Saturday, May 20th has been on many anglers’ calendars for months. Fly fishermen and women have been anticipating the 2017 Schoolie Tournament since registration opened in late January, and promptly sold out. This year’s event, marking the 6th annual, turned out over 330 participants, including seasoned Cape Cod veterans, travelers from as far as Alaska and rookies hunting their first striped bass.
With the number of female participants increasing every year, Cheeky Ambassador Abbie Schuster of Kismet Outfitters took the lead on kicking off the tournament weekend with a Women’s Meet-Up on Friday afternoon. With equipment provided, attendees got a chance to practice and prepare for the tourney with casting lessons, knot tying, and strategy discussion, hoping to make some waves in the tournament the following day!
After their sunset event on West Dennis Beach, the Women’s Meet-Up participants headed over to South Street Depot in Dennis, MA to join the rest of the tournament field for the Costa Del Mar Friday Night Kick-Off Party. While the tournament may pit anglers against each other on Saturday, competing teams shared good food, great laughs, fine brews from Oskar Blues Brewery, and even a few tournament strategies on Friday night. Team Cast and Blast, comprised of Sam Kucia and Ed Fowler, had slightly more lucrative night than expected, winning a surprise raffle giveaway of two complete Thomas & Thomas Exocett 8-weight rod set ups, paired with limited edition Cheeky Fishing all-black Limitless 425 reels!
Friday night’s packed house slowly receded as teams left to finish final gear prep and tournament strategizing. While most anglers attempted to get a couple hours of sleep before the big day, anticipation kept some from getting any rest. Morgan Mattioli’s nerves had her up early, tying up meaty saltwater flies at 3 AM! This dedication to the tournament and her constant flow of amazing media throughout the week helped her claim the 2017 Social Media Prize.
Competitors arrived early Saturday morning for the Captain’s Meeting and official tournament launch, eager to grab their captain’s bags and get fishing. Once the rules were explained and the 2017 Official Tournament Photo Pucks and Tape Measures were distributed, the horn was sounded. There was a quick exchange of flies, hugs and sarcastic remarks about podium predictions before anglers rushed off to their cars. This wave of anglers left the launch touting their brand new tournament exclusive Wingo Belt and their meanest game faces. The 2017 Cheeky Schoolie Tournament had officially begun.
With the number of participants increasing annually and the incredible class of juvenile striped bass that have invaded coastal Massachusetts within the recent weeks, there was a premium on finding big fish more than ever before. With over 6000 cumulative inches of striped bass caught and released in the 2017 tournament, there was no shortage of fish for anglers to catch. Teams not only had to find fish but weed through the “future giants” for bigger fish.
The tournament unfolded on the water, and on social media. Utilizing the #CheekySchoolieTourney hashtag, competing teams showed off their beautiful sunrise views and first catches. Quality photos were posted early and often for the duration of the tournament, including Team B&E’s pair of monster catch photos that made many people believe they were the favorites. When the dust finally settled, only three teams could take the podium and cement their legacy in the world’s largest fly-fishing tournament. 842 Rod Club took 3rd place with 109.50” of fish, just behind second place Team B&E who tallied 110.50”. First place went to Team Deceiver’s Ben and John Bianco, who are no strangers to the Schoolie Tourney podium. Their ability to get big fish to bite landed them atop the podium with 111.50” total inches!
There was nothing but good vibes radiating from those in attendance for the award ceremony at The Swan River Restaurant. The winning teams took their place on the podium to a round of applause and claimed their monster prize packages, which included a Cash prize, Cheeky Reels, Costa Sunglasses, Yeti Coolers and more! The awards were followed up by a giant raffle. Anglers of all ages held their tickets high with fingers crossed, hoping to take home some of the $10,000+ in prizes generously provided by the event’s great sponsors. The raffle culminated with one competitor taking home a YETI Tundra Cooler. Only minutes after the conclusion of the event, conversations quickly switched to the discussion of 2018’s event. The tournament record for largest fish landed was set in 2015 when a 38” beast was landed. This record still stands as a challenge for next year’s competitors.
With a full calendar year to prepare and refine skills, 2018’s field will be coming with the vengeance to unseat Team Deceiver from their throne. Amongst the salt shorelines and scenic beaches of Cape Cod, there truly is no better place to hunt down your personal best striped bass on the fly.
Last, but most importantly, we want to extend a huge thank you to all of the great tournament participants. We feel fortunate to host the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament each year. It’s a privilege to have so many enthusiastic anglers come out for the event each year. And of course, a huge thank you to all of our fantastic sponsors. We could not do it without you!
Keep an eye out for 2018 registration announcements next January. We hope to see next year at the Cheeky Schoolie Tourney!