Teen Wins Drambuie Key West Marlin Event

A single Blue Marlin was caught and released

July 26th 2001
Captain Ken Harris wires a marlin, caught by his son Clay Friday, that proved to be the winning fish at the 2001 Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament. The fish was released and Harris' boat won $20,000 for first place in the marlin division. Photo by Bob Niemi.

Captain Ken Harris wires a marlin, caught by his son Clay Friday, that proved to be the winning fish at the 2001 Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament. The fish was released and Harris' boat won $20,000 for first place in the marlin division. Photo by Bob Niemi.

KEY WEST — There may not be a prouder moment for a father than when his child excels in work or an activity enduring to the parent.

So it’s no surprise that Key West light-tackle guide Kenny Harris was beaming at the end of the Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament Saturday.

His son Clay, 15, needed just 15 minutes to catch and release the tournament’s only blue marlin, a fish estimated to weigh 375 pounds. The achievement was worth $20,000 for Harris’ three-person team that included Bob Niemi of Maitland, Fla.

“In my life of fishing, there’s been a lot of thrills, but this may be
the biggest one,” Kenny Harris said. “To bring Clay (fishing), see him do it so
easy is unbelievable.

“I don’t think he knows what he’s accomplished,” said Harris, after “baptizing” his son into the unofficial marlin-catching club with a toss off the dock at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, the tournament’s headquarters.

Clay Harris, who will enter the 10th grade in late August, seemed to take
the accomplishment in stride.

“It’s real great to win,” he said.

A reporter asked the younger Harris why the victory was so special. “Basically, the money,” he deadpanned. “I’m going to save it and spend it, little by little.”

The marlin bit a live blue runner, attached to an 80-pound Shimano standup outfit, during the second of three fishing days. Harris was in 900 feet of water, near the Middle Crack, a deep gash in the ocean about 19 miles south of Key West.

Although Harris is no stranger to winning tournaments, to excel at the Drambuie marlin event is especially meaningful, considering the vast majority of boats in the 57-boat fleet were substantially larger and better equipped for marlin trolling than his 27-foot Conch.

“My theory isn’t that live baiting is better for blue marlin,” he said. “It’s better for Ken Harris and the Finesse.

“It’s hard to compete with big boats that have outriggers and teasers,” he said. “But whether you troll in that style of boat or live bait, in my style, you’re going to get a bite every three days, if you’re good at it… That’s all I count on, is trying to get a bite and catch that fish.”

The Rampagous team, headed by Brett Taporowski of Big Pine Key, Fla., won a second-place $8,000 marlin division prize with a white marlin caught by John Crockett also of Big Pine Key. Looney Tunes, skippered by Carl Rees of Key West, garnered the $5,000 third-place prize with two sailfish caught by Ed Steinmetz of Fort Myers, Fla., and Bob Scerrato of Manasquan, N.J.

Tom Payne of Key West caught a 30.3-pound dolphin for the top $5,000 award in the dolphin division. Winning $750 each for largest wahoo and blackfin tuna, respectively, were Rick Bodett of Tampa, Fla., and Alan Finnieston of Coral Gables, Fla.

The Drambuie marlin tournament attracted 326 participants, said Tim Greene, the event’s chairman. He added that the 2002 event, slated for July 17-20, would again coincide with Key West’s annual Hemingway Days Festival, which is scheduled July 17-21.

The tournament will be the focus of a half-hour television special to air on TNN (The National Network) during the first quarter of 2002.

For registration details and a complete look at the 2001 event, visit www.keywestmarlin.com.

Tournament results

Marlin division

  • First place: Clay Harris, Ken Harris, Bob Niemi; Finesse; Key West; blue marlin release.
  • Second place: Brett Taporowski, John Crockett; Rampagous; Big Pine Key, Fla.; white marlin release.
  • Third place: Carl Rees, Ed Steinmetz, Bob Scerrato; Looney Tunes; Key West; two sailfish released.

Dolphin division

  • First place: Tom Payne, Paul Ross, Ben Ekblom; Relentless; Tavernier, Fla.; 30.3 pounds.
  • Second place: Jeff Distefano, Tom Peirce, Bud Foley; Second Chance; Key West; 28.75 pounds.
  • Third place: Bobby Schultz, Rick Guobaitis, Roger Holtkamp; Miss Gina; Key West; 26.6 pounds.

Tuna division

  • First place: Bell Wietena, Dave Zachar, Alan Finnieston; Peg Leg; Coral Gables, Fla.; 29.4 pound blackfin tuna.

Wahoo division

  • First place: Jay Weed, Christen Prenzi, Rick Bodett; Lucky Charm; Key West; 44.3 pounds.
  • Second place: Paul Cornell, Mark Kantzler; Hoo Waa; Largo, Fla.; 25.95 pounds.
  • Third place: Jim Stewart, John Thielan; Murphy One; Key West; 25.9 pounds.