The Sails Are In: Buckalot Team Wins 35th Annual Reef Cup
By Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Editorial Assistant
If you’ve participated in Reef Cup over the years, Buckalot is a name you’ve likely heardmany times. Mike Levy and his crew, this year fishing on the boat Sweet Release, is the winning-most team Reef Cup has seen over its 35-year history. Since its debut with the Levy Family in 1987, Buckalot has recorded four total championships. Mr. Levy credits his “great crews, great captains and great mates” with his wins saying, “They tend to make us anglers look good.”
Levy says this year’s tournament was extra special for a number of reasons. Mr. Levy was just 19 years old when he fished in his first Reef Cup and he hasn’t missed a tournament since. But this year he sold Buckalot, which meant finding a new way to participate. Benson Ford, owner of Sweet Release, kindly offered his boat to Levy and his crew to fish the tournament. This was a special moment as just five years ago, Sweet Release and Buckalot fought for first and second place, with Sweet Release, captained by Levy’s longtime friend Chris White, coming out on top.
Chris White, that same captain of Sweet Release, started his career with Levy on Buckalot when White was just 16 years old. Though they’ve fished together since, Levy has never fished with him in a Reef Cup tournament. The captain that started with him as a teen, lead the Sweet Release/Buckalot team to victory this year. Levy described it as a “very special reunion of sorts.”
For Levy, Reef Cup is all about friendship and camaraderie. He cherishes the opportunity to fish with those he considers dear friends and fishing companions – Terence Collier, Jordan Wycoff, Edgar Benes, David Goldsmith, John McTurk, Robbie Woodrnska, Captain Chris White and mate Dexter Fulford. Wycoff, Goldsmith and Collier have been with Levy in many of his past Reef Cup appearances.
Levy says his favorite part about Reef Cup is seeing friends come together year in and year out. For some of them, this may be the only time of year they see each other. “That’s really what Reef Cup is all about – it’s a gathering of fishermen and friends at Ocean Reef, simple as that.”
The Reef Cup Invitational Sailfish Tournament has grown exponentially since its inaugural year. What began with only 24 participants is now capped at a 60-boat fleet, and the competition has grown as much as the participation.
This year, more than half of the fleet, Sweet Release/ Buckalot included, chose Day One as their Lay Day. Despite this, the fishing started out strong with Brandi and John Harper and their Tar Baby team winning the day at 500 points. A good lead with second and third place teams ending the day with only 200 points.
For the first time in several years, the tournament weather was great. Day Two saw Hot Mix at the top of the leaderboard with four catch and releases all in the span of less than one hour – 8:49 a.m., 9:01 a.m., 9:08 a.m. and 9:17 a.m. Sweet Release/Buckalot finished third also with four releases. Total fish caught and released soared to 40 following just 15 on Day One.
Day Three totaled 47 catch and releases. The competition was close – Sweet Release/ Buckalot caught two sailfish back-to-back at 10:30 and 11:02 a.m. bringing their total to 600. But less than 30 minutes later, second place Tar Baby surpassed them with two more sailfish. Sweet Release/Buckalot responded with another sail caught by Wycoff at 2:35 p.m., bringing them neck and neck with Tar Baby at 700 points. The last few hours of the tournament were exciting yet nerve-wracking according to Levy, who caught the winning fish at 2:44 p.m. bringing their team to 800 points.
“The competition was very close,” said Levy. “It was great to be fortunate enough to come out on top. It was a fantastic team effort and we’re thrilled to be the champions.”