The 27th annual Championship on the Chesapeake, the country’s largest rockfish tournament, concluded on May 4th with 580 boats and approximately 4,000 anglers participating in this year’s event. The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association (MSSA), the largest sport fishing group in the state hosted this event.
For three days, starting on April 30, anglers from all over the East Coast put their skills to the test as they experienced world class fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and competed for some significant cash prizes and the title of Champion.
This year’s champion in the amateur division is Kevin Howell of Edgewater, Maryland. Howell weighed in a 52.55 pound rockfish at the Rod N’ Reel docks in Chesapeake Beach just after noon on Friday. Howell said he caught it just south of the CR buoy in 55 feet of water using a 9 inch white shad off his planer board. Howell’s catch secured him first place in the overall tournament and first in three of the additional skill levels bringing his total earnings to $21,750.
Second place went to Steve Smith of Hanover, PA who weighed in a 41.9 pound fish at Chesapeake Beach. Smith said he caught his fish near buoy 78 using a tandem rig with 9 inch shad. Smith is the big money winner this year as he entered all of the additional skill levels and will be taking home $63,022.
Third went to Jeff Schmitt of Baltimore as he weighed in a 40.05 pound rockfish at Calvert Marina in Solomons, Maryland on Friday, the first day of the tournament. Because Schmitt entered additional skill levels he will be walking away with over $12,000.
Additionally James Lutz also of Baltimore will be taking home a considerable amount of money for his 39 pound fish. Lutz entered in several of the skill levels and for that he will cash in for $21,750.
Dave Smith, Executive Director of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association (MSSA) said they have increased the prizes in the Kid’s division as well as the Catch and Release division. The top fifteen kids will receive fishing gear and merchandise as well as certificates congratulating them on their catch.
“If we don’t get our youth involved in fishing and the outdoors our sport will be in serious trouble and fishing tournaments provide that opportunity to get kids involved”, Smith said.
New to this year’s tournament was the use of text messaging as a way to update tournament anglers on who is winning and what they need to bring in to have a chance. This new feature is something new to the sport and another example of responsible fishing tournament management.
“Texting is a great opportunity to communicate with our tournament anglers and let them know what they need to have a chance at winning”, Smith said.
The Catch and Release division was popular this year as anglers turned in their catch logs for a chance at some new fishing gear. The winner Sam Fisher Jr, who has won this portion of the tournament before, will receive $800 in fishing gear and merchandise from local tackle shops. Second through fifth place will also receive fishing gear for their efforts.
Recreational fishing and tournaments in specific generate huge amounts of money for local economies here in Maryland. That was evident by the thousands of people in Chesapeake Beach and Solomons Island this weekend for the tournament not to mention the thousands that took to the water from all over Maryland to participate in this event. Having spoken with Solomons Pier owners Philip and Jeanie Stone, they couldn’t be happier and look forward to the next MSSA tournament that comes to town. Solomons Pier was the venue for one of the five Captains Meetings that were held prior to the tournament.
Professional and Charter Boat Division
This year’s Champion in the Professional and Charter Boat division went to our own Captain Ed O’Brien. Captain O’Brien runs a charter boat, Semper Fidelis III, out of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Captain O’Brien weighed in a 35 pound rockfish taking home nearly $10,000.
Second place went to Captain James Gray who brought in a 34.6 pound fish earning him over $10,000 as he entered several skill levels. Third place went to Captain White who entered a 32.7 pound rockfish. But this year’s big winner went to Captain Sweitzer who secured fifth place overall and placed in several of the skill levels. Fortunately he entered the $500 skill level which paid out $9,000. In total Captain Sweitzer took home $12,972.
All awards and cash will be given out at the awards ceremony on Thursday, May 13 at the Columbian Center in Severna Park starting at 7:00 PM. All tournament anglers are invited as there is still prizes to be given out as “last chance awards” and door prizes. The big winners will receive checks and the Champion will receive the coveted Championship on the Chesapeake trophy.
For more information and a complete list of tournament results please visit www.mssa.net.
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