They can be big, they can be bad, and if you don’t keep your wits about you, things can go sideways in a hurry — but they can be a ton of fun! The results of the 2018 Cuda Bowl Tournament in Key West are in, and it appears that a good time was had by all.
The Florida-based salt water flats fishing challenge brought anglers from all over the country to compete in catching and releasing Atlantic Barracuda, with both Fly and Spin fishing divisions represented. This year’s overall winner was a Fly angler who traveled from the neighboring state of Georgia to participate.
Barracuda are one of the larger and most plentiful inshore game fish, inhabiting reefs and flats as an apex predator. While they eat almost anything they can get their mouths around, they subsist primarily on Needlefish, a similarly proportioned shallow water fish. Known by anglers for their amazing speed and acrobatic leaps when hooked, Barracuda also wield a mouthful of razor sharp teeth that not only necessitate the use of steel leaders to keep them from biting off the fly, but also require extreme care in handling, with unhooking for release generally being done with long nosed pliers and Boga grips.
As reported by the Florida Keys News, “Scott Christian of Alpharetta, Georgia, released 246.75 inches of barracuda to win the fly division of the 2018 Cuda Bowl Tournament that ended Feb. 3 in the Lower Florida Keys. Guided by Captain John Benvenuto of Key West, he earned the title of divisional grand champion.”
“Christian’s catches included the fly division’s largest individual barracuda, measuring 48.75 inches. Tournament organizers said the fish was the event’s largest ever caught on fly. Christian also took top honors for the most barracuda releases on fly.”
Christian’s largest fish of 48.75” was only two inches off the mark for the largest overall fish taken in the tournament, a 50.75” inch Cuda taken on spinning gear. The tournament’s Facebook page posted photos of competing anglers and their catches, including winners in the women’s and junior divisions. The flats challenge drew 46 boats and 75 registered anglers who released a total of 431 barracuda over two fishing days.
The 2018 Cuda Bowl proved once again that salt water fly anglers can take on just about any species, including one the spookiest fish in the sea. Just watch where you stick your fingers!