'It pulled too good': John Graham wins Sheepshead Shootout with 9.6-pound fish

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
John Graham of Fort Walton Beach took first place in the annual Sheepshead Shootout at Ships Chandler in Destin.

Out of a field of 57 anglers, John Graham of Fort Walton Beach was the big winner in the annual Sheepshead Shootout at the Ships Chandler in Destin on Saturday. 

Graham weighed in a 9.6-pounder for first place, taking home $1,425. 

He was fishing with Daniel Young aboard Young’s 22-foot Cape Horn. 

Young said they got on the water about 5 a.m. Saturday and headed toward the Destin Bridge, just trying to get a spot.

“One year, we got there and there were about 15 boats already there,” Young said. 

Jordan Whiteman, left, and Brett Posey show off some of the sheepshead they caught on Saturday. Whiteman placed second overall with his 8.4-pounder.

Young said they got their first fish about 11:30 a.m. 

“It was tough fishing this morning,” he said. 

However, about 1 o’clock Graham hooked the big one. 

When asked if the fish put up a fight, Graham said, “it pulled too good.” 

Kyle Lege, right, waits as Pete Wright of Ships Chandler weighs his sheepshead. Lege took third place with a 7.13 pound fish.

Young and his group caught 16 fish. They also weighed in a 6.15- and a 6.13-pound sheepshead. 

Second place went to local angler Jordan Whiteman with an 8.4-pounder. Whiteman and Brett Posey caught about a dozen sheepshead. Posey weighed in a 7.1-pounder. They were fishing down near Clyde B. Wells Bridge, also known as the 331 bridge. 

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“We caught the majority of them in an hour,” Whiteman said, noting prime time was between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. 

Placing third was Kyle Lege of Destin with a 7.13-pounder pulled in aboard the Malia Ann with Capt. Zach Wolfe. 

“We fished all the pilings around the bridge,” Lege said. 

Kyle Lege shows off his third place fish, a 7.13 pound sheepshead.

“But the pinfish were eating our bait. It was a tough day. We caught three or four at the end,” Wolfe said for a total of five fish. 

Lege said they caught their first fish about a half hour after they started fishing but didn’t get the big one until after lunch. 

Lege snagged the sheepshead on a Carolina rig with shrimp. 

“Sheepshead is one of my favorite fish to catch. They put up a good fight on light tackle,” Lege said. 

John Graham, left, waits as Pete Wright of Ships Chandler weighs in his fish. Graham's sheepshead placed first at 9.6 pounds.

Some of the prizes given away to the second and third place fishermen included a dry-gear bag, Yeti cups, a pair of Smith sunglasses and hats. 

Although numbers were a bit down for the tournament this year, the weather was great with temperatures in the high 70s. 

“A lot of the charter guys that fish the tournament had trips, which is good,” said Pete Wright of Ships Chandler. 

Local angler Brett Posey drops his sheepshead in the bucket to be weighed. Posey pulled in a 7.1-pounder.

The Sheepshead Shootout is a local tournament held every year in the early spring to kick off the fishing season.  

Ships Chandler grills up burgers and hotdogs for the anglers to enjoy as they come in with their catches. About 20 fish were weighed in for the day.