the cork on a bottle of champagne in celebration. Back at the Sailfish Marina, the celebrating was just getting started as the boats returned to a mob of tourists and photographers at the dock. Boats displayed their release flags as they dropped observers with score cards at the fuel docks. The captains and crews left quickly to change into suit jackets and ties for the formal awards banquet at another Palm Beach icon – the Sailfish Club of Florida. As the day wound down, Lee was on the mind of many observers as we headed home. While Lee’s wife, Linda, is by his side giving him a lot of support, his fellow observers look forward to seeing him at a future tournament. We all know Lee is a fighter and will win his battle - just like the Fa La Me.