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Tony Horsley Wins Islamorada All-Tackle Spring Bonefish Tournament
Posted on 03/29/2008
Tony Horsley13th Annual Spring All Tackle Bonefish Tournament (2009 IGFA World Championship Qualifier) March 26-28, 2008 Object: Each Angler is allowed to submit 3 weight fish for points throughout the tournament (only 2 weight fish in one day) and those fish have to be over 8lbs to qualify as a weight fish. Release points are given for general, spin, fly catches. An angler is only allowed to cash in release points once they have registered a weight fish. Release points can't exceed total weight points. Summary: One of my best friends, Captain Mark Gilman lives in Islamorada , Florida (in the Keys) where he is a full time fishing guide out of World Wide Sportsman. We have fished several tournaments over the years, having some good results and even a win so he invited me to come down and be his angler for this event. I was very excited since Mark has good history with this tournament, including 2 previous wins with 2 different anglers. As brief as I can make it: The day before the tournament began a cold front came in and brought temperatures as low as 52 degrees and chilled the water down to almost 60 degrees, which is very uncharacteristic of the Keys. Bonefish do not respond in cold water, in contrast they thrive in 70 degree or above water; so the fishing guides were predicting bad fishing for the next few days. DAY 1: Low 70s all day and 20 knot winds. Mark and I looked everywhere for the coveted bonefish but there were none to be found. After searching the likely spots Mark decided to check one of his "warm up" spots where "bonies" like to go when it's cold; and sure enough there were signs of fish. Soon I had caught one on a shrimp (5lbs) and one on a jig (5lbs) but then I started feeling sick. Unknowingly I caught a 24 hr bug. I started getting physically sick on the boat and felt horrible. I ended day one with 2 releases and sitting in 2nd place but not feeling so good. I was worried that I would not be able to fish the next day. (There were no weight fish checked in that day.) DAY 2: Even though I had been sick all night, hadn't eaten and still felt pretty awful I decided we must fish. Day 2 was a little warmer, in the 70s all day and 15 knot winds with water temp in mid 60s. Immediately we checked our warm up spot but there were no signs of fish. We looked everywhere and there was not a bonie around and then all of the sudden ~ bam I had one on shrimp and then suddenly, no more fish. Starting to come around with my illness I ended day 2 with 1 release and sitting in 4th place. One weight fish was turned this day and it was a huge 12.3 lb fish. This angler was clearly in 1st place and looking like the probable tournament winner Tony HorsleyDAY 3: I was feeling great health wise, they were calling for 82 degree temperatures and no wind; I was ready to turn on the competition! It started out cold so we went to check our faithful warm up spot and sure enough we found a group of fish compiling of crevale jacks, sharks, sting rays, lady fish, and apparently one bonefish. So I tossed my jig in and up came some jacks and a ladyfish. Then I threw a cast and boom, a little 3lb bonie pops up on my jig, so one more release in the bank to start off day 3. As the day heats up I just knew these fish had to be starving so we went to where the big boys live. We started seeing some fish but only had 2 hours left to fish and then bam; I caught an 11.8 lb. bonefish and suddenly we were back in the game. We continued on the same flat and bam I catch a 9.4 lb. at 3:00 and tournament the was over at 3:30. We are stoked. We really think we might have it wrapped up. Boats must be in by 5:00 so we took our time going in as we savored our two crown jewels. We had planned to weigh the little one first and then go for the slob. Anticipation was mounting as we weighed in our first one at 9.4 lb. With everyone saying that's not gonna do when someone says "There is another in there." We pull him out and everyone says "WOW" that's a big fish! Sure enough, an 11.8 lb. monster. At this point we knew we were in first but there we still 2 boats out. They both came in with one fish each but it was not enough to compete with ours. WE HAD WON, collecting $1,800.00, a beautiful oil painting and an invitation to the world championship in July 2009. Tony HorsleyOverall another great fishing experience in the Florida Keys and I didn't mention the humorous stories that included during the catch of my 9.4 lb bonie Mark fell in the water as he tried poling as hard as could to try and catch up with our fish. And while I was still fighting the fish I started floating away from Mark so I had to start the motor up and back the boat up to get him while still hooked up with the fish. It was a hoot but we landed him and that was all that mattered. Lots of little stuff to add but story would be way to long but Mark now has 3 wins with 3 different anglers in this tournament. - Tony Horsely