A true fisherman is a master at the art of embellishment. The ability to tell a “whale of a story” is equally important to the craft as one’s skill at baiting, casting, and setting a hook. Whether it is round the campfire or at the water cooler, any fisherman worth their weight has a stockpile of inflated tales long enough to make even the most avid angler’s eyes glaze over.
More so than a flash newfangled rod, the latest tackle, or even a sparkly new boat, nothing makes a fisherman happier than a fresh top-of-the-line fishing story. Well, except for one thing: a trophy. Hoisting up a shiny plastic replica of a fish will make any grown adult feel like a child again, and any child feel like an absolute super hero. And so they invented the fishing tournament.
A fishing tournament is unique in that fishermen willfully trade in their right to artificially enhance the size of their catch in order to plop ‘er down on the scale and hope for the best. All in their quest for the trophy.
Throughout the year, Key West fishing tournaments offer anglers a selection of world class championships, and while fishing in local sub-tropical waters, tournament goers are sure to haul in fish so ridiculously big that they can leave their fib telling skills at home. Check out some of the great annual fishing tournaments in Key West. Browse by scrolling down or use the menu to jump to a particular month. Our captains will be more than happy to answer questions about any tourney that interests and will help you land your trophy!
Each winter, king mackerel, locally known as kingfish, migrate to the waters
surrounding Key West. Kingfish are known for their blistering speed and are
nearly as fast as their distant cousins, the wahoo. If you can tip the scales
with the heaviest mackerel, the top prize is $10,000.
Fish the flats for toothy creatures! Two days prior to football’s Super
Bowl, is Key West’s Cuda Bowl. Prizes and trophies are given to anglers
with the highest total inches of barracuda caught over both days of the tournament,
with each fisherman entering up to 3 per day towards their total catch. This
will be the 3rd annual running of the Cuda Bowl and they offer both light tackle
spin and fly divisions.
The title of tournament grand champion goes to the angler who catches the most
inches of permit. The tournament also recognizes the grand champion guide as
well as the first runner-up and guide. In addition, a prize is awarded to the
angler and guide who score the longest single permit. The tournament kicks off
with a reception and dinner at Key West Harbour Yacht Club, which also serves
as tournament headquarters.
The longest and largest fishing tournament in Key West kicks off in April and
runs through November. $5,000 in prizes await anglers during the kick-off weekend
gala. The kick-off is a separate event from the eight month open-to-the-public
tournament which targets fifteen different species, but all entries from the
kickoff are also eligible to win prizes in the general Key West Fishing Tournament.
Fishermen of all ages are welcome to enter as there are divisions for men, women,
juniors, and pee-wees. Come join in the fun for the 48th annual Key West Fishing
Tournament! Cash is awarded to individual contestants who hook the heaviest
kingfish, black fin tuna, dolphin, cobia, wahoo, mutton snapper, mackerel, mangrove
snapper and grunt, and for boat teams that score the most releases of permit,
marlin, sailfish, tarpon, bonefish, and barracuda..
2014 will mark the 2nd year of the Key West Sailfish Championship, which is
divided into two divisions, pro and non-pro. Entry for the pro division is $1800
per boat and allows up to 6 anglers. The top prize for the pros is a whopping
$50,000, with $15,000 and $10,000 for 2nd and 3rd. For the non-pros, entry is
$1200 (also for 6 anglers) and the prize breakdown is $15,000 for 1st, $7,000
for 2nd, and $5000 for 3rd.
Brought to you by SeaHunter boats, this massive tournament generally offers
a total prize purse of $100,000 in cash and prizes. Catch the largest dolphin
over 55 pounds and you could win a brand new $75,000 boat! Fishing is allowed
from Key Largo to Key West. Be sure to enter early as only the first 200 boats
are eligible for the over 55 pound dolphin mega-prize.
The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce hosts the 21st annual Big Pines and Lower
Keys Dolphin Tournament. Over $35,000 in cash and prizes await fishermen of
all ages. Entry fees are $150 for open and $50 for youth. Dolphin is the only
species eligible for cash awards, but brand new rods and reels are given away
to the angler who hauls in the heaviest wahoo and tuna. There is a special cash
prize of $20,000 for the largest dolphin over 50 pounds, but only the first
300 participants to enter are eligible to win this prize.
A charity tournament set up to earn money to award as college scholarships,
the Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby offers a grand prize of $5,000 to the
boat with the largest aggregate weight in dolphin over the two days of the derby.
Individual anglers are also invited to enter male, female, and junior divisions
to compete for trophies, prizes, and cash totaling $15,000.
Dedicated to the late Del Brown, the Del Brown Permit Tournament is devoted
to the sport of fly fishing for permit. Del invented the “Merkin”
fly, which simulates a crab, and is the only fisherman on record as catching
500 permits with a fly rod in the Florida Keys. Professional anglers and guides
are also welcome to compete in this charity challenge to fly-fish the flats.
Coinciding with the annual Hemingway Days celebration in Key West, is the Drambuie
Key West Marlin Tournament. Anglers vie for a $50,000 total purse, with a top
prize of $25,000. Each day teams can add one fun fish to their point total,
which adds an entertaining twist to this tournament. “Fun” fish
that qualify are tuna, wahoo, dolphin, or released sailfish.
Known as “The Trilogy”, Redbone runs a series of three catch and
release celebrity tournaments throughout the Florida Keys. The first, the Robert
James S.L.A.M. Celebrity Tournament is located in Key West, while the rest of
the series runs in Key Largo and Islamorada. Anglers target permit, bonefish,
and tarpon, but best of all the event raises money to help in the fight against