The Rise and Fall of the Striking Fish Tournament Committee

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Mike Smith convinced me to fish in my first Striker in 1992. Mike, Grover Starret, wife Doris and I went at it hard for the three tournament fishing days. Saturday of that year was one of the best days Iíve ever experienced. We caught large numbers of quality dolphin and a few wahoo and cleaned fish well into the night at the Marker 33 condo dock. On Sunday, we caught a 23lb King mackerel that stuck on the leader board in sixth place and won us nine hundred dollars. The awards banquet was held at the Ocean Center and attended by several hundred anglers and friends. The Tournament committee presented a slide show of all the entrants with their boats and/or fish weighed-in set to upbeat music. I was hooked.

That first year, there was some attention paid to a boat that had caught nice fish, but had broken down and had to be towed in. The tournamentís rules clearly disqualified that boat for that day. Jim Peacock was the tournamentís chairman and outlined the tournamentís mission: ďThe Greater Daytona Beach Striking Fish Tournament is a test of both man and machine. You must check out every day and you must check in every day. You must make it to the weigh station without assistance. Have fun! The big fish wins!Ē

The next year, we caught a triple-header of sailfish, won some more money, and began to set up shop in an orderly way in New Smyrna Beach. We got yearly reservations at the Inlet Condominiums, with adjacent boat slip, and were really set up to do the Striker right. The weigh-ins were held at the Inlet Harbor restaurant in front of a boisterous crowd. The dock arrangements allowed only two boats to back in to the weigh station at any time, so by the time some captains were called in, they had a serious buzz and some difficulty negotiating the docking procedure. I speak from personal experience. In those days Alan Alverezís Sea Ray, X-TA-SEA, was slipped adjacent to the weigh station. Alan always had young ladies who danced for a living fishing with him. Their clothing was abbreviated when they chose to wear any. Photos of his boat and crew were very popular in the slide show, not to mention the weigh-in.

After our fifth Striker in 1996, we got to know some of the committee and were invited to join. We jumped at the chance because this tournament has a delightful format and seemed to run like a Swiss watch. I cannot speak for what went on before we joined the committee, but it became obvious that a dedicated core of individuals were responsible for most of the work. In 1997, the weigh-in was moved to the Coast Guard station at Ponce Inlet. Our yearly condo rental overlooked the Coast Guardís dock and the weigh station. At the captainís meeting, I won a drawing for $500 and immediately entered the Calcutta. 1997 was a down year for fishing. Early in the morning of the third fishing day, we caught a 60lb wahoo that won the category and gave us enough points to tie for third place in the tournament. The $7000+ in winnings was the highlight of our GDBSFT career thus far.

The tournament committee meets on the second Tuesday evening of each month in Daytona. As with every group of individual volunteers, some good people become involved and work for a while before becoming bored, disenchanted or burned out. There are always those that display remarkable staying power. This has been the case with the Striker committee as well. The just completed tournament is the twenty-sixth consecutive. In past years, the Striker sold out at 200 boats and had folks standing in line for cancellations. With the passage of time, other tournaments and events have sprung up to compete with the Striker yet it has consistently attracted between 130 and 150 boats. The tournament and itís committee have continued to evolve, with the tournament becoming better and better and the committee shrinking to below the critical mass needed to sustain the high level entrants have come to expect. The decision was made this spring to allow World Publications, publisher of Marlin and Sport Fishing magazines, to assume the management of the tournament. As with all facets of life, the only constant is change. Rather than looking at this change as the end of something special, I prefer to view it as the beginning of a new and improved tournament that I can fish without the sweat of committee work. All current and former members of the tournament committee should be proud of the excellence they achieved.

Now about the fishing this yearÖ.we got to New Smyrna early Thursday morning and launched the TUNER . Doris parked the trailer and got the groceries while I docked the boat and checked into the Riverside Hotel. Gentlemen do yourself a favor and check that place out. Your wife/girlfriend will be happy with you and enjoy herself while youíre fishing. We got the bait, loaded everything on the boat, went to the captainís meeting and went back to the hotel to get some rest. I donít know about you but trying to sleep the night before a big tournament is close to impossible for me.

The GDBSFT is unusual in that it has a committee boat on station at 6am around five miles east of Ponce Inlet to check out boats for that dayís fishing. For several years we would leave the dock at 4am and arrive at the checkout spot around 4:30am. We were usually first or second in line and would bob around for an hour and thirty minutes until the checkout boat anchored and began letting us go. From the head of the line, boat lights stretched in an unbroken line back toward the inlet. Passing the checkout boat first and hitting the throttles was a surge of pure adrenalin. This year, we decided to leave the dock just before six and hit the committee boat on a dead run at the end of the line. We lost 22 minutes of fishing time and gained and hour and thirty minutes sleep. In my mind, it has become a good trade.

Dave and Richard met us at the dock at 5:45am, we got checked out and began fishing due east of Ponce in 110 feet of water. The morning was relatively slow, missing a sailfish. Around 1pm, we found a productive piece of bottom, caught a small wahoo and began to observe a thunderhead blooming south of the inlet. As it began to move offshore, we decided to pull the lines at 2:30pm and try to beat around its northern edge. As we got parallel, the squall started drifting in a northerly direction and caught us 20 miles out. One of my least favorite things offshore is the 20degree temperature change that accompanies a microburst. The wind makes things uncomfortable and the rain gets things wet but they are bearable. The lightning scares the hell out of me. We managed to find our way out of the storm and checked in at 4pm, determined to make the most of Saturdayís fishing.

Our new strategy perfected, Saturday morning we hit the end of the line right at the committee boat and never came off plane. We headed south to a good area, found a 2degree break and put out artificials in 130feet of water. Almost immediately we had a nice dolphin on and put him in the box. He had the head of a 40 pounder, but an emaciated body. My charter boat buddies tell me a 40 pounder measures 14 inches across its head and a 60 pounder goes 16 inches.

We continued offshore for a short while before hooking another sailfish. This is an all release tournament, so we took a picture with the supplied camera and continued on. At six hundred feet we decided to head back to the rolldown and hooked another sail in two hundred feet. There were several boats with two releases and we werenít going to outrun them back to turn in our camera, so we kept after that third sailfish. With four minutes before lines out, a seemingly strong fish hit the right rigger and peeled some drag. We radioed in a hookup only to discover a foul-hooked island trout. With no storms in sight, the trip in was swift. Our dolphin weighed 35lbs and missed the money by 1lb. Our two sail releases tied us for third place but based on time we dropped to seventh.

From 1992 through 1999, we won money every year and got cocky. Its been three years since I have sniffed the final board. I am now humble but resolute! Waitíll next year...