BY MARCY SHORTUSE – The skies were gray and the bite was sporadic in the 2021 Gasparilla Island Kids Classic Tarpon Tournament, held on the afternoon of Saturday, June 5, but the Riley Irrigation Team with Capt. Jeff Riley aboard Cracker managed to have an experience they will remember for a lifetime. They got the one and only full release of the tournament, even though the team aboard the Jill Marie almost made it two releases … if it hadn’t been for that pesky shark.
By the way, Riley was taught to tarpon fish and captain under the tutelage of Capt. Matt Coleman.
The winning team included anglers Cody Rubio, 15, (who released the team’s tarpon and took home a Margaritaville beach bike), Ava Riley, 7, Easton Rily, 9 and Carson Canade, 16. Each of the first place team members received an Apple MacBook Air. Riley took home a $1,000 captain’s prize, as well as a “first release” prize of $500 cash & $500 worth of marine service repair, compliments of Abel’s Marine. He was also entered into the Captains’ Grand Prize Drawing for $500, compliments of Grande Aire.
The second place team was chosen by drawing. The winners were Capt. Chase McBride and anglers Jennie Swearingen, 10, and Abby Swearingen, 10. Their sponsor was Lee Weaver. They received Microsoft Surface Pro 7 computers with keyboards, and their captain received $800.
The third place team was also chosen by drawing, and included Capt. Roger Gibson, Bo Gibson, 15, Derek Gavrity, 15 and Julianna Rodino, 8. Their sponsor was Eagle Grille & Miller’s Dockside. Their prizes were Apple iPad minis, and their captain received $500.
Tournament angler Vivian Downes, 8, had her name pulled in another drawing to win a Margaritaville Girl Beach Bike.
In all, $35,000 was raised during the charitable event. Proceeds this year will benefit: the Moffitt Cancer Center – Sarcoma Research, $4,000; Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, $1,000; Boca Grande Historical Society, $5,000; the Dee Wheeler Scholarship Fund Summer Camp, $2,000; The Island School, $3,000; Friends of Boca Grande Community Center, $1,000; Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, $5,000; Charlotte Public Schools for Stem Camp, $14,000.
The total donated to local charities from all of the GIKC tournaments since 2011 is $317,000.
Platinum sponsors for the event included Columbia Sportswear Company, US Health Advisors and Margaritaville.
Gold sponsors include Special Effects, Gasparilla Outfitters, Gasparilla Adventures, The Gasparilla Inn & Club, Abels Marina, Publix, Grande Aire, the Boca Beacon and Gulf Coast International Properties.