Blue Time Takes World Sailfish Championship

Participants released 202 sailfish in the annual tournament in Key West

world sailfish winners

world sailfish winners

Anglers aboard Blue Time caught and released 14 sailfish Sunday, April 14, to stage an impressive come-from-behind victory and win nearly $185,000 at the World Sailfish Championship in Key West.

Skippered by Captain Bill Wieteha, the Miami-based team ended the tournament’s first fishing day Thursday, April 11, without a single release. The next day, owners Benjamin and Lisa Leon and teammates Israel Ivanez, A.J. Sepe, Ray Rosher, Mike Lawson and Jared Spitz logged only three sailfish.

Saturday was a lay day, and at the beginning of Sunday’s final fishing day, Blue Time wasn’t even among the top 10 spots in the fleet of 34 registered boats.

“It was an all-or-nothing day; we had to get on them early and make it happen,” said Wieteha. “We had an east current, which is exactly what you want, and the wind turned a little more east than it was predicted and it got the fish moving.”

Wieteha said all of Sunday’s releases, bringing the team’s total to 17, were achieved before 1 p.m. Nine of them were scored by Lisa Leon, who was named the tournament’s top female angler.

Viva La Vida began Sunday’s fishing in the lead, but finished second. Even though it had the same release count as Blue Time, Viva’s final fish was scored after Blue Time’s 17th release.

Captained by Nick Ewald of Islamorada, Fla., Viva La Vida team members were owner John Cole of Atlanta, Eric Darville and Brian Rhatigan of Miami and Islamorada’s Jimi Fickling and Travis Upchurch.

Third place went to team Swagger, owned by Daniel Hassan of Boca Raton, Fla., with 16 sailfish releases. Captained by George McElveen of Islamorada, the team consisted of Islamorada’s Nicholas Biondoletti, Taylor Walsh, Erik Ehllers and Robert Collins.

Organizers said participants released 202 sailfish.