To the Editor:
The most famous fishing tournament in SW Florida has returned after a six-year hiatus and we at the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce could not be more proud or thankful for the monumental efforts and dedication of the organizers, sponsors, volunteers and participants who spent nearly a year and thousands of hours of planning to make it a success.
We had 33 boats compete in the fleet.
Our winners this year received cash and prizes totaling well over $53,000.
First-place winners were Capt. Willie Mills and team leader Bruce Aikens aboard the Tracy Lynn with five tarpon caught and released.
Second-place winners were Capt. Wayne Joiner and team leader Alex Shouppe aboard the Hey, Moma!.
Third-place winners were Capt. Matt Coleman and team leader Don Cayo of team CCM Graphic Solutions.
No fish were weighed, gaffed or hoisted from the water for pictures for this event. This is a live-bait, all-releases tournament.
The Chamber was supported by so many local businesses that have historically been a part of this event and even some new friends we have made on this journey: The Boca Beacon, Gasparilla Properties, Caddy Carts, Gulf to Bay Sotheby’s, Gasparilla Outfitters, Grande Tours, Italiano Insurance, Marine Max, Panama Jack, Kinetico Water Services, Cape Haze Marina, Cannons Marina, Boca Grande Marina, Whiddens Marina, Cruisin’ Coastlines, Grande Aire Services, Kevin Hyde of Michael Saunders & Company, Florida Sport Fishing, South Beach Bar & Grille, Barbara Anne’s Jewelry, Boca Grande Outfitters, The Loose Caboose, Key Agency, Boca Grande Real Estate, Boca Grande Cart Rentals, Seale Family Realtors, Best Buy, the Sleep Inn and Suites of Port Charlotte, The Veranda Inn of Englewood, The Boca Grande Woman’s Club, the Boca Bay Pass Club.
The invitational art show by Carroll Swayze was world class and the marine theme was a perfect fit for the event. Thank you for all of your hard work and promotion Carroll.
All those who donated time and services: Daniel Godwin of the Boca Beacon, Nelson Photographers, Sisters Restaurant, the Boca Grande Fire Department, the GICIA, the staff at the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center, Bob Green & Joe Weir of Lee County Parks and Recreation, the Gasparilla Island Water Association, the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority, Englewood Bank & Trust, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, the Lemon Bay Conservancy and all of the numerous volunteers that gave so freely of their time and resources, there are no words that can repay or even equate to your selfless generosity.
To returning title sponsor Budweiser and Peace River Distributing, thank you for always being there waiting in the wings for this moment. Thank you to our newest title sponsor and partner in conservation, Guy Harvey Enterprises and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation who designed the tournament’s signature art and provided such strong support and guidance. I am proud to say I have gained more than a few genuine friends there from the experience.
To the staff and my friends at ROI Media who helped us develop the stunning “World’s Richest” Magazine with the support of our partners in science and education, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Mote Marine Laboratory, the FWC, and Sean and Brooks Paxton, aka “The Shark Brothers”, who are more like brothers to me than strategic partners in this endeavor.
Our high-quality magazine was the centerpiece for education to help tournament participants, sponsors, residents and visitors alike understand the importance of our coastal marine environment, what is at stake if we were to lose it, and what it will take to rehabilitate and preserve it for future generations.
Thanks to our musical guests for our Tarpon Festival Weekend: The Boca Band, RPM, Jim Morris and special thanks to Nashville recording artist Colton James, who reminded us that while we enjoy the bountiful natural resources we are surrounded by today here in SW Florida, we should always be proper stewards of our environment so we can “Save it for the Kids”
There are so many people to thank for the success of this event, it was impossible to include everyone by name, but I can assure you I know and appreciate every one of you who took the time to answer my questions, help me with research and logistics and set me straight when I strayed off point.
With the tremendous support we have received for this event this year and the positive responses after-the-fact, we are looking forward to next year to expand the reach of our mission of conservation, education and sportsmanship.
I encourage anyone who would like to be involved in next year’s event to contact me at the Chamber office at your earliest convenience at (941)-964-0568.
Lew Hastings, Executive Director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce
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