Repeating his blue chip performance of a year ago, Dave Robb Jr. of Titusville once again led the ranks of club anglers in the 2017 Florida Sport Fishing Association’s (FSFA) championship and awards program.
The 49-year-old retired Senior Chief Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy Seabees was honored at the club’s recent awards dinner as the Overall Club Champion, giving him back-to-back titles.
But this time around Robb also claimed the Fish of the Year, the award judged as the most outstanding catch for the year in the 225-member Cape Canaveral club.
Bill Sargent (Photo: FLORIDA TODAY FILE)
It was a massive 80-pound black drum that Robb landed after an hour’s fight on 15-pound test plug tackle. Considering the size of the fish and the tackle used, a committee of fishing experts judged it as the top catch.
The FSFA, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary, annually recognizes its members who score top catches under the club’s ratings and points system with varying tackle gear and strengths.
Robb set nine FSFA tackle records during his quest for the championship that also earned him the highest accumulative angler rating in the club – Grand Master.
The big drum, along with a 125-pound tarpon, was among five club records for Robb. During the year he was credited with releasing 24 different species of fish and also achieved Species Master for black drum and sheepshead.
For Robb the 80-pound drum was a “dream catch,” he said. It came from a school of the large drum that he and friend Frank Curran found in the Canaveral Bight north of Port Canaveral last winter.
“Earlier that morning we had fished for Sunshine Bass in the St. Johns (River) and on the way back we decided to launch at the port and try for drum up in the bight. We knew the big drum were there,” Robb said.
“The school was in 18 feet of water and I used a 2-ounce bucktail jig, working it near the bottom. he fish stayed with the school through most of the fight,” Robb said, adding that he was fortunate the fish didn’t rub his thin 15-pound test line against other drum in the school that could have caused the line to break.
More: Sargent: Poveromo closing seminar series at Daytona Speedway
The heavyweight was 52 inches long and 36 inches in girth.
Robb joined the FSFA in March 2016 and being one that thrives on competition and challenges he immediately set to work fishing for catch points.
After achieving 870 points in 2016, it was early in the 2017 season that he achieved the 1,000 points needed for Grand Master. He said he did it in 10 months and 24 days of fishing, meaning he was fishing four to five days a week.
His points total for the 2017 championship was 490. A family illness and other responsibilities kept him out of fishing for several months.
Robb’s wife Stephanie was named the Women’s Champion with 210 annual points, in the process setting a club record with a 5-pound, 12-ounce Sunshine Bass and landing a Five-to-One catch of a 22 pound, 6 ounce drum on 4-pound test line. She also received a certificate for releasing 16 species.
Other division champions were Dan Thompson, Freshwater, and John Dobbins, Saltwater. Dobbins also released 19 species, Emily Rupe 15 species, Hunter Delaney and Cassie Delaney, each had 13.
Charlie Rupe received a plaque for his club high 29 species released. Chris Delaney followed with 26.
Phil Woodham earned a Five-to-One plaque and a Heavyweight award with a 13-pound catfish landed on 2-pound test line.
Ryan Vetsch, a 22-year-old Eastern Florida State College student, was the first member in seven years to receive a Tackle Master award for his 410 accumulated annual points with Light-General tackle catches. He also took the General Tackle Division championship for the year with 90 points.
More: Sargent: “Relentless” captain works sailfish magic again
At the same time Vetsch achieved Species Master, another accumulative award, for drum, along with Chris Pashos and Rob Hollander, also for drum. One of Hollander’s catches was an 82-pound 10-ounce drum for a Light-General record.
Two impressive heavyweight catches by Vetsch was a 32-pound, 10-ounce gag grouper and a 19-pound, 6-ounce snook, and he set a club record for General Tackle with an 81-pound, 14-ounce black drum. Vetsch also won a Fish of the Month award in July for a 33-pound permit he landed at Sebastian Inlet.
Tackle class champions were Charlie Rupe, Ultralight, 90 points; Zella Helton, Spin, 50 points; and Hunter Delaney, Light General, 60 points. Helton, the 2015 Overall Club Champion, also took a Heavyweight award for a 45-pound cobia.
Other Heavyweights were Cassie Delaney’s 58-pound, 9-ounce king mackerel, Mark Wilson’s 60-pound, 4-ounce dolphin, Dobbins’ 7-pound, 11-ounce seatrout, Charlie Rupe’s 3-foot, 8-inch redfish, Doug Kaska’s 14-pound tripletail, David Werner’s 7-pound, 13-ounce largemouth bass, Dan Thompson’s 8-pound bowfin, and Margaret Thompson’s 2-pound, 4-ounce panfish.
Juniors receiving club record awards were Carolyn Costello for a 14-pound, 8-ounce drum and Greg Bernard for an 8-pound sheepshead. Junior Heavyweights included Lorna Rupe for a 3-pound largemouth bass and Wesley Rupe for a 12-ounce panfish (crappie).
A 165-pound swordfish on 80-class General tackle set a club record for Wilson and was the Fish of the Month for December. Wayne Bogle won in November with a 26-pound, 14-ounce red snapper.
Master Angler rating certificates went to John Durkee, Alex Gorichky Jr., Charlie Rupe, Hunter Delaney and Stephanie Robb; Intermediate Angler rating to Jay Young; and Angler ratings to Bill MacVittie, Wesley Rupe, Emily Rupe and Yay Young.
Forty-eight plaques, trophies and sculptures designed and produced by member Chris Costello, owner of Fishing Tournament Trophies in Port St. John, went to the many winners, along with multiple certificates.
The FSFA is more than a fishing club. It sponsors community projects including its annual Offshore Tournament out of Port Canaveral, the annual Kids Fishing Clinic at Canaveral, an on going artificial reef program, plus student scholarships and grant programs for Brevard County schools. It has North and South Brevard chapters, each with separate monthly meetings with speakers.
For more information log on to www.fsfaclub.or