Fresh from a team win in the IGFA Offshore World Championship in Mexico, Robert Collins won the IGFA Inshore World Championship while defending his Grand Champion title accumulating the most points for five targeted species.
It was his third championship title in the eight years of the inshore tournament.
"Two world championships within two months, I'm speechless," smiled Collins. "Today was a real nail biter right up to the end, just like in Cabo San Lucas."
The International Game Fish Association's celebrated catch-and-release tournament is dubbed the "super bowl of inshore fishing," as 32 anglers from around the world stalked the Florida Bay waters for bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and redfish.
Collins who has homes in Islamorada and Naples, was chasing Day 2 leader Joe "Pepe" Lopez, Coral Gables, Fla. in the final round hoping to catch two bonefish, a snook and a permit to complete two slams of fish to go with earlier catches of nine fish.
Lopez, who won the title in 2006, had completed one slam on Tuesday and needed just two fish -- a snook and a permit -- to collect his second slam in the three-day event. He fell short by catching only a snook early, but like all the anglers suffered with overcast skies searching for the permit.
"I was hoping to get the remaining species we need to pull together two slams," said Collins, who was guided by Capt. Mark Gilman, Islamorada. Collins who first won the tournament in 2005 caught a snook early and then two bonefish and a redfish but was also a permit shy of his second slam. He scored 1250 points on his 13 fish using both bait and artificial along with circle hooks for added points
Lopez won both runner-up grand champion and the bait division title with his slam and four fish for 950 total points.
In the fly division Mark Cooper, Aurora, Colo., won on releases of a redfish, a tarpon and three snook. The former NFL lineman for the Denver Broncos and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers totaled 775 points while going scoreless the final day.
First day leader John Timura, Islamorada, bounced back in the final round to win the artificial division on catches of redfish, snook and permit over the three days. In May Collins and Timura were members of a five-man team winning the IGFA Offshore World Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, out fishing 63 teams from 27 countries.
Capt. Mike Hutchinson, Miami Springs, Fla. was named the top captain by scoring the most points in guiding Timura, Rich Gorden, Brooksville, Fla. and Johann Pettersson of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden in their rounds over the three days.
IN OTHER TOURNAMENT NOTES
Three anglers from the continents of Europe, Africa and Australia made good showing as first time invitees to the world-class tournament, and all said they hope to compete again next year subject to qualifying wins in their regions. Johann Pettersson of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, who went scoreless the first two days rallied big with 625 total points on releases of redfish and snook using artificial and fly. He had won the Pike Challenge in his home country to advance to IWC. Close behind was Phillip Clark of Darwin, NT, Australia with 600 points on catches of redfish. Clark advanced after winning the NT Barramundi Classic "down under." Gustaf Brew, Ekvik, Sweden the winner of the Murchison Falls tournament in Uganda, Africa had 100 points despite having just going through knee surgery. Linda Denkert, Tavernier, Fla., gave anglers in the fly division a run on Wednesday by releasing three bonefish for 600 points to add to her earlier round redfish to finish second in the division with 725 points, 50 points behind Cooper. "We went zero for eight in chances to catch a tarpon," she said. Her Day 3 guide was Capt Kenny Knudsen, Islamorada. Cal Collier, Jr., Atlanta, Ga., was third in fly. Making a late charge was Troy Pruitt, Naples, Fla., who ended the tournament with 1025 points scoring a slam while taking second in the bait division. Pruitt, guided Wednesday by Capt. Rusty Albury, Islamorada, released a bonefish, a snook and two redfish adding to his previous duo releases of tarpon and permit. Greg Zaepfel, Williamsville, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, who was "on fire" and in contention with 975 points on Tuesday with triples of snook, redfish and permit, failed to score anything on the final day as well as the opening round. He took third in the bait division. Finishing behind Timura in the artificial division were Stephanie Parsons, Naples, Fla., with 900 points for second and Rich Gorden, Brooksville, Fla. in third with 750 points. Fishing and daily scorekeeping took place from the World Wide Sportsman marina.
The 32 anglers gained entry winning one of over 55 fly and light tackle IGFA tournaments in 2007 held in eight countries around the world representing nearly 3,000 anglers on four continents, vying to be in the "tournament of champions." Of the champions 15 were first time invitees including the anglers from Sweden, Uganda, Africa and Darwin, Australia.
The anglers fished with a different guide each of the three days based on a drawing.
The top anglers received Rolex timepieces in the prestige tournament. The four major award categories included: Grand Champion and first places in the fly, artificial lure and bait casting divisions. Trophies and merchandise went to the second and third place divisional winners as well as to the top three guides. The point value of the fish was determined by species and angler's fishing preference.
Sponsors this year include Mercury Outboards, Bacardi, Costa Del Mar, G. Loomis, Hook and Tackle, Islamorada Fish Co., Islander Resort, King Sailfish Mounts, Rapala, Shimano, Stiffy Push Poles, 3M Scientific Anglers, Reel Life Art by Pasta, World Wide Sportsman, Zane Grey Lounge, KD & G Sea Life Masterpieces, Redbone Gallery, Image Graphics 2000, Momoi, Diamond Illusion and Daiichi.
Next year Sandy Moret of Florida Keys Outfitters located in Islamorada will form a partnership with the IGFA to take over the management of the celebrated tournament to begin its ninth year.
"I witnessed a pretty spectacular finish with eight or nine anglers very much in contention entering the final day," said Moret. "With the foundation that the IGFA has put together over these eight years we can grow it even more with top fly and light tackle anglers worldwide."
The Florida Keys Outfitters/IGFA Inshore World Championship is scheduled for July 7-9, 2009. For tournament qualifying or sponsorship information contact Moret at 305-664-5423 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping. It was founded in 1939 and has members in over 125 countries. The association welcomes visitors to their 60,000 square foot IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. The IGFA web site is igfa.org.
For further information, contact Ms. Hartman at the IGFA, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida 33004; (954) 927-2628; Fax (954) 924-4299; Email: DHartman@igfa.org.
2008 IGFA INSHORE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
June 30 - July 2, 2008 - Islamorada, Fla., U.S.A.
GRAND CHAMPION - MOST SLAMS
Robert Collins, Islamorada, Fla., 1250 pts
RUNNER-UP GRAND CHAMPION - MOST SLAMS
Joe "Pepe" Lopez, Coral Gables, Fla., 950 pts
FLY ROD DIVISION
1st Mark Cooper, Aurora, Colo., 775 pts
2nd Linda Denkert, Tavernier, Fla., 725 pts
3rd Cal Collier, Jr., Atlanta, Ga., 650 pts
1st Joe "Pepe" Lopez, Coral Gables, Fla., 950 pts
2nd Troy Pruitt, Naples, Fla., 725 pts
3rd Greg Zaepfel, Buffalo, N.Y. 675 pts
ARTIFICIAL LURE DIVISION
1st John Timura, Islamorada, Fla., 1,100 pts
2nd Stephanie Parsons, Naples, Fla., 900 pts
3rd Rich Gorden, Brooksville, Fla. 750 pts
OVERALL GUIDES DIVISION
1st Capt. Mike Hutchisson, Miami Springs, Fla., 1,825 pts
2nd Capt. Dave Denkert, Tavernier, Fla. 1,500 pts
3rd Steve Thomas, Islamorada, Fla., 1,500 pts