Mercury-powered teams dominate Pompano Beach Saltwater Slam

POMPANO BEACH, Florida – In the realm of Florida-based spring/summer saltwater tournaments, the 2015 Mercury/SeaVee Saltwater Slam demands a different mentality than other competitive trails. With a target species list that includes kingfish, tuna, dolphin, wahoo and cobia, diversity and strategy are the names of the game.

When Capt. Kenny Dias of team Get R Wet/Reel Addiction motored out of Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach, cranked up the quad 300hp Mercury Verado outboards and pointed the team's 39-foot SeaVee north toward Boynton Inlet during the recent Pompano Beach Saltwater Slam (June 11-14), he and his six-man crew were operating on a clear strategy that was slightly different than those of the other 91 teams: to locate clean, blue water and fish-friendly offshore current, and hopefully find the right combination of species to keep them in the hunt to qualify for the 2015 Saltwater Showdown.

That strategy worked like a charm as team Get R Wet/Reel Addition returned to Pompano Beach with two kingfish, four dolphin fish and two blackfin tuna that weighed in at 152.7 combined pounds, enough to earn them the Saltwater Slam trophy, a $30,988 payday, and a virtual guaranteed shot at the 2015 Showdown Crown, the penultimate reward for multi-species tournament anglers in South Florida.

"The three events in this series – the Saltwater Shootout, Slam and Showdown – demand a different mentality than a sailfish or kingfish tournament, and the highly successful teams will employ a definite skill set that works best in this format," said Jamie Bunn of Bluewater Movement, the organizer of the Shootout/Slam/Showdown series. "They have their sights set on multiple species, not just one particular fish. They have to fish different techniques and depths. A successful team might fish shallow in the morning to concentrate on the kingfish bite on or inside the reef, and then push out deeper for dolphin, tuna or wahoo."

Standard tournament strategy in multispecies events is to focus first on a four-fish kingfish limit to establish a solid base weight, and then build on that foundation with tuna, dolphin or wahoo. The most successful teams will run multiple kites with live pilchards, sardines or threadfin herring to target shallow-feeding kingfish, and then flatline or deep-drift baits to target other species in the 80- to 200-foot range. As it turned out, though, Capt. Dias and his team found the most attractive-looking water deep off of Boynton Inlet and started their first live-bait drift in more than 300 feet of water.

It paid off as they landed two kingfish in 270 feet, and later tied into the difference-maker of the tournament, a 38.4-pound blackfin.

"It's not uncommon for teams to focus hard on kingfish – you'll sometimes see a team catch 10 kingfish in a day to fill their four-fish limit – but for some reason the kingfish bite was a little off for this tournament," Bunn said. "It wasn't really unusual that the winning team headed straight up to Boynton because they'd won a tournament up there in May, but it also sort of played perfectly into the conditions for them to find those kingfish in deeper water. This time of year, as water temperatures rise in shallower water, it's not unusual for kingfish to move out in search of cooler, more comfortable water."

Team Get R Wet/Reel Addiction garnered the following awards: top team, heaviest dolphin fish, heaviest fish overall, and first place in the Big 3, Bluewater Bonanza and Ante Up jackpots.

Mercury dominance in the Slam, Crown points race
The second- and third-place teams in the Saltwater Slam were also powered by Mercury: Makin' Time (second with 133.8) runs triple 250hp Verado, Off The Wall (third with 89.09) runs quad OptiMax outboards. Heading into the final event in the series, Mercury-powered teams hold the top three spots in the chase for the Crown: Off The Wall (55 points), Blue Moon/Shameless (53) and Conched Out (52).

Heading for a (Saltwater) Showdown
The final leg of the series is scheduled for Aug. 6-9 with the Saltwater Showdown, which will award the series-long points leader the coveted Saltwater Crown. In addition, the "Win a SeaVee Boat Giveaway" will take place after the awards ceremony on Aug. 9, rewarding a 2015 29-foot SeaVee complete with twin 250hp Mercury Optimax engines (a $132,000 value) to a lucky winner.

"Those teams will be the best of the best," Bunn pointed out. "It's an invitation-only tournament with 75 boats: the top 30 from each of the first two events, plus five at-large spots drawn from the teams that fished both of those events. It's a close race, and a really cool competition to follow. It'll be interesting to see who wins it all."

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