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Father-Daughter Team from Islamorada Enjoy Day One Lead at Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tourney, Part of ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series

DUCK KEY, Fla. -- If unfortunate circumstances result in a banner day of tournament fishing do they remain unfortunate? That’s what the father-daughter team of angler Brooke Denkert and guide Dave Denkert wondered happily Saturday night, as they, along with teammate Wade Davis, seized the lead with 600 points for six fish overall in the two-day Redbone @ Large Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tourney at Hawk’s Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. The tournament is part of the ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series.

Brooke Denkert, of Islamorada, leads all competitors with 500 points for five tarpon Saturday – three of them caught in the sunrise portion and two more in the sunset portion of Day One. Davis, of West Palm Beach, got two bites, and put the team in first place by landing his second fish, a 70-pounder, during the sunset fishing.

To be eligible to win the tournament, both anglers from a team must land at least one of the designated sportfish.

Coincidentally, another family team is in second place heading into Day Two. Robert Cullen and his son Michael Cullen, guided by Ken Knudsen, have 300 points for three fish caught on live bait. Robert, also known as Doctor Bob, caught one tarpon in each of the day’s sessions, while Michael landed one tarpon in the sunrise session.

Miami Dolphins quarterback John Beck leads the celebrity/athlete category with one tarpon caught on live mullet. His competition for Celebrity Grand Champion includes Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs – the tournament’s celebrity host – and former Miami Dolphins wide receiver/running back Jim “Crash” Jensen and current Dolphins guard Justin Smiley.

All six of Team Denkert’s fish were caught on live crab in a special location that Dave Denkert had previously scouted. Because they were off a bank and more protected from the high winds, they had more success than the rest of the field with sight-fishing Saturday. Beyond that, the seasoned guide wasn’t giving up details about the team’s favorite spot.

“We were someplace out west, anywhere from 4 feet to 8 feet,” Dave Denkert said. “We saw some fish out there rolling and busting, so we threw some crab out there. Everything was on a small, micro crab like we use with bonefish – anything bigger, they wouldn’t bite it.”

Davis gave Brooke the credit for the team’s big day, though he was happy to get on the scoreboard for Day One and give the team a sizeable advantage heading into Sunday’s sunrise session.

“Brooke has the hot hand this weekend. If you were a tarpon, would you bite for her or for me?” Davis said with a laugh.

“We were in the right spot at the right time, and they were coming tight,” said Brooke Denkert, who has won multiple IGFA tournaments. “The first fish, he was just a big old slob. He straightened out the hook right away. But after that, things really came together for us. It was exciting.”

Brooke Denkert and Davis estimated that most of their catch-and-release tarpon for the day were in the 40- to 50-pound range, with their biggest fish landed coming in at about 70 pounds. Dave said that Brooke’s “big old slob” early in the day, however, weighed well more than 100 pounds.

Denkert said his daughter lost her first fish of the morning, and so did Davis, but the team certainly didn’t pack it in after that. By day’s end, their string of tough luck became a symbol, and they were determined to defy it with laughter.

A fly rod was snapped in half being put in the boat, the bilge pump came off the hose and sprung a leak, flooding the boat, their clippers broke, gear got wet in a compartment that filled up with water, oil spilled all over the boat and Brooke went sliding through it.

“But all of a sudden we started catching fish,” Dave said. “And all that went away.”

Dave figured the team would return to their sweet spot Sunday. Because he’d had success while fly-fishing in the area in the two days before the tournament, he knew good things would happen there during the competition.

“I figured, go to the same place, and if we don’t get them on fly, we can pitch crabs,” he said. “We’ll go there again. It’s working for us, so we’re going to milk it before it goes dry.”

The Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tourney concludes after Sunday’s five hours of competition starting at sunrise. The tournament will eventually be televised on the ESPN Outdoors Saltwater Series presented by on ESPN Outdoors programming. Proceeds from the accompanying silent auction benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Mercury Redbone Celebrity Tournament Series was founded by Gary and Susan Ellis in 1988 with a mission: “To catch the cure for cystic fibrosis.”

A complete listing of ESPN Outdoors programming aired on ESPN2 can also be found on <> . Visit <> for ESPN Outdoors’ latest releases, schedules and other news and photos.

About ESPN Outdoors: Since its inception in 1980, ESPN Outdoors has strived to inform and entertain anglers, hunters and people of all ages who enjoy the outdoors. ESPN Outdoors is committed to increasing awareness of and participation in outdoor activities, a direction best exemplified by television programming on ESPN2. Each year, ESPN Outdoors stages more than 30 marquee events, including the Bassmaster Classic. ESPN Outdoors is comprised of BASS, the worldwide authority on bass fishing, and a growing array of multimedia platforms, including <> , <> and programming on ESPN2, in addition to promotions and activities that deliver a clear message of conservation and ethical sportsmanship.


Media Contact: Jenny Zimmerman, (407) 566-2213 or [email protected]
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