For this annual fund-raising event, Captain Skip Smith, the Custom Shootout tournament director, hand-picked 52 of the finest U.S.-manufactured sportfishing boats to participate in this 14th year of competition - May 13-16, 2015 - at the Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina, Bahamas.
It was the 54' Mark Willis VINTAGE who pulled ahead of the fleet with the most points in three days of fishing to give Mark Willis Marine an engraved piece of history on the Custom Shootout perpetual trophy, a crystal sculpture made by marine artist Carey Chen, which is proudly displayed in the IGFA library, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Commemorative plaques were presented on Saturday night first to the Tournament's Platinum sponsors who included Florida Detroit Diesel-Allison, Sunset Marina, SatCom, Dex Imaging Media, HMY Yacht Sales, XL Insurance Group, and Smith-Merritt Insurance. The other sponsors present at the awards ceremony were Costa del Mar, CAT Marine Power, CAT Pantropic, CAT Gregory Pool, CAT Ring Power, MAN, Dometic, Downey Yacht Sales, Alexseal, Tournament Yacht Sales, Pipewelders, Treasure Coast Propeller, Diamond Fishing Products, Phasor, Palm Beach Towers, Shimano, Blue Water Chairs, and Ocean Club to name a few. Without this generous sponsorship, the Custom Shootout would not be possible, and for that the Committee thanked them.
With his elite fleet, Captain Smith welcomed all the builders, one by one, with a personalized story and a gift. Being the largest participant turnout to date for this event, it would only be appropriate the builder representation be as well. It was Mark Willis, Randy Ramsey of Jarrett Bay Boatworks, John Whiticar, Michael Rybovich, Paul Spencer, Roy Merritt, Dominick LaCombe of American Custom Yachts, Peter Landeweer of Garlington Landeweer, Rich Scheffer, Jr. of Tribute Yachts, John Vance of Jim Smith, John Bayliss and Paul Mann who graced center stage, posing for a photograph which possibly could be the biggest gathering of U.S. yacht builders at any one time - and certainly one for posterity.
The stunning dinner and service, provided by the Abaco Beach Resort, was followed by the presentation of awards to the winners. Captain K.P. and VINTAGE team members Tony Heurta, Chris Berkley, Geoff Quatraro, and Newt Cagle happily accepted artist Kent Ullbergâ€™s sparkling First Place sculpture. Also for the VINTAGE team, another Ullberg sculpture was presented to Mr. Huerta for his Top Angler accomplishment, and Mates Geoff and Newt accepted with Captain K.P. the coveted Top Crew and Top Captain titles, respectively.
Just 50 points out of first, REEL PUSHY - one of an astounding 12 Spencer Yachts represented at the Custom Shootout this year - took home the Second Place trophy on Saturday night. Led by team owner Robert Baker and Captain Chris Workman, anglers Jimmy Fields and Denny Doyle managed to collect their well-deserved 3-day Slam bonus points with a different billfish species release in each day of competition. Exiting stage left, Baker's team had one 58' Merritt boat hot on their heels as Mr. Keith Beatty's SWEET THING took the Third Place award with two blue marlin and two sailfish releases.
Captain Smith, Tina Church and Jen Copeland also gave high regard by way of the Cheryl Roy Memorial Top Lady Angler award to Ms. Laura Russell on the F&S HIT-N-RUN and Top Tag & Release Team recognition to a 62' Spencer Yacht appropriately named MARLIN DARLIN.
Ms. Leah Baumwell of the IGFA provided SAT tags prior to the event, and was thrilled to hear three of the tags had been deployed by Custom Shootout teams PLANE SIMPLE, SOUL CANDY, and SWEET THING. These tags provide scientists an unique opportunity to further billfish studies based on behaviors such as time spent at certain depths and distance travelled, to name a few. Findings such as these help not only the species' as a whole, but aid fisherman in understanding them as well.
Overall, the Committee was extremely pleased with the fishing, the venue, and the sportsmanship, and is already planning the 2016 tournament season.
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