Riviera

Top anglers tackle US Sailfish Pro series

For game fishing enthusiasts Kevin and Jill Clark nothing beats the thrill of reeling in one of the fastest fish in the ocean - the Sailfish, which is known to reach speeds of up to 68m/h or 110km/h.

For the past 16 years the couple has been hooked on fishing; running a charter company and organising fishing tournaments, while traveling the world fishing in places such as Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and Costa Rica.

In 2002 Kevin bought Wet Dream, a Riviera 4000 Offshore with tuna tower and has had myriad success at recent sailfish competitions, with wife Jill placing second this year, first in 2008 and coming third in 2005 as the top female angler in the World Sailfish Championships.

"It has been a great boat, really solid for us because we fish in all types of conditions.  It raises the fish and hopefully I will be able to trade up to a larger boat," he said.

Kevin retired from charter fishing seven years ago and gave up on running fishing competitions two years ago, opting to participate instead.  It was around this time that their only daughter, Jacqueline, started school so the couple decided to settle down in Florida Keys.

"I ran tournaments with up to 300 anglers and I decided it was more fun to fish in them than work at them," he said.

"We traveled all the time and when my daughter started school we liked the Florida Keys and decided this was where we were going to anchor ourselves and we became avid sailfishing enthusiasts.

"We started entering the Sailfish tournaments and our best payday so far was the World Sailfish Championship earlier this year where we won (US)$45,630 on day two of the event for second place in the daily prize money.

In November they will embark on their next challenge, six marquee fishing events over six months as they tackle hundreds of anglers in a bid to win the (US)$100,000 first prize and be crowned the Sailfish Pro Series champion.

A highlight for the couple was when Jill was named Top Female Angler in the 2008 World Sailfish Championships. In 2009 they entered six tournaments and had four finishes in the top three places,including third place in the IFC Sailfish Cup, first place in the Over the Hill Sailfish Tournament, and second place in the Presidential Sailfish Challenge.

It was day one of the Presidential Sailfish competition and Wet Dream was in 4th place (one fish behind Relentless who was in 1st place, and tied with Challenger and Catch 22, but behind on time. The team needed one more fish to get into 2nd place or two fish to take the lead.

Kevin recalls; "It was half an hour before lines-out, we hooked up a double and thought here is our chance to get in the money."

"We ended up with a north/south split, Jill's fish headed south while my fish went north. After a 20 minute fight we got my fish to the back of the boat where mate Sam Worden reached for the leader (touching the leader counts as a catch) but the 15' leader was just out of reach so the fish went on another run.

"In the meantime, Jill was on the bow of the boat when her fish suddenly switches direction and starts swimming back towards the boat.

"The mates run up on the bow and get the fish within 20', but again, they can't get the leader.

"Jill's fish then swims by the boat and she has to carefully make her way back around the cockpit to continue the fight.

"Five minutes later both fish swim up sea and the leader is in sight but just as Sam goes to reach for the leader, Jill's fish race under the boat and her line becomes caught up under the boat.

"We weren't sure whether it was caught on the rudder or the prop but it was only a 12 pound test line so it looks like a lost cause, but then Jill loosens the drag and dips the rod deep under the boat trying to find an angle to free the line, as captain Glen Miller makes sure to leave the boat out of gear the whole time.

"As we try to figure out what to do, second mate Hunter Barron jumps in and confirms the line is wrapped around the prop but could be removed by hand, but it has to be Jill's hand as she is the only one allowed to touch the rod, reel and line with the fish on.Jill puts the rod in a rod-holder, sheds her jacket and jumps in; bobbing like a cork in the three to four foot waves."

"She is having trouble with buoyancy and is apprehensive about going under the boat the five feet required to unwrap the line. Finally, she settles down and takes a deep breath before diving under the boat."

Jill explains that there was no time to be scared since it was a tournament.

"The water was actually warmer than the air that day, and while it was rough on the surface, once I was underwater it was fairly peaceful," she said.

"It was a team effort all the way and if one person didn't do their job we would have lost the fish.

"Hopefully it won't happen again, but if it does I'm all in."

Jill freed the line on her first attempt and was back in the boat ready to reel it in.

Kevin said she was careful not to put too much pressure on the line because it would have been chaffed.

"Now the two hooked sailfish are swimming together and several times we have to put the tips of our rods together to keep the lines from getting crossed.

"After 45 minutes we finally got my fish to the boat again, this time Sam grabs the leader and then 10 minutes later we back up to Jill's fish to make the catch - vaulting us from 4th place to 1st place for the day."

Kevin and Jill cherish these moments but there is also some healthy competition. "If I had known that last fish meant an extra (US)$5,000 in prize money, going under the boat wouldn't have been an option ... I'd have pushed her in," jokes Kevin.

"One time a cameraman was aboard and as we were being interviewed a fish hit a trolled bait, the rod bent over and Jill and I both jumped for the rod but I gave her a small ‘hip check' to knock her off balance to get there a second before her, and they got it all on tape.

"We also do a lot of kite fishing for sailfish and Jill mans the rods. We usually let her take the first fish so she gets the most shots at them, but that leaves me free to sight cast or drift baits for other sailfish while she is fighting her fish, increasing our chances of multiple hookup," said Kevin.

"I also think that because she is only 4'11" and 120 lbs that she doesn't muscle the fish too much and accidentally pull the hooks, so basically she has good technique and a light touch - going nine for nine on 12 lb tests for sailfish in one tournament is a major accomplishment, beating my seven for seven best day ever.

"Our daughter, Jacqueline, is also a fishing enthusiast. She caught her first tarpon at age eight and she tagged a sailfish that year, too. Last February she caught her first sailfish at age 10."

Jill and Kevin met at the National Cherry Festival in Jill's hometown of Traverse City, Michigan.

They have been married for 13 years and when not out reeling sailfish they enjoy diving, snorkeling and swimming.

Jill is an accountant but volunteers as a bookkeeper at Jacqueline's school, Treasure Village Montessori School in Islamorada, Florida.

Kevin is founder and CEO of Critter Control and franchisor of more than 120 units of the animal control firm, which is the 16th largest pest control company in the US.

 

 

 

Contact Riviera

 

 

BACK TO HOME PAGE

 

 

Click to enlarge image: Another angler's accolade...Jill and Kevin with their 2nd place trophy for the 2009 Presidential Sailfish Tournament

Another angler's accolade...Jill and Kevin with their 2nd place trophy for the 2009 Presidential Sailfish Tournament


Winning combination...Team Wet Dream won $45,630 on day two of the 2009 World Sailfish Championships

Winning combination...Team Wet Dream won $45,630 on day two of the 2009 World Sailfish Championships


View from half tower enables the captain to see sailfish tailing from up to 180-270 metres (200-300 yards) away

View from half tower enables the captain to see sailfish tailing from up to 180-270 metres (200-300 yards) away


A sailfish puts up a good fight before it is tagged and released

A sailfish puts up a good fight before it is tagged and released


Top angler...Jill Clark took top angler honors in the 2009 Presidential Sailfish Tournament while the team finished second overall

Top angler...Jill Clark took top angler honors in the 2009 Presidential Sailfish Tournament while the team finished second overall


First place...2008 World Sailfish Championships tournament director Chris King presents Jill Clark with the 1st place trophy in the Women's

First place...2008 World Sailfish Championships tournament director Chris King presents Jill Clark with the 1st place trophy in the Women's


Music: