The 2022 Dream Boat Challenge culminated in a wild finish with fierce competition.
As most readers know, the Dream Boat Challenge is a unique multi-species, season-long, subscriber only point gathering competition that awards a top angler with an incredible prize. The Fisherman Magazine has given away a Steiger Craft away as a Grand Prize four times now and has hosted the Dream Boat Challenge for over a decade. The Dream Boat challenge is one of those special events that can’t be won based solely on luck, it takes a ton of dedication, skill and a willingness to switch gears many times throughout the season to ensure the diverse spread of species required to score enough points in our eight categories to snag the win.
The 2022 Dream Boat Challenge will be remembered for the fierce competition at the top of the leaderboard. With two former grand prize winners duking it out with a couple other hardcore anglers that hadn’t yet etched their names into the pantheon of Dream Boat Challenge elites. We were still receiving entries that made changes on the leaderboard right up to the final bell. When the dust settled we found ourselves looking at a unique finish. Former winner Garret Weir pulled some ninth inning heroics with a mammoth 17.85-pound blackfish right at the end of the tourney which put him in second place overall behind another former champion, Sam Dibner. One of the rules of the Dream Boat Challenge is that former winners of the grand prize cannot win it again, so the Steiger Craft 23 Miami powered by a Yamaha 200-horsepower outboard with Engel EN80 Cooler and Orion offshore first aid kit, would default to the next person on the leaderboard who had not previously taken home the grand prize. That person was Connecticut resident, Rob Carranzo.
The other winners would just drop down a spot, so Sam Dibner won the ‘Fishing Trip of a Lifetime’ he and up to three guests will be treated to a five day/four night stay at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, Costa Rica. The trip includes two full-day and one half-day fishing charters, along with world class accommodations in a tropical fishing paradise.
Garret Weir landed the third place prize, a Minn Kota Riptide Terrova Trolling Motor with iPilot Link GPS System, a Humminbird APEX16 MSI+ Chartplotter with MEGA Side Imaging+, Humminbird XP14 HW T fishfinder with Dual Spectrum CHIRP 2D sonar and the Humminbird Coastmaster-US Coastal chart software.
The fourth place winner, Bill DaCosta, took home the Sea Eagle PaddleSki 437ps, Swivel Seat Package, an inflatable catamaran boat, known as the world’s most versatile inflatable watercraft.
Strategy & Dedication
We caught up with grand prize winner Rob Carranzo just before our deadline for the January issue came and went. The first question I ask just about anyone who lands a big win in a big tournament is what their strategy was for winning. Carranzo told me the he decided to stake his Dream Boat efforts on a big spring weakfish. “I told myself, if I could get on the board early with a big weakfish, that I would give the Dream Boat my ‘all’ this year.” And on May 17, Rob was able to do just that when he entered a 7.83-pound weakfish, an entry that was good enough for the third largest weakfish landed all season.
Ironically, Carranzo told me that the weakfish was the most difficult target of the entire year, “the toughest fish that I put on the leaderboard was no doubt the weakfish, it was a whole new thing for me and it was the first fish i put on the board. But I fished just about every night in May leading up to the night I caught one that I felt was worth bringing to the scale.” Reading between the lines there, you can understand the level of dedication required to punch your ticket to the top. In fact, when I asked Rob to provide a piece of advice for anglers looking to win the Dream Boat in 2023 he offered two. “One tip I would give to the guys chasing the boat next year is just to put as much time in as you possibly can and never stop because you never know when you might be just one cast away from a top fish.
Also, almost every species can be caught in last couple months of the tournament so fish hard until the very end.” Sage advice from a guy that’s been there.
Favorites & Frustrations
All anglers have their favorite species to chase and Carranzo is certainly no different. When I asked him what his favorite target species was he didn’t hesitate to say, “It’s tough to choose just one favorite, but when I think about it, the answer is definitely blackfish. I’ve been togging for a long time, but as soon as I caught that first big ‘white-chin’, about 15 years ago, I was hooked.” But, just like any hardcore fisherman, Carranzo also enjoys a challenge, “I also really enjoyed hunting down that weakfish, I had never targeted them before and I really enjoyed the challenge of figuring them out.”
Every fishing season comes with its challenges and for this year’s Dream Boat champ, the fish that eluded him, in spite of many trips all over the region, was a doormat fluke. “I put a ton of time in fluking this season,” Rob told me, “I started in June and targeted them until October. I made countless trips to very good fluke destinations, I must have made a dozen trips to Block Island and a another dozen to Montauk, I even made one trip to Nantucket Shoals but I never got the bite that I was looking for.” You can read between the lines here too, just because you make the sacrifices to travel to the best water for the biggest of the species, there are no guarantees that you will actually catch the fish you are looking for. But the fun is in the trying!
