Edged out of the grand prize by a tie breaker in 2018, Garrett Weir was more determined than ever to return to the winner’s circle.
The 2019 installment of The Fisherman Magazine’s Dream Boat Challenge is in the books and once again, it left little doubt of who the region’s best angler was over the course of the season. At stake was this year’s Grand Prize, a Steiger Craft 23 DV Miami powered by a 250 HP Evinrude E-TEC G2 and outfitted with a Lowrance HDS LIVE12 with Active Imaging 3-IN-1. Also included is a mount of the winner’s choice from Global Fish Mounts, an Engel EN80 cooler, Navionics Platinum Plus Chart, and a season long supply of Chevron Techron Fuel Additive.
Besting thousands of Fisherman subscribers (You must be a Fisherman subscriber to participate.) is never easy. Among those subscribers are some of the most dedicated and committed anglers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and securing a place on the Dream Boat leaderboard is truly a challenge as evidenced by the quality of the fish that placed in the final standings.
The winning angler must accumulate the most total points by catching the heaviest fish across a field of eight eligible species (porgy/scup, weakfish, fluke, sea robin, mahi mahi, bluefish, black sea bass and blackfish/tautog). Subscribers are allowed to submit as many entries in excess of the minimum weight as they wish, however, only the heaviest one in each species category is eligible and tallied for points. This allows you to enter a heavier fish than your previous entry in a given species category to move up the leaderboard, but you cannot hold multiple spots for any single species. Points are awarded to each of the top 10 entries for the heaviest fish in each of the eight species categories with 10 points for the heaviest fish in each category, 9 points for second, 8 points for third place, and down to one (1) point for the 10th heaviest fish in that division. The key to winning the Grand Prize in 2019 was not only to land the heaviest fish, but to do so across as many of the eligible species as possible, which is just how this year’s winner locked up the top spot.
In addition to the Grand Prize, the second place prize features a 3-night stay and fishing out of spectacular Zancudo Lodge in beautiful Costa Rica for the winner and one guest. The third prize winner will receive a versatile Sea Eagle SUPCAT 10F WATERSNAKE Package. There are also prizes for the heaviest fish entered for each of the eight eligible species. This year’s “Largest of Species” winners will each receive a Shimano Saragosa 5000 SW Reel matched to a St. Croix Mojo MIS76MF rod, and a fish mount from Global Fish Mounts of the angler’s Largest of Species entry. Those earning Fish of the Month honors receive a pair of Unsinkable Sunglasses and a Dexter Russell UC133-8WS1 Fillet Knife. Each of the 80 finalists on the leader board at the conclusion of the challenge will be rewarded with a prize package consisting of a package of Owner America Hooks and a pack of Tsunami Tide Baits. On the freshwater side, the angler catching and weighing the largest king salmon will receive a pair of Unsinkable Sunglasses.
|GARRETT WEIR – 39 Points
SAM DIBNER – 21 Points
FRANK DIFEDE – 21 Points
SHAWN POBINER – 10 Points
DENNIS MUHLENFORTH – 10 Points
TOMMY SPRINGMAN – 10 Points
FREDERICK LEDERMANN – 10 Points
MIKE DEPALMA – 10 Points
ERIC MYER – 9 Points
WILLIAM BERLESE – 9 Points
This year’s top angler should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows the winner. Garrett Weir, who lost in a tie breaker to last year’s winner, Sam Dibner, was as determined as ever to return to the top spot in 2019. Garrett entered this season with a game plan and his detail oriented lifestyle played heavily into that plan. As he explained during a recent interview, things just kind of fell into place last season. He started off the year with a big fluke, entered it in the contest, and then connected with a big sea bass. At that point, he realized he might have a shot and began targeting specific species in hopes of placing additional fish. This year, he put his plan into place right from the start.
The game plan was to target specific species at times and in areas that traditionally produce large fish. It included fishing the spring porgy run in Peconic Bay, which is known to produce jumbo porgies. Also on his agenda was a Nantucket fluke trip where double digit doormats have been almost commonplace in recent years, while offshore wreck trips would provide the best opportunity for a big sea bass. Blackfish are a species he specializes in, and he has numerous double digit tog to his credit, so he was confident he could come up with a big tog.
