About The Masters Angling Tournament

The Masters Angling Tournament is a unique fishing tournament that pits anglers against anglers while embracing a historic past dating back to 1963. It was John Rybovich’s dream of a contest that levels the playing field and crowns an angler for his ability to hook, catch and release an Atlantic Sailfish, not how well his boat and crew perform.

Our event rewards anglers for catching these fish quickly and penalizes them for pulling too hard and breaking lines. In short, The Masters Angling Tournament tests an angler’s skill, and only an angler’s skill… the true test of a champion.

Throughout the years the Masters has also forged lasting friendships among its anglers. Not only is the format of the tournament an ideal platform for a true test of skill, but the social side of the Masters is equally as pleasant. A tournament that has been in play for so many years has fine-tuned the entire experience. Good fishing, the best boats, a great venue, and good friends make for a very fun and competitive week. Fish a different boat every day, fish with a different partner every day, use tournament supplied 20 lb. line, leader, and hooks, and then fish with a dead boat to have the best time you have ever had catching Atlantic Sailfish.

Author Ernest Hemingway signs the original copy of his novel which made up the first Old Man and the Sea Award. John Rybovich Jr., right, traveled to Cuba for the trophy.
Author Ernest Hemingway signs the original copy of his novel which made up the first Old Man and the Sea Award. John Rybovich Jr., right, traveled to Cuba for the trophy.

What Is The Masters?

Description Of The Competition

From the beginning, one of the most important aspects of The Masters has included the camaraderie of good friends, who are among the very best in sport fishing, participating in social events, and competitions.

With rules designed to test an individual angler’s skill, The Master’s anglers earn points for releasing sailfish based on the time to release and for doing so using their own skill, with no help from the boat. Fish released quickly to earn more points. A fish released in 30 seconds or less (yes, it does happen) is worth 100 points, while one released in 9 ½ to 10 minutes is only worth 5 points. After 10 minutes, the angler receives no points for the release.

Once a fish is hooked, the boat must not be moved in a manner to help the angler gain line to release the fish. The boat must essentially be kept in neutral, or dead boat conditions, with the captain only allowed to turn the boat to keep the angler in the correct position to fight the fish.

Add to these challenging conditions, the fact that an angler can lose points when a line is broken and competition is created where time is critical but pushing too hard for a quick release can decrease your score.


Masters anglers are invited to participate by existing members of the organization and must be approved by the Board of Directors. We are continually seeking interest from those with good angling skills and experience, a love for salt-water sport fishing, and an interest in being a part of The Masters community.


The Masters was founded in 1963 by John Rybovich and a group of his friends who were seeking a new way of testing an individual’s angling skills. An early association with John’s friend Ernest Hemmingway led to the selection of the Master’s trophy awarded to each year’s winner. This trophy is a copy of “The Old Man and the Sea” accompanied by a beautiful bronze casting.

Initially, the tournament was fished in the Palm Beach area and hosted by the Sailfish Club of Florida, where Rybovich was a member. In 1992 the first event was held in Cancun, Mexico, and Isla Mujeres where it was fished through 2013. In 2014, the tournament will again be held in Palm Beach for the first time in 22 years.

Becoming A Masters Angler

To participate in the Masters, you must be sponsored by a Masters member and approved by the Board. We are always seeking experienced and accomplished anglers who love tournament competitions who will support the event through continued participation and have an interest in becoming a part of the community that is The Masters.

If you do not know a Masters member but are interested in participating, please contact Heather Maxwell at heather.maxwell@mastersanglingtournament.com and we will start the process for your consideration and sponsorship.

How Do We Test The Anglers Skill?

More points for a fast release

Anglers are given points based on the time it takes them to release the fish, with faster times producing more points and 10 minutes being the limit for receiving any points on a fish.

Lose points if you break a line

Break a line while baiting or fighting a fish and points are deducted from your score. The number of points deducted is based on the time elapsed up to the line break and equals one-half the points that would have been awarded had the fish been released at the same time.

Fight the fish from a dead boat

The angler must fight and release the fish without backing down or pursuing the fish with the boat.

Fish on a different boat each day

All anglers fish from different boats with different crews each day.

Enter our tournament

Welcome to the Masters! We are always looking for good anglers who would like to experience this unique format. Anglers who not only appreciate the past but also appreciate our present.

Send us an inquiry and we will get you an application. Our membership committee will give you a call to discuss what this tournament is all about and determine if you would like to join. We look forward to hearing from you.

contact our crew

International Masters Angling Tournament
Heather Maxwell, Tournament Director

P.O. Box 587
Black Creek, NC 27813