From day one, David Dalu of Charleston, S.C., took the lead in the Golden Fly Invitational Tarpon Tournament. At the end of the final day, he landed the grand champion title at the angling event held May 18-21 in Islamorada.
One hour and 16 minutes into the tournament’s first fishing day, Dalu’s fly took the first strike with a tarpon he later released. By noon, he had spent two hours and 20 minutes pulling in three separate fish that weighed from 80 to 125 pounds.
“That’s something I had prepared for physically,” Dalu said. “I practice extensively in the yard with a bucket because the more pressure you can put on the fish, the quicker you can land it and the better it is for the fish.”
Dalu and Captain Scott Collins of Marathon, Fla., ended the first day as point leaders for three releases and two weight fish.
By the end of the third day, Dalu had scored eight releases and three weight fish of 85, 94 and 97 pounds.
First runner-up was James Holland Jr. of Seattle, Wash., with six releases and weight fish of 88, 85 and 79 pounds. Holland holds a world record for catching a 202-pound, 8-ounce tarpon on 20-pound tippet in 2001. He was guided by Captain Joe Rodriguez of Homestead, Fla.
Second runner up was Andy Mill of Aspen, Colo., with one release and three weight fish of 88, 102 and 132 pounds. His guide was Captain Doug Kilpatrick of Summerland Key, Fla.
The grand champion team award went to Holland, Oliver Hoar of Hanover, Pa., with Captain Tad Burke of Tavernier, Fla.; and Vern Olson of Camano Island, Wash., with Captain Paul Tejera of Islamorada. The team earned a combined total of 6,355 points.
“For me, really, the thrilling part of fishing in the Keys is about being around the best anglers and guides in the world,” said Dalu. “The Florida Keys leads the world in development of techniques in shallow-water sight fishing.”
The tournament drew 27 anglers who caught and released 74 tarpon, 19 of them entered for weight points.