ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — Captains Pauly Ross of Tavernier, Florida, and KC Spaulding from Islamorada captured grand champion team honors during the Swamp Guides Ball tournament that ended Feb. 3.
The all-release backcountry fishing challenge targets bonefish, redfish and snook; rules mandate that guides can fish alongside anglers. Catching each of the three targeted species to achieve a “slam” is no easy feat, but this year’s field of elite anglers brought in a total of 13 team and 11 individual slams.
The grand champion duo of Ross and Spaulding tallied 13 bonefish, one redfish and six snook to take the top prize.
In addition, Spaulding won the most bonefish award with seven of the gray ghosts. Other individual species catch awards went to Captain Brian Helms of Homestead, Florida, who took the most snook award with 11; and Captain Jared Raskob of Tavernier for most redfish with four.
Close behind the grand champions in second place was the runner-up team of Captain Richard Black and Caleb Bokor, both of Islamorada. Their 19-fish total included nine bonefish, four redfish and six snook. Bokor, age 14, was also named junior grand champion for his 12-fish total of five bonefish, three redfish and four snook.
Islamorada’s Captain Tommy Locke was named fly champion for his four bonefish, caught while fishing with teammate Captain Brandon Cyr of Key West, Florida.
Female grand champion angler Kim Clement of Tavernier released six fish in her slam of three bonefish, two redfish and one snook. Clement fished with Tavernier teammate Poppy Brownlee and the duo was guided by Islamorada’s Captain Jack Given.
A total of 58 boats with 114 anglers caught and released 198 fish — 14 on fly and 184 on spin — with species totals of 54 bonefish, 39 redfish and 105 snook.
The annual tournament benefits the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Foundation and the Guides Trust Foundation, organizations that assist fishing guides who can’t work because of serious injury or illness.
The next Swamp Guides Ball is set for Feb. 7-8, 2025, according to tournament organizers.
Grand champion team members Captain Pauly Ross and Captain KC Spaulding caught the winning slam of 13 bonefish, one redfish and six snook.