The 67th Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby came to an end Sunday afternoon when Adam Cummings and Robert Boyhan walked away with the monthlong event’s two largest prizes. Mr. Cummings, the grand leader in the boat-caught bluefish category (16.06 pounds), won the 2012 Chevy donated by Clay Motors. Mr. Boyhan, the grand leader for shore-caught bluefish (15.39 pounds), won the center-console boat donated by Eastern Boats.
“It’s a whole year to get to this,” derby president Ed Jerome told the Gazette after the ceremony, held at the Farm Neck Golf Club “This is the fun, fun, fun part — it’s great to see so many people smiling and laughing.”
A total of 3,091 entrants participated in the derby this year, a 15 per cent increase over last year, Mr. Jerome said. The derby saw 486 senior competitors, 372 female anglers, 236 junior fishermen and 215 entrants in the flyrod division.
This year’s derby, Mr. Jerome said at the start of Sunday’s ceremony, was “one for the records.”
Over 21,000 pounds of fish were weighed-in over a period of four weeks, with bluefish once again the most prolific catch (1,144 caught). Anglers brought in 466 striped bass and 311 false albacore.
Atlantic bonito remained relatively elusive throughout the contest, with only 226 weighed-in. But the bonito provided one of the biggest thrills of the entire derby: a grand leader change on the very last day of the event.
On stage during the key ceremony was Julian Pepper, who brought in an 8.22-pound shore-caught bonito early last Saturday morning, the final day of weigh-in, to take over the lead in that category. Mr. Pepper was also the same fisherman who returned angler Chris Adler’s expensive lost fishing gear to headquarters during the first week of competition, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the derby committee, which awarded him a special prize in honor of the “karma and good derby spirit that makes all this possible.”
Mr. Pepper also won awards for landing a Grand Slam and for a third-place shore false albacore, drawing roars from the crowd each time he walked to the stage.
“I didn’t know the whole place would be erupting like that,” he said later.
Mr. Pepper had no idea his fish would be a winner when he brought it in; he weighed in the bonito to complete his grand slam.
“They had to convince me,” he said. “I just thought I had the slam.”
Mr. Pepper, Mr. Boyhan and Mr. Cummings stood on stage for the final key ceremony with the other five grand leaders: Stephen Pietruska (boat-caught striped bass, 44.40 pounds), Tony Rezendes Jr. (shore-caught striped bass, 32.12 pounds), Andrew Wheeler (boat-caught bonito, 10.29 pounds), Patrick Jenkinson (boat-caught false albacore, 12.75 pounds) and Morgan Taylor (shore-caught false albacore, 13.22 pounds). Mr. Taylor, in stark contrast to his Larry’s Tackle co-worker Mr. Pepper, weighed-in his fish the first week of the derby, and held the lead until the end.
Mr. Cummings, the winner of the truck, also weighed-in his leading bluefish the first week of competition. He didn’t travel far to land the winner — the bluefish was caught right outside the Oak Bluffs harbor. His wife Janet cheered as she photographed the awards, while son Angus, who is almost three, looked on solemnly. Seven-week-old son McAllen snoozed through most of the ceremony.
The family spirit was on display with the awarding of the Beaulieu and Loud Memorial Award, which went to the O’Brien family of Oak Bluffs: Bill, Kris, Katherine and Elizabeth. The award recognizes a family of good sportsmen and women. Grand prize winner Robert Boyhan and his brother Peter received the David Furino award, recognizing “siblings who show determination and sportsmanship,” according to the derby description. Phil Horton received the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Sportsmanship Award.
For his shore-caught grand slam, Jared Stobie received the Abe Williams Memorial Award, which was not given out in 2011 or 2010. Junior angler Tommy White received another rare derby prize: the Jetty Chipmunk award for heaviest junior shore-caught bonito. Tommy was the only junior to land a bonito from the shore, and, for a time, led the derby with his 7.65-pound fish.
Fishing in the derby, Mr. Jerome said, “teaches honesty, teaches respectfulness, teaches you to be conservation-minded.”
“And it’s all volunteers,” he said.
One volunteer in particular was recognized for his 20 years of service: retiring weighmaster Charlie Smith. Even though Mr. Smith is stepping down, derby chairman Chuck Hodgkinson said: “He’ll be quick to remind you that he’s weighed-in more fish than all of you.”
Bailen Darack, four, who rang the last derby bell at the final Saturday night weigh-in, approached the stage to give Mr. Smith a hug, followed by older brother Mateo, eight.
“This is what it’s all about,” Mr. Smith said. “The future.”
But the past was also recognized at the ceremony. A moment of silence was held for former derby president Don Moore, who died in September. Renowned painter Ray Ellis addressed the crowd regarding his 25 years creating iconic scenes for the derby print series, which raises money for the derby scholarship fund. Mr. Ellis’s prints have raised more than $500,000 and benefitted more than 50 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School seniors.
Mr. Ellis is working with the derby committee on a commemorative book filled with his paintings and detailing the history of the storied event.
“It’s going to be quite a book,” he said.