BY MARCY SHORTUSE – The Lucky Lady proved worthy of her name when Capt. Steve Ahlers and his team brought more tarpon to the boat than any other in the 2015 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, held on Thursday and Friday, June 4 and 5. They released four tarpon during the tournament, which netted them a check for $22,000.
Angler Kevin Fink from Sylvania, Ohio was fishing with his son, Rory, as well as his friends Tucker Boyers and Damian Flynn. He is more than proud to win the tournament, one he has been fishing since they were still weighing tarpon at the barge.
“We come here every year we can,” he said. “We won it year before last, too, on Spooked Again. And we always try to get Capt. Stevie.”
Fink said they realized at about 10 minutes until the end of the tournament they were going to get first.
“That was when we realized the other team had to get two to the boat to win,” he said. “My son, Rory, got the fourth fish, the winner. I got the third one. The last one we caught wasn’t quite as big as the others … we caught some really big fish.”
It wasn’t until 5:09 p.m. on the first day of the tournament when Capt. Willie Mills’ team on Tracy Lynn got the first bite of the tournament. His angler was Bill Bonner, and the fight only lasted seven minutes before that fish was released. His team ended up taking second in the tournament and winning $11,000.
Mills also took second place the next day during the Gasparilla Island Kids’ Classic, and he took first place at the 11th Annual Howl at the Moon Tarpon Tournament held on May 30.
The last fish of the tournament for third place was released by the team on Casuarina with Capt. Charlie Coleman. It was hooked at 7:30 p.m. and released at 7:41 p.m.
Coleman was excited, not just because they placed in the World’s Richest but because he was fishing a team he considers to be family. And while he was busy chasing Mills and Ahlers for first right up until the end, he was more than happy with the way things turned out.
“Not only did we place, but I got to fish with a great team who always has fun, no matter what,” Charlie said. “And, one of our experienced anglers that day caught one of the biggest fish I’ve ever seen. We had a great time, and I contribute part of that to my great first mate – and cousin – Travis Joiner.”
Coleman also took third in the Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament.
At 5:37 p.m. on Thursday, the team on Native (with Capt. Frank Davis) started a progression of releases that lasted until fishing ended that day, with the last release recorded for Team Hammerhead at 8:14 p.m.
Mills’ team got three releases on Thursday, leading the first day of tournament fishing. Ahlers’ team had releases at 7:15 p.m. and 7:25 p.m. that first day and two releases, at 6:59 and at 7:24 p.m., on Friday, which made for four total releases by the end of the tournament.
In all, 16 tarpon were released the first day of the World’s Richest.
On the second day, just 22 minutes into fishing, Capt. Mark Futch and Sitarah set the bar with a 4:27 release. The Lucky Lady team with Capt. Ahlers sat back patiently, watching boats around them consistently bring tarpon to the boat. It was at 6:59, with an hour left, that Ahlers came on the radio with “fish on.” His team released that fish and hooked up again at 7:24 p.m., with a release time of 7:27 p.m. That put Lucky Lady in the lead with four fish, leaving Tracy Lynn with no fish on the second day at all.
On the second day of tournament fishing 11 tarpon were released, for a total of 27 from both days.
FIRST DAY LEADERBOARD
5:09/5:16: Tracy Lynn
5:45/6:00: Faithful II
6:08/6:14: Miss Sarah
6:36/6:42: Had ’em
7:10/7:15: Lucky Lady
7:10/7:18: Tracy Lynn
7:12/7:21: Hey, Moma!
7:19/7:25: Lucky Lady
7:25/7:29: Jill Marie
7:44/7:55: Tracy Lynn
7:53/8:07: Miss Sarah
7:58/8:13: Faithful II
SECOND DAY LEADERBOARD
5:55/6:01: Hey, Moma!
6:09/6:17: Miss Sarah
6:45/6:54: Faithful II
6:59/7:05: Lucky Lady
7:24/7:27: Lucky Lady
FIRST PLACE TEAM ($22,000)
CAPT. STEVE AHLERS
Team Leader Kevin Fink
SECOND PLACE TEAM ($11,000)
CAPT. WILLIE MILLS
Team Leader John Judson
THIRD PLACE TEAM ($5,500)
CAPT. CHARLIE COLEMAN
Team Leader Howard Wise
George Nelson IV
John Mark Jordan