Spanish Fly Shark Tournament

Shark Tournament

As we approach the 12-year mark since we lost the legendary Jose, we’re finally gearing up for our first tournament. Now, folks have been asking why we haven’t jumped into the tournament scene sooner and why a shark tournament, of all things.

To address the first question, let me tell you, organizing a tournament isn’t like casting a line – it takes a load of effort. The Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation didn’t have the crew or the moolah to pull it off earlier. Plus, Jose wasn’t exactly a tournament fanatic. He used to say, “It sucks the fun out of fishing.” So, I wasn’t about to throw together a half-baked tournament just for the sake of it.  Everything we do at JWF ties back to Jose in some fishy way. There’s always a tale that involves him, steering our projects and events. While Jose did dabble in tournaments early on, he eventually hung up his tournament hat because, well, you heard it – “It sucks the fun out of fishing.”

There was this one tournament, though, that had Jose written all over it. It was a TV spectacle called The Madfin – a shark fishing fiesta conceptualized and produced by the man himself. Anglers from Spanish Fly, the Keys as the battleground, top notch videography from above and below,  and extra points for removing hooks for a safe shark release.

Now, we at JWF aren’t playing referee in the fishing rulebook, but one thing’s clear: the tax man’s knocking on the ocean door more frequently than ever.  Sharks are the talk of the town lately, especially along the USA coast. So, I delved into the stock assessment research on Florida sharks, and let me tell you, it’s like finding a needle in a tackle box. Decades-old info on a handful of shark species – that’s all I reeled in.

With tensions rising between anglers and sharks, I thought, “Why not a catch-and-release shark tournament?” A way to gather data and tackle the information gap on shark populations in Florida waters. Let’s put some pressure on them. You know how in some tournaments, sharks snatch your catch right off the line? Well, what’s going to munch on a shark, aside from another shark? Specifically, a bull shark.

I tossed around the idea of tagging and collaborating with research groups, but that’s not in the cards this year. Jose always went all in, and this foundation follows suit. With our first year biting at the bait, I didn’t want to overload our team.

So, for now, let’s make shark fishing fun, gather some data, and reel in some cash to make fishing dreams come true.

Mark your calendars for April 5-7, ’cause we’re hosting the First Annual Spanish Fly Shark Tournament. The only tournament in the Keys with inshore and offshore divisions, and the only one where inshore guides can reel in cash prizes in the Calcutta!  Bull sharks only, and its simply a numbers game.  Most bull sharks caught in each division wins!

Anglers will be required to submit their catches using the fishing chaos app, and not to worry a full tutorial on how to do that will be up soon, and it will be shown at the Captains Meeting.  All Captains or Boat Owners are required to have their HMS Permit, with their shark endorsement.  https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/

Visit https://keywestsharktournament.com/  to save a couple bucks and pre-register today!

Let’s make waves!

Tournament Event Schedule

Friday, April 5th, 2024 at 5pm: Registration, Appetizers, Cash Bar
Key West Yacht Club Gazebo
2315 N Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040

Friday, April 5th, 2024 at 7pm: Mandatory Captains Meeting
Key West Yacht Club Gazebo
2315 N Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040

Saturday April 6 and Sunday 7th 2024: Fishing
Lines in 8am. Lines Out 4pm Team results are to be uploaded (with-in cell range) to Fishing Chaos no later than 6:30pm to qualify.

Sunday April 7th, 2024 at 7pm: Awards Dinner
Key West Yacht Club Dining Room
2315 N Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040

Official Rules & Information

Entry Fee
Pre-registration available for $475 until March 29, 2024 online ONLY

Registration
April 5 on site $500 Cash, Checks, or Online. Checks made payable to Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation

No entries will be accepted after the conclusion of the mandatory Captain’s Meeting Friday, April 5 at 7pm

Dinner Fees
Additional social passes for Award Ceremony and Dinner can be purchased

HMS Permit
All competing boat owners/operators are required to possess a valid HMS Permit, with Shark Endorsement. This permit covers all team members aboard each vessel. HMS Permits with Shark Endorsement must be submitted at the mandatory captains meeting in-order to compete.
Required HMS Permit, with Shark Endorsement can be obtained at hmspermits.noaa.gov. The process takes approximately 45min, and costs $26.

Fishing License
All participation anglers must possess a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License, where required.

Teams
Teams may include a max of 4 anglers excluding the captain. Captains are not required to be USCG qualified. Captains are permitted to fish.

Only competing team members aboard each vessel are permitted to fish.

Eligible Anglers
No changes or substitutions are permitted except for the captain if he is not fishing. Members of the Tournament Rules Committee are not eligible to compete.

Fishing Chaos
For registration, scoring, and check-in purposes, competing teams are required to use the Fishing Chaos application via at least one smartphone per team. There will be a tutorial available online and at the Captain’s Meeting.