To His Competitors
Carranzo acknowledged that winning this tournament takes a ton of time and strategy, a rabid striper angler most years, he said the only change to his fishing lifestyle was spending less time fishing for striped bass. When I asked him to say a few words about his fellow competitors that have landed among the top five multiple times in the Dream Boat, he said, “Those guys are in a class all their own and I realize how lucky I am that they can only win the grand prize once – they are clearly amazing fishermen, I put in the maximum amount of time my life would allow and I still couldn’t catch up guys like Garret Weir and Sam Dibner.”
Sometimes when people achieve a major milestone they are left with a sense of “what now?” Not Carranzo, he said he plans to try and land among the top competitors again next year. “Without a doubt, I will be competing next year, and plan on spending as much time on the water as possible next season enjoying the new ride. But I’m already planning a strategy for next season, even without another chance at the grand prize, fishing this tournament was blast and it kept me motivated all year!” He went on to say, “I’ve had boats most of my life, but with my budget I’ve spent more time fixing them than being able to enjoy them, so it will be a huge change of pace for me having a brand new boat and I plan to make the most of it.”
23 Miami Boat
The 23 Miami delivers the same rouged performance of our larger vessels, in a slightly smaller platform, perfect for trailering or when you simply want to step-down in size without sacrificing great fishing performance. The 23 Miami is delivers a big boat ride, outstanding maneuverability, and highly efficient performance that’s hard to find in a vessel of its size.
Our 23 Miami is built with the same tried-and-true construction methods that have been proven time and time again, making Steiger Crafts the best built boats on the water.
The Steiger 23 Miami is constructed of hand laid fiberglass coupled with our exclusive I-Beam grid system technology, offering durability and a rigid structure that can withstand any sea conditions.
For more information go to www.steigercraft.com
Yamaha 200 HP
There’s a good reason why the legendary Yamaha F150 has enjoyed over a decade of unrivaled popularity. Powerful, light, nimble and compact, boaters know that its proven reliability is unmatched for everything from pontoons to flats boats to deep-V hulls. That record of performance spawned a remarkable family line that continues with the F175 and F200. Now, more boaters can enjoy Yamaha’s technologically advanced I-4 line than ever before. Whether your rigging is digital or mechanical, the entire lineup is compatible with your control preference. It’s just one of the ways the I-4 line keeps getting better and better, year after year.
Engel 80 Cooler
Engel, the original high-performance roto-molded cooler was built for toughness and durability. With a full 2 inches of closed-cell foam insulation in the lid, on the sides, and the bottom, helping to retain cold and ice for up to 10 days. Click here for more information
Marina Pez Vela Fishing Destination
Minn Kota Riptide Terrova Trolling Motor / 112lbs of thrust / 87” shaft / i-Pilot Link GPS System (p/n 1363737)
Riptide Terrova answers every question and leaves no doubt. Power? It’s got 112 pounds of thrust. Control? i-Pilot® Link™ Integrated GPS trolling system including Spot-Lock®, and Humminbird® fish finder integration. Stow and deploy it effortlessly with new Lift-Assist Design. And stealth? It’s a Riptide®.
Humminbird 2124 CHIRP RADAR (p/n 750013-1)
The HB 2124 is our Humminbird CHIRP Radar that features CHIRP pulse compression, setting a new standard for compact solid-state radar. It delivers superior radar imaging on both long and extremely short ranges. This translates to better situational awareness in low-visibility conditions and helps identify floating obstacles and structures for clues to where gamefish are located. In addition, track weather, hazards and other vessels with amazing definition for navigational safety.
Humminbird APEX 16 MSI+ Chartplotter / 16” Screen Size / MEGA Side Imaging+ model (p/n 411500-1)
Humminbird XP 14 HW T / Dual Spectrum CHIRP w/ Temp Thru Hull Transducer (p/n 710287-1)
Humminbird 14 M ID SIDB Y / APEX Side Imaging & 2D Splitter Cable (p/n 720111-1)
The 14 M ID SIDB Y cable allows for the installation of a separate 2D transducer paired with a Humminbird MEGA Imaging or non-MEGA Imaging transducer and connect both transducers to a single Humminbird control head. This y-cable provides the ability to install a separate high-speed Humminbird 2D transducer for high-speed depth reading and sonar performance. Alternatively, this cable can also be used to add an accessory Airmar® 2D transducer to a Humminbird control head that also has a Side or Down Imaging transducer connected at the same time. This cable supports Transducer ID for automatic recognition and easy setup of Airmar® accessory transducers.
