By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
KEY LARGO, FLORIDA – Over 100 teams of highly skilled anglers brought their talents to the Florida Keys for the chance to win $1.75 million between March 2nd to 9th. The tournament features both a weighted and catch-and-release division.
Former Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes head coach and longtime South Florida resident Jimmy Johnson showcased his passion for competition and fishing during his namesake 8th annual Jimmy Johnson’s “Quest for the Ring.”
Partnered with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the tournament boasts the richest guaranteed purse in the world.
For two days, teams set sail and cast their lines in search of sailfish, dolphin, blue and white marlins, wahoo, king mackerel, cobia, yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna and spearfish.
The tournament features both a weighted and catch-and-release division. With twelve releases, Seraphim of the Ocean Reef Club was the tournament’s 2019 champion. Anglers on board took home $405,000. They also received custom-designed Jimmy Johnson championship rings.
Fort Lauderdale’s Chop It Up/Blue Moon Fishing Company were the weighted division champions. They won $91,000 after catching an 18.1-pound kingfish and two wahoos that weighed in at 44.3 and 40.5 pounds.
The second through fifth place teams also received cash prizes. Checks and awards were distributed at Johnson’s Big Chill restaurant in Key Largo. The 2018 tournament champion Sandman was inducted into Johnson’s Ring of Honor.
Johnson also hosted a celebrity pro-am. From Michael Jordan to Kid Rock, celebrities and athletes from different leagues participated to raise money for the charity of their choice. Charles Johnson, former Marlins catcher, and Chris Osceola of the Seminole Tribe of Florida won the celebrity pro-am in support of the University of Miami athletics department.
Vince Wilfork, former Patriots defensive tackle and Miami Hurricane, was named top celebrity angler. Donations were also made to the Tranquil Shores Foundation and Fishing for Muscular Dystrophy. The tournament will take place again next year.
Asked by Marlin magazine when he got into offshore fishing, Johnson explained, “I had been on a few charters, but I didn’t really start fishing a lot until I moved to the Keys about twenty years ago — and now it’s all I want to do. I’ve caught five blue marlin fishing alone on my boat.”
In regard to environmental impact, a paper published in last year’s issue of Fisheries Research finds that a pilot program giving recreational fishing businesses the flexibility to take customers fishing when they want to in exchange for carefully tracking what they catch was a win-win for the environment and the economy.
The results of a pilot program show that this added flexibility and accountability enables more fishing trips over a year-round fishing season, higher earnings for businesses, better data collection, adherence to science-based catch limits, and improved conservation of fish populations.