Multiple anglers can log their catch on their phones if they have a Fishing Chaos account and must be linked to their team. This will also be covered in the tutorial.

Divisions
The Spanish Fly Shark Tournament will consist of an inshore division (25 teams), and an offshore division (25 teams). Same rules apply to both divisions. Teams may NOT compete in both.

Eligible Fish
Bull sharks are the only species of fish eligible for scoring.

Once the shark takes the bait and the reel is engaged only one angler can touch the rod and reel and catch the fish for them to score.

Fishing Regulations
All anglers/captains must comply with state and federal boating and fishing regulations with appropriate licenses and necessary documentation.

Chumming
No chumming/fishing before 8am (Lines in). No Tarpon, Permit, or Snapper/Grouper are to be used as chum, bait, or attractant. This means catching tarpon, permit, or snapper/grouper to attract sharks is not allowable. Honor system expected. Complaints/proof of such act will result in disqualification. All other forms of legal chumming and live/dead baiting is permitted.

Tackle/Gear
Rod and reel only, electric reels are not permitted. Only in-line, non-stainless circle hooks are permitted. Only ONE hook can be used per rig. Any size leader configuration is allowable. There are no restrictions for line tests.

Best Practices
It is suggested that there are photos taken on more than one phone, and more than one angler has a Fishing Chaos account linked to the tournament. We’ve all lost phones to the ocean.

It is suggested that a brief video of the hook up, and release are documented in the event there is a protest of any kind to be used as evidence.

Release
Anglers are encouraged to “quick release”, with boat at idle speed. NO handling of the shark is permitted, only the leader may be touched prior to release. Wire leader should be cut close to the hook as possible. The shark’s gills must remain wet at all times.

Boundaries
Fishing boundaries are to include all waters surrounding the Florida Keys, excluding designated swim areas. Captains are expected to stay well clear of any dive boats or known areas where people swim and assume all liability for their decisions.

Weather
There is no weather committee. Fishing is up to the decision of the captains who assume all liability for their decisions.

Disqualification
Any team that purposely kills a shark by any method will be disqualified.

Protest
Any protest concerning the conduct of the angler or team with a rules violation must be filed in writing with the Tournament Committee the day of the alleged violation, no later than 6pm.A refundable fee of $150 is required with proof of said violation.

Scoring & Check-in
Whichever team catches the most Bull Sharks is eligible to place.1st, 2nd, and 3rd place will be awarded. Scoring is based off the successful catch and release of Bull Sharks ONLY. Each qualifying catch photo uploaded to Fishing Chaos will count as 100 points.

Catch
A qualifying catch counts ONLY with photo evidence. Photo must include entire shark boat side, with leader in hand, and supplied key identifier. Photo MUST then be uploaded to Fishing Chaos immediately after release to qualify.

There are no shark size limitations.Sharks hooked before 4pm and caught afterward count, ONLY with timestamped photo/video evidence prior to lines-out, 4pm. Team results are to be uploaded (with-in cell range) to Fishing Chaos no later than 6:30pm to qualify.

Picture
Each picture taken will be individually approved by Tournament Committee. Because Fishing Chaos has a LIVE LEADERBOARD available for anyone to view, we must ensure that no inappropriate photos are published, and that the picture taken is identifiable as a bull shark.Tournament Committee can approve or deny any submission for any reason.

Key Identifier
A key identifier will be messaged to you…or write the key identifier word on any teammates hand or piece of paper. The key identifier must be pictured in the photo of the shark to be uploaded to Fishing Chaos. Key Identifier will change each fishing day. You will be sent a message via text, and through the Fishing Chaos App the day of with what the Key Identifier is for that day.

Tie
In the event of a tie, the last shark caught first wins. This timing will be based off when the qualifying photo is uploaded to Fishing Chaos.

Check-In
In-person check-in during fishing days is NOT required. Instead, teams must check in via Fishing Chaos promptly after lines-in. Teams can depart from any location within stated fishing boundaries in the morning of each fishing day and can be on their “spot” before lines-in.

Honor system expected.

Polygraph
Winning teams will be subject to a polygraph test. Keep in mind, at least one team member must remain alcohol-free/sober to take this test.

Calcutta
Teams are encouraged to participate in a separate cash Calcutta as a competitive benefactor. Calcutta payout will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams. First place receives 45%, second place receives 25%, and third place 15%. The remaining 15% will benefit the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation.

The Calcutta buy-in is separate from the $500 registration fee. The Calcutta cost per team will be voted on by those willing to compete at the mandatory captain’s meeting.

W9 Forms will be supplied to submit to the IRS.

Both inshore and offshore divisions will have separate Calcutta’s. Only competing teams that buy-in are eligible for pay-out. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pay-outs will be based off score.