Humminbird COASTMASTER – U.S. Coastal v1 Cartography Map (p/n 601015-1)
Find the path to your next big catch with the incredible accuracy and detail of Humminbird® CoastMaster®, providing highly accurate chart coverage for all U.S. coastal waters. From easy-to-read contours to highlighted depth ranges, you’ll have the tools you need to identify the spots you know will hold fish, and navigate there safely.
Sea Eagle PaddleSki 437ps Swivel Seat Package
The New and Improved Sea Eagle 437ps PaddleSki™ Inflatable Catamaran Boat is the world’s most versatile inflatable watercraft! Providing you “all-in-one” benefits of a catamaran, motorboat, and extremely rugged portable inflatable with stability, speed, and versatility! It’s packable, remarkably stable, completely self-bailing, and fun! It glides across the water with ease and provides the option to Paddle, Motor, Fish, Sail, Travel, and Go! A true “four-in-one” inflatable watercraft for the impressive price of just one!
Accurate FX-400X Reel
- Stainless steel anti-reverse bearing
- Four Class 5 ABEC stainless steel bearings
- Calibrated lever drag for accurate drag setting
- 17-4 heat treated stainless steel gears and gear shaft
- Larger, stronger gear shaft for increased torque
- Unhindered sleeved free-spool at every drag setting
Browns Bay, Matte Black Frame, Silver Mirror Polycarbonate Lens
Fin-Nor has revolutionized the world of sport fishing since the invention of the first truly capable big game saltwater reel in 1936.
Now, we’re taking it to the next level with our line of expertly engineered performance sunglasses. Designed to withstand the elements saltwater anglers face every day, these sunglasses are made for all-day comfort no matter the conditions.
All Fin-Nor sunglasses feature our breakthrough Lateral Line Lens Technology, an innovative technology that enhances your vision through distortion-free color, unmatched sharpness, and precision optics. We’ve created the ultimate high-performance sunglasses for anglers who want to worry less about eyewear and spend more time focused on the fish.
Fish Mount From Global Fish Mounts
Tsunami Evict Reel
Tsunami Evict Spinning Reels are the must have bottom fishing spinning reel. Many anglers are starting to bottom fish with spinning gear. When you aren’t into conventional reels but still want to battle big and powerful bottom dwellers, the Evict spinning reels have you covered. These reels are constructed with a stainless steel main gear, stainless steel pinion and a sealed stainless steel main shaft. The eight sealed stainless steel ball bearings on these reels allows for smooth action and increased corrosion resistance. These reels can be used like a winch when getting big fish off the bottom with their CF3 carbon fiber drag system. These spinning reels are great even if you’re top water fishing. They cast well and are ideal for live bait fishing. A great spinning reel that won’t break the bank.
- Aluminum body
- Fully machined aluminum spool with braid ready spool band
- Graphite rotor with aluminum bailware
- Stainless steel drive and pinion gear
- Stainless steel sealed main shaft
- 7 sealed bearings plus 1 anti-reverse bearing
- Machined aluminum handle arm and power knob
- EVA paddle knob included in box (3000 and 4000 models only)
Dexter Outdoors DX8F Dextreme Dual Edge 8″ Flexible fillet knife with sheath
Developed specifically for anglers, the all new Dextreme series features a 2-in-1 blade and an ergonomic handle engineered to deliver great cuts with no compromises. The dual blade enables you to cut through scales without dulling the fillet blade for a more efficient fillet with just one knife! Use the upper Tiger edge to cut through scales and tougher surfaces while preserving the fillet blade’s sharpness. Then flip the DEXGRIP™ ambidextrous handle and use the lower blade for precision work. The comfortable, non-slip handle accommodates any hand and finger position for greater control. The stiff blade is perfect for bluefin tuna, swordfish, king mackerel and triggerfish and more. Sharp, flexible and durable, you’ll find this 2-in-1 knife is all the knife you need.
Dexter Outdoors DX8F Dextreme Dual Edge 8″ Flexible fillet knife with sheath
Owner SSW 2o Pack of Hooks
Features include black chrome finish, up-eye forged shank and reversed-bend super needle point.
Tsunami Soft Bait Swim Shad Lures
All of these lures are tank tested to assure proper performance and strike triggering action. Precise weight balancing designs in all models ensure a tumble free casting performance. The field testing is also apparent in a better-balanced swimming or jigging action.