Light southeast winds and calm seas were a welcomed sight for the 220 boats entered in this year’s Palm Beach County KDW Classic headquartered out of the newly renovated Riviera Beach Marina and Marina Village on June 4th. The event, hosted by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club (WPBFC) and the City of Riviera Beach, is among the largest one-day saltwater tournaments in the state. Despite the chamber of commerce weather, offshore fishing was very slow. Dirty water conditions plagued those trolling the outer reef early in the morning looking for a wahoo bite. To the surprise of many, no wahoo were caught during this year’s event. “You would think with a few hundred boats out there someone would catch a wahoo, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards this year. Even though it was slow, it sure looked like everyone was having a great time,” commented WPBFC Chairman and tournament weigh master Pete Schulz of Fishing Headquarters in Jupiter.
The tournament weigh station began buzzing with activity soon after fishing had concluded. Spectators packed the weigh station bleachers watching a parade of fish and proud anglers, many of them young kids, weigh in their catch. As is tradition in the KDW Classic, the boisterous crowd began guessing weights of the fish before they were put on the scale in an effort to win prizes. “Everyone enjoys this part of the event. You can see it in the faces of the kids who are bringing their catch to the scale. Those kids are proud as peacocks,” noted WPBFC board member Donn Colee who is charged with the sometimes stressful task of updating the KDW Classic leader board as fish are entered.
With steady southeast winds several days prior to the tournament, it was a given that there would be no shortage of dolphin catches. The heaviest dolphin this year was a hefty 30.7 pounder caught by angler Austin Rowe aboard the boat Cuddabird. Lady angler Crystal Lucas fishing aboard Miss Mae landed the second heaviest dolphin of the tournament, a 23.9 pound mahi. The nice catch also earned Crystal bragging rights
as the Queen of the Classic.
Angler Rob Tonnis aboard the HMT Fishing Team was this year’s big winner in the KDW Classic. Tonnis landed a 33.6 pound kingfish that took top honors in the kingfish category, along with claim to the Ande Monofilament Big Fish Bonus for the heaviest fish of the tournament and the title King of the Classic. As if that wasn’t enough, Tonnis also took home the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Captain’s level member bonus award. In total, the smoker king netted a $5,000 payday for Tonnis. The second place kingfish overall and the second heaviest fish of the tournament was a 33 pound king landed by angler Freddie Joseph fishing aboard the Spiced Rum III. The great catch also earned the Spiced Rum team the New Port Cove marina bonus award.
The top Junior angler this year was Robert Furney who claimed the first place trophy with a 15.5 pound kingfish. He edged out Sawyer Bachman who was fishing aboard the Team Tuppen’s and landed a 15.1 dolphin. The third place junior angler was Logan Clevenger fishing aboard the Sword-A-Broke with a 14 pound kingfish. Ironically, Logan earned the third place Junior award in last year’s KDW Classic. A great story accompanied the catch made by Conan Craig the eighth place junior angler. After landing a dolphin, the boat Conan was fishing on, Peeling 20’s, broke down off Jupiter. KDW Classic rules do not allow fish or anglers to be transferred to other boats, so in an effort to make it to the weigh station on time, they decided to get towed in. As it turns out the long tow back to Palm Beach Inlet paid off because Conan’s 6.5 pound dolphin was good enough to earn the eighth place award. The weigh station crowd cheered Conan’s dedication as the Peeling 20’s was towed back out of the marina harbor.
Each year the KDW Classic collects gender, weight and length data on dolphin caught in the tournament. The data is sent to the Dolphinfish Research Program based in Charleston, South Carolina. Marine scientists are using the data for ongoing studies related to age and growth, as well as distribution of the species. Approximately 40 dolphin
were sampled this year. Additionally, FWC Biologists were on hand to sample any cobia that were caught to collect data on the genetics of that popular game fish.
Drawing the KDW Classic $2,000 ‘Hit the Jackpot’ award winner is always one of the highlights of the tournament awards party. Boat numbers are randomly drawn at the party to determine the winner; the only catch is that the winner must be present with their boat number in hand. This year’s winner was Mike Bishop, whose boat number 79 was drawn only after a previously drawn number went unclaimed.
The Palm Beach County KDW Classic raises money for marine conservation and youth education initiatives conducted by the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation (the charitable affiliate of the 81 year old West Palm Beach Fishing Club). Community outreach programs like the annual Kids Fishing Days and the Rods & Reels for Kids program, marine habitat initiatives in the Lake Worth Lagoon, offshore artificial reef projects, marine research support and scholarship awards at the City of Riviera Beach and local universities benefit from this event. “We are so very grateful to have an incredible army of dedicated volunteers and widespread sponsorship support of this event. We simply could not do it without them,” said Pete Schulz. Visit KDWClassic.com to view photos and complete results from this year’s tournament.