Team Tuppens Dominates SKA National Championship
Emotions ran high last weekend for members of Team Tuppens. There were highs, and there were lows; but at the end of the weekend, it was all smiles and celebration with family and friends.
Team Tuppens kicked off SKA National Championship week with the Mercury Pre-Game Bash for Cash on Wednesday. This event gave teams in the field a chance to see what was biting and where. It was a great start to the week and a solid day for Team Tuppens. They ended up finishing in 16th place out of nearly 100 boats by catching a 27.20-pound king mackerel.
The following day, it was time for them to retie their rigs and mentally prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.
On Friday, November 11, over 100 teams in the Open Class set out for day one of the Southern Kingfish Association National Championship, hosted in Fort Pierce, Florida. Captain Steve Sprague of Team Tuppens used his Garmin electronics with SiriusXM® Marine weather to help him make a last-minute change to his game plan. “This time of year, the big kingfish should be north of Fort Pierce off Cape Canaveral, so our original plan was to head there,” said Sprague. “I saw on my Garmin chartplotter that cold water had moved in all the way down south near Jupiter, so we decided to head down there until the water temperature came up a little. That’s when we caught that big 62.33-pound kingfish.”
It was quite the adrenaline rush for the entire team when they hooked into that king, which held on to be the largest fish of the tournament. “That big kingfish ate a live blue runner that we had out. Angler Ryan Rowe was on the reel and the fight ensued. The fish came to the boat very quickly and we could see exactly why! There was a big shark after him, and we knew that if the shark took one bite, the fish wouldn’t count. Luckily, the king ran to the other side of the boat and Billy Brodbeck somehow managed to gaff the fish before the shark ate him. We were all screaming with excitement!”
All season long, Capt. Sprague has relied heavily on his Garmin marine electronics. “When using our two GPSMAP 7616xsv units and Panoptix PS60 transducer, we are able to locate bait and bottom structure with precision and stay on top of our target because Panoptix is live sonar. Another big thing is the Garmin GXM 52, which allows us to receive SiriusXM Marine weather and other important data. For us, being able to see the sea surface temperature is extremely important. Without that, I wouldn’t have known to make the decision to head south that ended up helping us win the SKA National Championship.”
Heading into day two, Team Tuppens had a solid lead, but they couldn’t let off the gas. “On the second day, we knew we would need at least a 15-pound kingfish to have any hopes of staying at the top of the leaderboard,” said Sprague. “We were seven hours into the day and hadn’t had a bite. All of us were going through moments of depression and disbelief that we were so close and probably not going to win. We decided to pick up and go even further south. By this time, we were more than 50 miles south of Fort Pierce. No sooner than we got our baits in the water, the reel started screaming! We knew it was a good one, but the challenge is always getting it in the boat so we don’t get sharked. Jason Phillips was on the reel and Billy on the gaff. I ran the boat right on top of the fish and Billy reached out with the gaff and a 37-pound king hit the deck! At this moment, we knew we had won the tournament.
“This was the most exciting week of fishing we’ve ever had. We were competing against some of the best fishermen in the country and for us to come in first is an incredible feeling. The stars lined up just right for our team last week!”
Team Tuppens absolutely dominated the awards. Sprague’s 11-year-old son, Christopher, won first place Junior Angler and James Gilchrist took home top honors in the Senior Angler division. On top of that, they won additional cash and prizes for catching the largest fish on day one, largest fish of the tournament, aggregate overall and the high roller Calcutta. They also took home a shiny new 239 Sea Pro with a 300 HP Mercury outboard and Loadmaster trailer, Garmin quatix 3 smartwatch, custom Ocean Tamer bean bag and $46,615 cash. Team Tuppens also received naming rights to an artificial reef that was recently sunk along the Treasure Coast of Florida and will be home to nearly 100 species of fish. Overall, they hauled in over $140,000 in cash and prizes. Not too bad for a few days of fishing!
Garmin pro teams Beeracuda and Reel Anarchy also competed in the Open Class and finished 16th and 26th, respectively.
Join us in congratulating Team Tuppens on a hard-fought and well-deserved win in the 2016 SKA National Championship.
Check us out on social media @GarminMarine on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the latest news from our pros, sneak peeks at the newest products, and all things coastal fishing, boating and sailing.
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