Sweet Caroline reels in sweet cobia for big money in Spring Fling at AJ's

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Local angler Benny Waterfield and crew aboard the Sweet Caroline with Capt. Danny Bilger landed a 50.6-pounder to win the Spring Fling Cobia Tournament at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar over the weekend, netting about $30,000 in prize money. 

Not only was it the winning cobia, it was the only eligible cobia weighed during the two-day event. To be eligible for entry, a cobia had to weigh at least 45 pounds. 

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Ten boats were entered but only three brought fish to the scales. Weighmaster Bruce Cheves weighed in a 30.6-pounder on Friday. 

The crew aboard the Sweet Caroline with Capt. Danny Bilger pose for a few photographs with their winning cobia in the Spring Fling Cobia Tournament at AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar. Benny Waterfield caught the 50.6-pounder.

Then about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the Sweet Caroline backed in with the only fish that would make it on the board, a 50.6-pounder. 

Capt. Danny Bilger said they fished both days of the tournament and the winner was the only cobia they saw. They caught it near the Navarre Pier. 

Bilger’s son, Luke, first spotted the cobia just before noon. The fish took the bait and Waterfield needed only about 15 minutes to boat the cobia, but not without a mishap. 

Local angler Benny Waterfield shows off his  50.6-pound cobia caught aboard the Sweet Caroline. His catch won the Spring Fling Cobia Tournament at AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar.

Luke Bilger said when they tried to net the fish, “the net disintegrated.” 

Danny Bilger said the net hadn’t been used in two years, so it probably dry rotted, noting they really didn’t cobia fish last season. 

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Luckily, Luke said they were able to grab the net by hand and pull the prize-winning cobia into the boat.

The crew of the Sweet Caroline wait in the stands Saturday evening to see if any one else comes in with a cobia bigger than their 50.6-pounder. No one did.

A little after 7 p.m., Capt. BJ Teems of the El Chapo backed in with the final weighed cobia. Clark Adams, 14, weighed in a 42.8-pounder, which was too small for an official entry. 

Teems said the 42.8-pounder was the only cobia they saw during their two days of fishing. Teems said they went to the east on Friday and then west on Saturday and found the lone cobia near Navarre. 

Clark Adams weighed in a 42.9 pound cobia, but it wasn't big enough to get on the board in the Spring Fling.

Capt. Casey Godwin and Capt. Jim Westbrook along with Tommy Swanson and others on the Suzie Q fished for two days, long and hard, and didn’t see the first cobia. 

“We saw everything else, just not the elusive cobia,” Godwin said.  

Swanson said they saw big turtles and rays, which are usually where the cobia like to hang out, but no cobia was to be found. 

Up next in the lineup of weekend cobia tournaments is the Frank Helton Crab Cruncher set to go at Harbor Docks on April 8-11. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. April 8. Weigh-ins will be from 4-8 p.m.