Tarpon Tourney

The day starts calmly with registration on the beach.
Most West Coast Florida boats are rigged with towers for spotting fish.
Perfect beginning to the day for this angler, but the tournament didn't start until 7 AM
Once hooked up, anglers had to weave in and out of the fleet until their fish moved into open water.
Karlie Bennet of Andros Boatwork's team hooks up early.
Karlie scored the first release points of the tournament.
Every boat utilized a bow mounted fighting chair.
Women's rules allow teammates to help the angler hold the rod.
It's not easy pulling a 150 lb. tarpon out of 90 feet of water.
"The Women's Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (WPTTS) is the largest and richest women's fishing series in the United States, featuring three regular season events all held in Boca Grande Pass, Fla. The WPTTS pits fifty teams of three women anglers in a head to head gunwale to gunwhale battle for nearly $100,000 in cash and prizes." - www.ptts.tv
Nice uniforms.
Boca Grande Pass is listed as one of the best tarpon spots in the world and with good reason.
Every Spring literally thousands of tarpon ranging from 50 to 200 pounds school up in the 90' waters of the Pass attracting anglers from all over the country.
When the fish are thick, the boats can number in the hundreds.
This boat is trying to find some fish outside the chaos of the fleet.
This isn't Keys fishing.
Mates ( males ) are allowed to leader the tarpon.
You wouldn't have a chance of landing a big tarpon in this deep, tide swept pass on a fly rod and standard tackle is conventional rods and reels, 50 lb line and heavy jigs.....and then there's the boats.
Fishing hours were 7am to 10 am, 50 lb line and weight fish were weighed on a shore based sling scale and released alive.
Often, a tarpon hooked in the middle of the pass would wind up right off the beach.
The survival rate of a tarpon that is caught after an extended fight, lip gaffed, subjected to a FWC 'kill' tag around it's lower jaw, drug over to the weigh station, hoisted up on a sling, held up for photos, then released into waters with the biggest hammerhead and bull sharks I've ever seen, can't be very good, but the goal is to be commended.
Artist KC Scott and Andros Boatworks owner Andy Eggebrecht arranged for me to ride along on one of the Media boats during one of the three Ladies Tournaments held in the Pass.
The reason the tarpon don't jump is that there isn't any open surface water.
I was amazed at the number of boats and especially the ANDROS 23' CUDA which Andy's team utilized.
Team Andros - Karlie, Lindsay, and Kathleen.
How anyone lands anything is beyond me.
It was pretty much a madhouse, but an amazing experience nevertheless.
Team Andros Boatworks at work.
Karlie fighting tarpon #2.
The Andros Boatworks 23' CUDA
Some ladies do it all.
Some uniforms are better than others.
Getting your fish away from the mob is the key to success.
This gives you some idea of Boca Grande tarpon fishing on a mild day.
Boats, boats and more boats. Throw a keys guide in here and he'd be shooting people in 10 minutes.
Andros Boatworks' 23' CUDA was the perfect boat for this style of fishing. It handled everything from shallow flats to offshore.
Lindsay Bush waiting for a bite.
This fish is heading right into the mob of boats.
If your Captain doesn't know how to handle a boat in close quarters, you have no business in Boca Grande Pass.
Largest tarpon in the tournament was 147 pounds.