Keep in mind that his game plan would have to be carried out by relying on open and charter boats since he had no boat of his own. When all is said and done, Nantucket fluke trips, offshore wreck trips and the traveling expenses associated with them can mean shelling out several hundred dollars a trip. Finishing in the pool money helped to finance some of his trips. The plan also had to be executed around a busy work schedule in the medical field and family responsibilities that included coaching baseball through most of the fishing season.
For some species he would have to rely on “dumb luck” and that is exactly what happened in the case of his first place sea robin. Bucktailing for fluke from the beach at Breezy Point on a summer day, he caught a bonito and cut a strip from the belly in hopes of catching a keeper fluke. Instead, the bonito adorned bucktail attracted a 4.15-pound sea robin that nailed down first place and earned him 10 points toward his winning total of 39 points. When it came to weakfish and mahi he was not so lucky but he made a good run at both species. He caught lots of weakfish but all fell short of the leaderboard. He drew an invite from a friend who was putting a crew together for an offshore tournament. His only purpose for being there was to score a leaderboard mahi. The trip did deliver him a 14-pounder, which fell just short of making the board.
Trip planning was just one phase of his game plan. Tackle preparation and thinking out of the box when it came to techniques played heavily into his effort to win the Dream Boat Challenge. Presentation is a key factor when targeting big fish and Garrett took this aspect of the game to another level. A large, clear, plastic tub filled with water allowed him to study various lure and bait rig presentations and how they were affected by the use of lighter and heavier leaders. Always relying on fluorocarbon leaders, he learned that too heavy a leader negatively impacted presentation. He experimented with sound and has found that the sound of a rattle improved his success rate with big blackfish. He also came to discover that the use of glowing (luminescent) lures or terminal tackle can be a difference maker when fishing deep water. He always carries multiple rods on his trips, each designed for a specific application. His motto is to learn all you can and always strive for a better way of doing something. When it came to weighing in fish, he was meticulous about keeping the fish fresh and getting it to a scale as soon as possible, knowing full well after last year’s tie, that a mere ounce or two could affect his place in the standings.
Garrett, who grew up in Brooklyn and spent much of his youth fishing places like Breezy Point and the Canarsie Pier saw much of his strategy work out as planned. He finished with a 5.5-pound sea bass good enough for fourth place; a 13.6-pound fluke, also good enough for fourth place; a 4-pound, first place porgy; and a 10.96-pound blackfish that finished in sixth place to go along with his first place sea robin.
Sam Dibner, who edged out Garrett for the Grand Prize Steiger Craft last season, proved again he is no slouch when it comes to the fishing game. Sam finished in a tie for second place with Frank DiFede as both anglers racked up a total of 21 points, and once again, he won the tie breaker. This time his 17.4–pound bluefish was the deciding factor. As a result, he will be heading to magnificent Zancudo Lodge in beautiful Costa Rica for a three night stay and fishing with one quest. Frank DiFede’s third place finish earns him a Sea Eagle SUPCAT 10F WATERSNAKE Package.
Garrett’s dedication and commitment set him apart from the field and he truly deserved to be crowned the 2019 Dream Boat Challenge winner. He was thankful for the support he received from his family, friends and captains over the course of the season, and is excited about the upcoming season, which will find him tooling around in his brand new Steiger Craft 23 Miami with the name PHISHFINDER stenciled across the transom.
|Fish of the month winners|
|MAY / WEAKFISH: Fred Ledermann – 7.91 lbs
JUNE / SEA ROBIN: Gil Bell – 2.78 lbs
JULY / FLUKE: Christopher Miklos – 13.85 lbs
AUGUST / SEA BASS: Sam Dibner – 6.15 lbs
AUGUST / DOLPHIN: Shawn Pobiner – 26 lbs
SEPTEMBER / PORGY: Laura Macha – 3 lbs
OCTOBER / BLUEFISH: Dean Paolella – 18.5 lbs
NOVEMBER / BLACKFISH: Sam Dibner – 11.86 lbs
Prizes for all 80 Finalists and other winners,will be shipped in January 2020.