CLEWISTON — Welcome to the Sunshine State. Well, usually. Seems Mother Nature decided to throw our anglers a little curve for Qualfier No. 3 of the Roland Martin Marine Center Series presented by HUK. Sorry Mom, you’re going to have to try a little harder to throw these sticks off their game.
Our anglers knocked the rust off their bilge pumps and got down to work on legendary Lake Okeechobee on Saturday with hopes of filling the well and padding their bank accounts. As it turns out, the winning team shares the same account.
With a 24.7 pound limit, the husband and wife team of Adam and Melinda Markley collected the winner’s check along with half of the other contingency awards. The happy couple was even happier with quite a payday for their second trip to the winner’s circle in the series history.
“We caught about 10 flipping before we decided to head in early,” Adam said. “We waited but never went back out.”
So what’s it like as a husband and wife team on the tournament trail?
“It’s great,” admitted Adam. “I don’t have to split anything, it just all goes to her.”
The couple didn’t pre-fish and didn’t even risk heading back out with the remaining time in the afternoon to pad their weight. As it turned out, they didn’t need it. All they needed was a calculator to add up the winning checks.
The first place check netted them $6,100. The highest finishing angler to cross the stage in HUK Gear added another $250. The top Lady Angler earned Melinda $100 from Mary Ann Martin. A kicker in the bag weighing 7.94 ended up being the US Sugar Big Bass of the tournament and added another $500. That left the couple singing in the rain to the tune of $6,950.
The second place team of William Bennion and Kenny Harris bagged 22.95 pounds. They lost one that might have given them the edge but were comforted with a $3,100 second place check. Harris also added another $250 as the highest finisher with a Mercury under warranty.
“We were about 15 from the locks,” Harris said. “We were flipping all day. We caught one on a trap, but for the most part, we were flipping.”
Rounding out the top three was the team of Mike Keyso and John Perry. A prolific team that always seems to be a top resident on the leaderboard. Even with Perry doing his best while on crutches with a broken leg.
“We had the winning fish on,” Keyso said. “We had it near the boat and he (Perry) ended up falling in trying to net it.”
The team admitted it was a grind all day but they managed 22.64 for a third place finish and a check for $1,550.
Despite the weather, a majority of the field still brought a limit to the stage and battled for the remaining checks the Markley’s didn’t already have their name on.
As the highest paying team tournament trail in Florida, the payouts extended to the top 26 places. Additional contingencies kept the rewards coming. The 17-year-old angler, Conner Swindle, collected $100 from Mercury as the Highest Fishing Youth Angler. Second Big Bass awarded the team of Val Osinksi and Todd Scherr $100 Gambler Bucks for their 7.89 bass (the only fish they weighed). Gilbert Chevrolet, with feature vehicles on display at the weigh-in from the South Florida Chevy Dealers, awarded the highest finishing Gilbert Chevrolet vehicle owners, Rick Wilhelm and Dell Hatfiled $500 for their ride. And last but not least. Well, actually it was the least. The team of John Tavano and Doug Caldwell collected $300 from AV Inspection.
That puts a wrap on Qualifier No. 3 with one more on November 20 before the 2-Day Championship December 11-12. Teams must fish three of the four qualifiers to qualify for the Championship. So make sure you don’t miss out on what’s gearing up to be another record payout for the Series Championship. Register today and we’ll see you in November.
For more images of the event, visit the gallery here: https://rolandmartinmarinecenterseries.com/gallery/