Sarasota, Florida — Once again, the NBOA Gulf Coast Open has proved to be an exciting event for anglers and spectators. The 5th Annual Gulf Coast Open was held on Saturday, April 25, and headquartered at the Ramada Sarasota Waterfront Hotel. This year an impressive 54 boats participated with 33 of them being SKA. The crowd gathered at the The Bearded Clam Waterfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar to watch the weigh-in and get in on the excitement.
The enthusiasm of the winning team spread through the crowd as Captain Arik Bergerman and team anglers danced upon the deck of the Under Armour. Hugs and smiles were abundant as they celebrated their winning king weighing in at 46.99. This team moved up significantly from last year’s third place win, which was secured with a weight of 38.13.
Utilizing their super-fast Mercury engines, they managed to be the first ones on the spot about 160 miles south, which they had fished day one of the Pro. They knew the fish were there and already had two fish in their box before other boats began arriving. They also arrived early enough to catch fresh blue runners before setting the downrigger at about 65 feet, which provided the perfect recipe for Captain Arik to bring his team to victory.
This crew of anglers wanted to give a shout out of thanks to Under Armour, Mercury Marine, First Choice Marine, Yellowfin, Myco Trailers, Shimano, Simrad, Oakley Sunglasses, SignZoo, Ocean Tamer, Yeti Coolers, Bluewater Chairs, Dogfish Tackle, Ideal Supply and Cuda. Whew, these guys have quite the list of corporate partners.
Palace Saloon with Captain Spencer Ross was right on the tail of the first place winner with a weigh-in of 46.48 taking second place in Open Class. Jeff Crabtree fought hard to pull in this impressive kingfish with Travis Cliett at his side with the gaff. This team also used blue runners but some porpoises created some havoc on the scene prompting the kingfish to stay under the boat and to go deep. Captain Spencer Ross has been fishing with SKA for 10 years and this is his first year on the Pro Tour. This team would like to thank Amelia Underwriters.
Following up with third place was Michael Jacquin on Lil Devil.Com with a 45.56, Patrick Hession on Last Call with a 44.83 taking fourth and finally the fifth place spot went to Marcus Kennedy on Kwazar with a 43.33.
In addition, Craig Brunstein on Oceanic Gear took first place in Small Boat Class with a 26.71. His 25 Mako with a Mercury engine turned out to be the winning combination for him. Vernon Bonnell brought in a hefty 40.06, bringing him first place in Single Engine Class. His winning kingfish was caught out by Egmont Channel. Rough waters prevented him from going offshore and he knew some serious kingfish could be found in this area.
Rounding out the day was the Top Lady Angler, Ashley Tedder of Team Zebra. Way to go Ashley; reeling in a striking 41.47 king. Horizon Haze provided the winning junior angler duo of Connor and Dylan Weldon bringing back a 25.32 and also winning the $500 Jr. Angler Scholarship Award for Connor. However, the heartwarming moment of the day came when junior angler Christopher Sprague placed in the event and upon receiving his $100 cash award, immediately turned it over to the Make-A-Wish foundation.
This is the fifth year that the Gulf Coast Open has partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Northern Florida and has always succeeded in making at least one wish come through for a terminally ill child. It is evident that the SKA has succeeded in creating family events that focus on having a positive impact on the community. This event proved special by not only making the dreams come true of some skilled anglers, but also the dream of a child waiting for their special wish to be granted. Way to go, SKA.