(PASADENA, MD) May 4th, – The 26th Annual Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association (MSSA) 26th Annual Spring Tournament, Championship on the Chesapeake, ended on Sunday with 560 boats and nearly 3,000 anglers taking part in the fishing classic.
The three day tournament started on Friday at 6:00 AM and ended Sunday when all ten weigh stations shut down at 5:00PM. Hotels, marinas, and campgrounds filled up all over the region as anglers flocked to the water to try to cast their way to a portion of the estimated $200,000 in cash and prizes.
The radio waves were buzzing all weekend with talk of the heaviest fish and who would reel in the winning monster. For the first time, Anglers used their blackberries and portable internet devices to check the MSSA’s website to see what weight they had to beat, a sure sign that the sport, and tournament, is not only evolving but the competition is fierce.
“If we can use the internet and airwaves to broadcast the largest fish brought in, from a conservation stand point, this will help anglers decide to throw back a fish that is not in contention”, said Dave Smith, Associate Director of the MSSA.
Friday marked the first big fish and what would ultimately be dubbed the winner. Chuck Falter of Middle River, MD brought a 47.2 pound rockfish into the Herrington Harbor weigh station. Falter caught this magnificent fish just west of Sharps Island in 55 feet of water using chartreuse tandem parachutes.
“There is skill involved but luck plays a big role. Being at the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it”, said Rich Novotny, Executive Director of the MSSA.
For the next two days Falter anxiously fished for an even larger rockfish, meanwhile hoping his 47-pounder would hold up. Saturday and Sunday came and went with several fish in the 40-pound area, but nothing close to Falter’s 47. On Sunday the top ten took a dramatic hit as four fish weighing in the mid-forties came to the weigh stations. But, once again, Falter’s fish held on. Billy James of Arlington, Virginia reeled in a 45.3 pound rockfish to secure second place and 1st place in all of the TWT’s, giving him a grand total of $67,570. James hooked this beauty near buoy 78 at 10:30 AM. James said he was using a white parachute and shad with a purple head. James had to overcome some adversity earlier in the week when his boat blew a motor. A friend was kind enough to lend James his 19-foot Triumph boat for the tournament.
“Once again we see the second place fish winning all of the TWT’s. You have to enter all of the TWT’s or you will miss out on some big money”, said Smith of the MSSA.
John T. Dove of Annandale, Virginia reeled in a 45 pound rockfish at 11:30 A.M. Friday morning, placing him third in the overall tournament and second in the TWT’s. His winnings total $29,115. Dove caught this beast on a white parachute just south of Cedar Point.
Raymond Cleaveland of Waldorf came in fourth place in the main tournament and third place in the TWT’s with his 44.6 pound rockfish. Cleaveland will be walking away with $9,521.
Stephen Smith of Hanover, Pennsylvania walked away with $15,101 for weighing in a 42.65 pound rockfish. Smith was fifth overall and placed in all of the TWT’s.
In the Charter Boat and Professional Division, Captain Robert Wetherald weighed in a 46.35 pound rockfish securing him first place overall and first place in all of the TWT’s. Wetherald will be receiving $10,200 for his efforts out on the Bay. Second place went to Captain Charlie Sisson on Back Draft out of Chesapeake Beach, MD. Sisson brought in a 42.55 pound rockfish on Friday worth $6,220. Finally, third place went to Captain Rick Huckleby who weighed in a 41.15 pound rockfish winning him $4,480.
The MSSA also hands out daily prizes, weigh station prizes, boat prizes, and catch and release prizes. This year’s Catch and Release winner is Lee Tippett, releasing 55 rockfish over this three day tournament. Cobra Marine sponsors this division and will be awarding Tippett with brand new radio electronics for his boat.
The MSSA has been hosting this tournament for over a quarter century now and every year it grows as more anglers compete for the big money. All major winners of the tournament will be given polygraph tests before they receive their prizes to maintain the integrity of the tournament.
The MSSA uses a small percentage of the fees to fund their lobbying efforts in Annapolis and Washington DC protecting the rights and traditions of recreational and sport fishermen. The MSSA is the voice of the Maryland Angler and has nearly 7,000 members and 13 chapters statewide. MSSA is proud of the fact they represent the voice of Maryland anglers and that no out-of-state organization dictates their agenda.