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Free Bird Waves the Checkered Flag in Miami, Standing O for Junior Angler Crew

January 23, 2018

Forty-two fishing teams raced into the Magic City on Jan 17-21 with plans to make a little magic of their own in the 4th Annual Sailfish 400, Leg 2 of the iconic Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. Team Free Bird did exactly that with 15 releases on their way to grabbing the checkered flag and a $168,890 payday! A fourth place finish at the first leg in Palm Beach combined with the first place win at Leg 2 in Miami, has the entire fleet chasing Captain Nick Carullo and his Free Bird teammates in the battle for the burgundy jacket and the #1 sailfishing title in the world. Carullo credits his crew for capitalizing on all of the opportunities they had to be able to win the tournament. Fishing just south of Government Cut on Day 2 they hooked a quad midday, released all four fish and never looked back on their way to the winner’s circle.


Team Weez in the Keys sits in second overall in the series, justfive points behind Free Bird. Despite their victory at Operation Sailfish, Leg 1 of the series, Weez in the Keys blanked on Day 1 of Sailfish 400 putting their contention for the jacket in serious jeopardy. However, Captain Chris ‘Zig’ Zielinski and his team rebounded on Day 2 and won the daily with eight releases to jump back up to ninth place in the tournament with $76,150 in daily winnings. More importantly, a shot at the jacket and a world title is still well within reach.


Captain Skip Dana rolled into Sailfish 400 as one of the hottest captains in South Florida. With back-to-back tournament wins in Palm Beach, two weeks prior, he had the attention of his fellow competitors in Miami. Dana and his Sir’ Reel crew stayed hot on Day 1 with nine releases and daily winnings worth $75,150. They traded paint at the top of the leaderboard with Free Bird, Lisa L/The Fishing Experience and Sandman on Day 2 and managed to finish strong with 12 releases in second place and a check for $134,410. Team Sir’ Reel also won big in the raffle drawings with two vacation packages to Hilton Resort World Bimini and a NASCAR fantasy weekend for six to the championship race at Homestead Miami Speedway.


While sailfish are the target species in the tournament, Captain Jorge Sanchez and his Priceless teammates may consider calling it the Tuna 400. Team angler, Bernie Perez, knew he was in for the fight of his life against the fish of his life when he watched a monster yellowfin tuna air out on his kite bait on Day 2 of the 400. Sanchez chased the tuna all over the ocean from the tower of his 39’ Contender for 2 ½ hours before they finally got their shot. A double gaff shot later, the fish hit the deck and tipped the scales at 115.2 pounds setting a new record for the heaviest fish weighed in the history of the Quest for the Crest Series. The bonus fish earned the team a check for $14,600 as well.


Without question, the most inspiring story to come out of the 6-year history of the Quest for the Crest series happened during the 2018 Sailfish 400. Lisa L/The Fishing Experience, a junior angler crew led by Mike Puller, local Miami charter boat captain, decided to sign up for the 400 and see if they could give the pros a run for their money. Sailfish tournaments are filled with multimillion-dollar sportfish yachts and high-end center consoles capable of speeds in excess of 60mph. Lisa L is not one of them. At 20 knots top end, the single screw Key West hull wasn’t built for speed. However, his crew of junior anglers, Carlos Saladrigas, Jonathan Brana and Sebastian Iglesias, were all veterans of his youth based instructional ‘Fishing Experience’ program and he knew they could capitalize on the bites if he could put them on the fish. Both captain and crew delivered on Day 1 of the tournament releasing nine sailfish to lead the fleet! They added three more releases on Day 2 for a total of 12 and a third place overall finish that came with a standing ovation during the awards ceremony. 


Carlos Saladrigas from Lisa L/The Fishing Experience took the top junior title with three releases. Sara Melia from Free Bird was the top female angler with five releases and Jorge De Cardenas from Angler Management was the top male angler and master angler with six releases. Angler Management finished in fifth place with 10 releases as well. Team Sandman finished in fourth, one spot ahead of them with 11 releases. Fourth place and a 60.4 pound wahoo were enough to earn the Sandman a nice check for $54,430. SeaVee boats claimed the Boat Builders Throwdown trophy with three strong performance by Angler Management, Blue Tales and Fishless. The total purse for the 2018 Sailfish 400 tallied $726,250. 


In addition to the spectacular payouts, the tournament raised proceeds for its charity, Driving for a Cause, a NASCAR affiliated charity that helps to raise money and awareness for youth and educational programs in Miami-Dade County. For more information on the Sailfish 400 results, visit For a complete list of the current standings in the Quest for the Crest, visit The next leg of the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series, Sailfish Challenge, will be hosted at Blue Moon Fish Company in Fort Lauderdale on February 21-25 where the winner take all $220,000 Release Roundup jackpot is still up for grabs. To register for this event visit 

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