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Derby Déjà Vu for Soggy Comeback Victory

An Outdoor Happening: Day 2 rally leads Native Son to victory in annual sailfish tournament.

Derby Déjà Vu for Soggy Comeback Victory
Captain Art Sapp, second from right, and his Native Son fishing team clinched the 2024 Silver Sailfish Derby with 11 releases, mirroring their 2016 success.
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Since 2013, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of highs and lows tournament fishing with Capt. Art Sapp and the Native Son fishing team. From competing in blue marlin and tuna tournaments in The Bahamas to participating in local KDWs in Southeast Florida, we’ve weathered both successful and challenging fishing days.

Amid shattered dreams, ruptured spleens, oversized foam-board checks and tales that remain confined to Duval St., participation in the West Palm Beach Fishing Club’s Silver Sailfish Derby holds some of our most cherished memories.

The world’s oldest sailfish tournament kicks off each new year, and the anticipation leading up to the 2016 Derby wasn’t met with fantastic fishing. On Day 1, with foggy skies and 5- to 7-foot seas, our team only managed to release two sailfish out of the kites, while the leading boat posted seven releases. It wasn’t a giant lead, but Day 2 unfurled a challenge as the wind backed off considerably, rendering kite fishing impossible. Forced to slow troll and sight cast live baits with spinners, we climbed the ranks with release after release, finding ourselves in a heated tie for first place by mid-afternoon adding eight sailfish releases to our total.

With only 15 minutes left, Capt. Sapp spotted a tailing sailfish from the tower and motored us into position. Enter a threadfin herring, and the winning release was called in at 3:47 p.m., a mere 13 minutes before lines-out. Since that epic comeback, our crew has fished the Derby every year, securing third place in 2018 and achieving second-place finishes in both 2020 and 2021. The burning question lingered—would we clinch the top boat category once again?

Fast-forward to the most recent Derby in January 2024, where we found ourselves fishing under a constant drizzle on Day 1. Contemplating life’s choices aboard a center console with little cover from the elements, we admired our friends and peers on nearby sportfishers with mezzanine seating, Seakeepers, and many other enviable accoutrements. After a lackluster day of fishing for most of the 50-boat fleet, the top team, who was also the reigning champions, was leading with seven releases, while our Native Son team posted two releases and a soggy sense of déjà vu.

As the second day unfolded, we realized that closing the gap required a significant effort, but it was far from an impossible task. Time was ticking by, and our first fish of the day would not come until 11:24 am. However, that fish was quickly followed by two more before noon. The afternoon would consist of six more fish, bringing our daily total to nine sailfish releases, and two-day total of 11 fish.

In a striking parallel to our 2016 performance, it was yet another come-from-behind victory resonating with the enduring spirit of perseverance and camaraderie that characterizes our team’s remarkable journey in tournament fishing.


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  • If you have had an interesting, exciting or funny experience in the outdoors, tell us about it and send us a picture: It might qualify as “An Outdoor Happening.” If your story is chosen, you’ll receive a Florida Sportsman gift pack worth over $100. Email your story and one or two photos to editor@floridasportsman.com. Or send your story by mail to Outdoor Happening, Florida Sportsman, 3725 SE Ocean Blvd, Suite 202, Stuart, FL 34996.



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