ILWACO — One crew ran as far as 100 miles offshore hopeful to hit a fishing honey hole few others could reach. But it was the small boat, a 24-footer that barely cracked the 30-mile barrier that caught the biggest tuna and ultimately took home the $6,000 top prize.

Thirty teams competed in the 15th annual Deep Canyon Challenge tuna tournament held over the weekend of July 27-28 in Ilwaco, where team Meanwhile Charters took first place catching five tuna that totaled 122.65 pounds. Ilwaco-based Team Shake N' Bake finished second with 114.05 pounds and Ilwaco-based Team Fast Cat finished third with 110.15 pounds. The Ilwaco fleet accounted for six of the top-10 finishers.

"It was nonstop all day," said Meanwhile Charters team member Trent Newcombe moments after the official weigh in. Newcombe, fishing with four other team members, reported hot action from the start, converting a quad hookup into 10 fish on their first stop.

While most boats sped to tuna grounds further offshore, the Garibaldi-based charter, fishing aboard a 24' Seahawk, concentrated on schools found closer to shore.

"We were only about 30-35 miles out, every other boat kept going. We were in close and had no boats in sight and found some big fish," Newcombe said.

Calm seas allowed the field to spread far and wide, one going as far as 100 miles offshore, but most fished in the 40-to 60-mile range.

Jumpers were spotted as close as 13 miles offshore, said Oregon Tuna Classic representative Del Stephens.

Every team caught fish, according to Stephens, with a total of 2,800 pounds of tuna donated and split between Pacific County and Clatsop County food banks.

The fishing tournament circuit will continue with the Oregon Tuna Classic finale in Garibaldi Aug. 23 and 24, where a series champion will be crown and officially invited to compete in the Offshore World Championship in Quepos, Costa Rica next April.

Luke Whittaker is a staff writer for Coast River Business Journal and the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or lwhittaker@crbizjournal.com.

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