It’s an amazing sight: Take a bored kid, throw a pole in his hands and set him out in Boca Grande Pass with some of the best tarpon fishing guides in the world. You can be guaranteed that what happens next will include priceless memories that last a lifetime, and the possibility of yet another conservationist in the making.
The Gasparilla Island Kids Classic Tournament is one event that caters only to kids, and this year it benefits kids as well. It is the brainchild of Capt. Sandy Melvin, owner of Gasparilla Outfitters, who wants to make sure that the Boca Grande Pass, and the waters beyond, are kept safe by those who believe in ethical, conservationist fishing practices.
This year the Moffitt Cancer Research program called “Families First” will be the beneficiary of all money raised.
The Kids Classic this year will be held on May 19, 2012, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. during the outgoing hill tide. Each team will consist of four anglers, and it’s a $1,000 donation per team to enter.“We’ve always been involved in charitable events around Boca Grande, and a lot of times we use fishing tournaments to do some good things,” Melvin said. “Over the years there’s been a very successful kids’ fishing tournament out here, one we call the BoMo, but it’s only for kids that live on the island. We wanted to reach out to more off-island kids, maybe even some that have never been fishing before, and we did a test event last year that was well received.”
The beneficiary of this year’s Kids Classic Tournament will be the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. It is a program initiated to help parents and their children as they adjust to the changes that occur within a family once a child is diagnosed with cancer. The program is in affiliation with All-Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“Moffitt is one of the leading cancer institutes in the country, and it’s located close by in Tampa,” Melvin said. “We’ve had some cancer issues in our family and we want to give back for their efforts. We felt like this is such a worthy cause.”
First place winners will receive one of the most innovative multimedia products on the market right now – an Apple iPad. Other prizes are still being worked on, and anyone who has any ideas or donations can call Gasparilla Outfitters.
The winning captain and the team members will also have their name memorialized on a perpetual trophy that will remain in a showcase in the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce office. Created by local artist Stuart Hoeckel, it is a large metalworked tarpon catching a Pass Crab in its mouth.
“We call it the Ed and Judy Davis Memorial Award, in honor of my wife Robin’s parents,” Melvin said. “Last season’s winners are already engraved there, and we’re waiting to see who will win next season. We have actually created a foundation in that name, and we hope to donate as much money as possible.”
Melvin said that anyone who is 15 or younger on the day of the tournament is eligible to compete. It is up to the parents’ discretion whether an angler is too young to fish or not.
“We had some 9-year-olds catching 100-pound tarpon at the last tournament,” Melvin said. “It showed us exactly what this tournament could be, and how family-friendly it is. This gets kids involved in the outdoors and away from the video games.”
It takes a lot of people to put together a tournament of this magnitude, and Sandy said that his wife, Robin, and his assistant, Melina, are two of the hardest-working women on the island. Moffitt representatives have also put in their fair share of planning, and Melvin said that Daniel Godwin of the Boca Beacon was very important in getting all the promotional materials together.
“The list goes on and on as to who has offered to step up and help with this,” Melvin said. “It’s a very important thing to remember that kids are the future of all sport fishing. We have such a history of fishing here, and we want to keep that alive. We’re very conscious of conservation efforts, and this tournament is catch-and-release only. The quicker the kids let the fish go, the more opportunities there are for more fish to be caught. And the more fun we’ll have.”
“This is an opportunity for everyone to conserve the fishery, and to foster a love of fishing in our younger generations. We have the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, and I hope this will become known as the world’s greatest kids’ fishing tournament. With the help of the community and everyone else, I think we’ll be able to achieve that.”Contact any local captain or Gasparilla Outfitters in Boca Grande, at 964-0907.
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