The final event of the 2012 season for the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association (MSSA) attracted more than 800 anglers on 220 boats in pursuit of almost $80,000 in prize money.

Fishing out of Solomons, Lee Tippett, captain of the Fin Finder II, along with Andrew Turner and his crew reeled in a 41.35 pound rockfish to win the first prize of $45,000 in the MSSA Fall Classic Rockfish Tournament, the country's largest rockfish tournament.

The event was held Nov. 17 and 18 on the Chesapeake Bay from Sandy Point to Point Lookout. The winning catch came on the first day near the Hooper's Island Light (72B Buoy).

"This tournament, like the others in our series, lures anglers from Maryland and other states on the East Coast to the Bay and gives our local communities a little boost, and of course gives our members one last chance to participate in this great fishery before the season ends," said Dave Smith, executive director of the MSSA.

Jeff Probst, along with Mike and Bill Turner, caught the event's second-largest rockfish, a 40.9 pounder that was reeled in at Bloody Point in 70 feet of water on a chartruese umbrella rig. The three Stevensville anglers will split $14,640 in prize money.

Fishing at 78 Buoy, Rick Heck and his crew caught a 40.60 striper on a white bucktail in 45 feet of water on Saturday morning. Heck and his crew will divvy up the $9,760 third-place winnings.

Smith said other prize winners included Bob Blasetti and Reggie Forgan ($5,452 for their 35.75 pound rockfish caught on Sunday). They took fourth place overall and second place in the $150 and $200 Tournaments Within A Tournament (TWTs).

Sam Fisher, 2011 MSSA Captain of the Year, won more than $3,500 with his 35.10-pound striper caught in the Potomac on a white parachute rig that placed fifth in the overall tournament and third place in the $150 and $200 TWTs.

John Weber of Bushwood and Kevin McMenamin of Annapolis each won $500 for the daily "All MSSA Crew Bonus" prizes. Weber and a crew of three, including his two sons, caught a 25.20-pound rockfish to win Saturday's bonus.

McMenamin and his son Drew took ninth place in the overall tournament with their 33.30-pound striper, which helped them win Sunday's bonus.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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