A day of frustration for many, we still had some great results in the 2016 Captain Mel Classic.    A lot of people were shut down.   A front the cause?    Not sure.   I had a feeling it may be tough because we had a tough charter the day before.     Nonetheless, our winners battled their way to some very good results.   We had exactly 100 entries, our lowest total ever.  But I could not have hand picked a better 100 people.   We got rid of some of the people that are better to avoid.   The last two items:  The sponsor letter and the photo album:  Coming soon.NTGMan

Half an inch makes all the difference AGAIN in the Captain Mel Classic:
Kasey Arrowsmith: Half an inch away from Grand Prize, No Motor. Father and son duo, Hunter and Randy Koch “half an inch apart” in Trout; Redfish and Combined Inches and the Overall Pool. Nearly identical results.

In the No Motor, .7 inches difference between first and second place for the Grand Prize.  Less than an inch difference for largest trout (winner Xyrile Sagpao, second place Andrew Robertson).  Rick Taylor, 39 combined inches for third place, also had third place redfish (23.7 inches); Kevin Ketchum, third place trout with a 16.8 inch fish.

The Ladies Division is one of the most interesting to watch.     Katrina McIntire was just 1/4 an inch away from first place trout. Holly Rufo: Took all three trophies in the Ladies Division with an unbeatable 43.6 inches (which would have given her first place if she had been in the No Motor division with that total).   Holly, third place overall in total combined inches for all 100 participants.  Next year, Katrina is poised to put a redfish on the boards as well.   One of our greatest supporters:  the Adventurous Woman, sponsored the event again this year and many of the members competed.

The Fly Division:   Fred McClendon, a participant every year- redfish caught on a Neil Taylor creation:  A black and gold barrel head fly (I came up with sitting right here at my desk).   Fred’s trout caught on a fly I bought from Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure, to add to the flies tied by others for that division.   Andrew Buda, a solid 25.2 inch redfish for first place for that species:  Andrew, could not get a trout to compete in Combined Inches, which Fred won with 42 combined inches (24.25 inch redfish, 17.75 inch first place trout).

JuniorsThe Junior Division, on a tough day of fishing, two Juniors submitted photos.    Six time Classic competitor Samantha Horne and a 15.9 Inch trout for Shawn Blanton.     There was a flounder caught by Junior Drew Maccini that paid $40.

Back to the Open Division:

Third place combined inches in the Open division, Dan Currey.   Hunter and Randy combined to win $945.   Hunter’s winnings in his division plus the Overall Pool:   $715.    Randy just less than a half inch behind Hunter in total inches (he caught a larger redfish actually), $235.   Hopefully Hunter takes his Dad out to dinner.   Anthony Rufo, third place redfish (25.3 inches); and Randy Stigleman with third place trout (19.4 inches).   Interesting story there:  If Randy’s trout is a little bit bigger, he could have finished higher in the division and totally changed the payouts for the Overall Pool.

The Overall Pool

Dominated by the Koch’s, the largest fish of the day, first place redfish in his division and the Overall Pool:  Kasey Arrowsmith’s 30 inch redfish paid $185.     Hunter’s combined inches win (by just .4 inches more than his father) paid $250.     All second place finishers in this pool were prize winners.

Bonus Species

Added a few years ago for interest, we have kept flounder as the bonus species.    A $5 buy in, 100% goes to the longest fish in each division.   Eugene Foster took $120 in the No Motor; Brad Stigleman took $70 in the Open; Drew Maccini $40 for the Junior.   No flounder caught by Fly or Ladies division participants.  Ben Kirkconnell, second place flounder in the No Motor and Anthony Rufo in the Open, both received prizes for those fish.

Behind the scenes, the excellent work of the judging station with Mark and Carolyn and the assistance of Kim and Mary made things go faster than they ever have.     People are already asking about the 2017 event.

Suggestion for 2017:  Largest Wind Knot.  From a tournament director, we may not actually put that in but it was worth a laugh.  I don’t want to be the one to judge that.

For 2017, some decisions.  I had some discussions with participants and got a start on the feedback:

#1    The fly division:   Use your own flies?  Voted down in the past, we may try it for a year.  Wide open, use your own flies means I don’t have to track them down.    Many people who promised flies this year did not deliver.

#2  Open up the boundaries to include Manatee county?   This would make the event “all of Tampa Bay.”   I will get resistance on this one too.   People like how the contest is confined.    Originally it was Pinellas County only.

We always want to have the input from our participants to make changes.  If you have one, send it in.   The lures and general rules are unlikely to change.  We want to continue to support our lure sponsors, who step up and make expensive donations for this event.

Korey Berg, daughter of trophy maker Alex, did some wade fishing for the tournament.   Not much happening there, she did enjoy being a part of the festivities.    I spent some time talking to her.   A 13 year old that looks 16 or 17, Korey’s goal is to be the starting quarterback for the high school football team.

Ed Villafranca asked me at the awards party “Do redfish have a stripe on them?”    Ed may have had the best fishing of anyone on tournament day but did not catch anything for the Classic.
Ben Kirkconnell, who had a long year battling the complications of cancer and cancer treatment: He came around in time to compete.   He had a second place finish in bonus species.

“Neil, you were right.  Both me and my wife enjoyed being a part of the event.   We learned just like you said we would.   We appreciated all the effort it must have taken you (and does take you every year) and we would like to let you know that we will be back again every year, if possible.   The raffle was awesome!”

I like being the host of the event.   I run almost everything from setup until tournament day.   Sponsor support has made it easy.  This year, one that backed out made things interesting.  The kayak, the prize that allows larger payouts in all divisions.    I preserved the event like it was the first five years by providing that boat myself.    I had it to give, I suppose, but it was a pretty good donation a new boat I could have sold for a solid price.    Once again, pleased that the winner is happy to have it.

That wraps it up for the 2016 Classic.   I will be thanking the tournament sponsors in a separate article and I am pleased that we have had so many of the same supporters all six years of the event.     Happy fishing!

Neil Taylor
Owner and guide: 

(Cell) 727-692-6345  LivelyBaits@aol.com
Owner and site administrator:  www.capmel.com
Co-host: Capmel.com Radio, 8 to 9AM Sundays on 1040 “The Team” Radio

Neil Taylor

Neil Taylor

Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding.Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed www.capmel.com and eventually became that web site’s owner.
Neil Taylor

Latest posts by Neil Taylor (see all)