January 26, 2024, Playa Herradura, Costa Rica – In 1963, John Rybovich, Jr. and his dock partners dreamed up a tournament where the rules pitted man against fish without the assistance of his team. Sixty-one years later, those original rules are honored by a confident group who have learned that fishing, and especially fishing the Masters, can be a most humbling experience. Come tight in the Masters, the boat comes out of gear and fight time is logged with a stopwatch – the top angler is the one who fights the fastest!
Anticipation was high for great fishing after the Los Suenos Triple Crown as anglers gathered for the reading of the rules and official angler draw on Tuesday, January 23. The Masters rules state that anglers cannot fish the same boat twice and they literally draw their three boats the old-fashioned way, right out of a bowl!
Masters angling tournament Day 1
Day One dawned early with breakfast and the Masters traditional smack talk before the anglers headed down the dock to their boats. The format puts two anglers on each boat who fish two rods and swap sides every hour. Just minutes after lines in the first release of 152 for the day was reported and the race was on. A steady pick kept the scorekeepers busy and anglers had one ear on the radio to gauge who was getting the bites. The fastest fight time of the day, 18 seconds flat earned freshman angler Tim Wills of Saint Michaels, Maryland 100 points, held throughout the next two days. Lach Cheatham of North Palm Beach released his 13th fish just moments before Lines Out and earned High Daily Angler with a combined score of 1015 points. The Viking 68, Pura Vida, took home top boat honors for the day with 23 fish.
Day 2: Past vs. Present
Heading into Day Two, past Masters winner, Carmine Galati, was a not-so-close second at 795 points and David Johnson of Lumberton, NJ was on his heels at 735. Fast fight times and some good luck were on everyone’s mind and out of 115 releases, including 1 blue marlin, it was Burt Moss of Lighthouse Point, Florida that made the move up the scoreboard. Get a bite, come tight was the name of the game and Moss explained that he only missed one fish on the day – with 12 releases he secured top angler day two and added 750 points to his score. Moss’s releases helped the46’ Viking, Lucky 7, score 18 fish and win High Boat Day Two.
Final Fish Day
The final fish day was just a bit historic for the Masters, Angler John Temple of Boca Raton released his 214th fish since his freshman year in 1985 and was honored at the awards banquet with the Masters Legends Award. Keith Beaty, from Palm Beach, added a black marlin release to his overall score and Angler X, (the tournament’s solution to an odd number of anglers) finished her first Masters with a very respectable 1190 points. But it was Aileen Gonzalez’s husband JC, aka Mr. Angler X, who stole the show with 12 fish and the Day Three High Angler honors at 810 points. Hailing from Land O Lakes, Florida, Gonzalez and freshman angler Stephan Pfiefer of Islamorada combined releases to push the Ohana to Daily High Boat honors.
With lines out called and the final fish played until 4:04 pm the leader board told a tale of exceptional scores on 402 tournament releases. All top ten anglers earned over 1000 points in the three days of fishing! Angler Trey Wills held onto the Pete Boinis Fastest Fish Award and pulled off the High Point Freshman Angler as well with 1295 points. Carmine Galati of Holmes Beach, FL earned Third Place honors with 1445 points and JC Gonzalez held onto Second Place Angler with 1665 points overall. Ohana, a Viking 68, took third place boat and Pura Vida held onto second place overall with 37 and 38 fish respectively. Top Boat honors went to the 64 foot Viking, Amarula Sun, captain Bob Watson and crew with 41 fish overall.
Winning the Most Fish Overall (on time) and scoring an amazing 1870 points angler Lach Cheatham was presented with the Old Man and the Sea Award for angling excellence and Top Angler honors. Cheatham will be added as a Leader Wire Club member alongside a list of names that reads like a who’s who of sportfishing history.
Photo Credits: Ronald Rojas