To the Editor:
The 37th annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament was filled with Grande traditions, exciting tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass, expert captains, mates and anglers, generous sponsors, incredible judges, talented artists, hardworking volunteers and the love and spirit of the Boca Grande Community.
The Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce was honored to host the 2019 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament and have a weeklong celebration of the Silver King that put us on the map!
On Monday, Grande Aire Services hosted and The Temptation Restaurant catered the “Grande Tradition” event where we got to listen to the characters of this true story tell tales of being involved in the tournament over the years. We would like to thank the speakers who contributed their first-person accounts to the rich history of this tournament: Nat Italiano, Dusty Hopkins, Frank Newlin, Dixie Hollins and Seth McKeel. We honored Capt. Jimmy Robertson for his contribution to the Boca Grande Fishery and the mark he made as a local legend. Thank you to those who told hilarious and heartwarming stories in his memory. A big thank you to the Robertson family for allowing us the privilege to recognize a man who made an impact in Boca Grande’s fishing history.
On Tuesday, our presenting sponsor Boca Grande Marina, Miller’s Dockside, and the Eagle Grille, hosted the sponsorship reception, where we got to individually thank all of our incredible sponsors. The food was delicious, the space was beautiful, and the service was top- notch. Here is a list of our 2019 World’s Richest Sponsors:
Boca Grande Marina, Miller’s Dockside, Eagle Grille
Premier, The Gasparilla Inn & Club
Grande Aire Services, Barnichol Hardware, Island TV Boca Grande, Boca Beacon
Columbia Sportswear, Innovative Marine Structures, Caddy Carts, Ram-Lin, Barbara Anne’s Jewelry & Repair, Marinemax, Quality Boats, Italiano Insurance, Conditioned Air, Moultrie, The Temptation Restaurant, Blu Site Solutions, Peace River Distribution, S & P Hauling
Hudson’s Grocery, Tommy Locke Outdoors, Bowen Construction, Michael Saunders & Company, Fair Cost Health Plan, Boca Grande Vacations, Kelly Reark Artist, Hollinswood Ranch, Sotheby’s Gulf to Bay International Real Estate, Gary World Wide, Paradise Exclusive Real Estate Pink Pony/Dolphin Cove, Abel’s Marine, Englewood Bank & Trust, Boca Grande Real Estate, Appliance Service Co., Southern Cross Storm Protection, Soul of the Sea, Scarpa’s Coastal, Phelan Family Brands, Pirates Dream, Richard’s Foodporium, Myakka Pines Golf Club, TJ Carney’s Pub & Grille Venice, Daiquiri Deck, Bonefish Grill, Sadie Green’s Jewelry, Beach Road Boutique, Whirly Board, Reef + Ledge, Mustad
Without these generous sponsors, this event would not be possible, and we are immensely grateful for your continued support. The Boca Grande community steps up for this tournament year after year. Your contributions and kindness are appreciated more than you know, thank you.
On Wednesday, The Gasparilla Inn & Club hosted an amazing captain’s party! Between the great food and drinks, the yards of raffle tickets strung on all the guests, awesome bluegrass music by The Swinging Bridge and an army of volunteers to keep the evening running smooth, 2019 knocked it out of the park. Thank you to everyone that pitched in that night. It took a village, and the village showed up!
The tournament ran Thursday and Friday with a total of 20 tarpon released. In those eight hours, $100,000 was on the line.
Our judges worked together as a well-oiled machine, and we can’t thank them enough for how professional they make this tournament. The Chamber would like to thank our Head Judge: Dixie Hollins and our Judges: Robyn Hollins, Wesley Locke, Amy Prestia, Sandy Bylaska, Cheryl Sands, Ed Copp/Mike Cordoza, Alison Henderson, Rich Caccavale, Theresa Caccavale, Gina Caccavale, Braxton Bowen, Doug Pilch, Julie Jean Robertson, Braxton Bowen, Kacy Cheske, Kalee Joiner, Jill Chatham, Melissa Steyer, Mila Wyman, Austin Kopp and Chris Swanson. We would like to thank Quality Boats for donating three of the judge boats and captains as well as Marine Max for donating and running the sponsor boat.
When the talented fleet headed to the Pass on Thursday afternoon, it was anybody’s game. On Day 1, Capt. Sandy Melvin and his team aboard the Boca Blue were on fire and had five total releases. Capt. Lamar Joiner Jr. and Team Searene were not far behind with three. As Thursday came to a close, Boca Blue had the first release and the most fish released that day, and Capt. Wayne Joiner and his team on the Hey, Moma! called in the last fish hooked and released at 7:29:57. Talk about a nail biter! With spirits high, Day 2 commenced. With one fish caught on Friday calling in at 7:26:26, it was a tough day of fishing. Capt. Lamar Joiner, Jr. and the Watkins family on the Searene landed the only fish of Day 2 at 7:32:43, winning them both first and last fish for Day 2, worth $25,000. In the end, Boca Blue took home first place and first release of Day 1, winning $42,500. Searene won second place and first and last release of Day 2, winning $45,000. Hey, Moma! won last fish released on Day 1, winning $12,500.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2019 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament; it never fails to be an exciting event. We hope everyone had a fun time and will join us in 2020.
Carroll Swayze did a stellar job organizing and putting on the 8th annual Boca Grande Art Invitational for this year’s street festival. Thank you to all the artists who were a part of this event. The art was world-class, and the work Carroll put into running the two-day festival blew us away. Thank you for putting this show together for this community. We look forward to it every year!
Last but not least, we want thank the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament Committee: Wesley Locke, Amy Prestia, Kacy Cheske, Nat Italiano, Gary Cross and Sarah Joiner. These volunteers plan all year for this week of celebration and competition. We thank you for your time and the love you pour into this event. Thank you to our conservation partners, Captains for Clean Water and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust for working with us to help with conservation education and the protection of the Boca Grande Fishery.
Thank you Wyatt Locke at Barnichol Signs for helping us with all of the graphics leading up to WRTT. Thank you, Monica Clay, for keeping everyone updated down on the beach with the leaderboard. The Boca Beacon and Island TV Boca Grande did a fantastic job of covering the events throughout the week. Thank you for hopping on judge boats, coming to all of the events and documenting another chapter of this tournament.
We want to thank our artist, Kelly Reark, for creating “Richest Memories” for our 2019 artwork. She honored our 2018 winners and memorialized some of the treasured captains we lost in the past year. You put your heart into this piece because your heart is in Boca Grande Pass. Thank you for painting work that meant so much to so many.
I know this is a long thank you letter, but with the number of people who help make this event possible, it has to be. 37 years of World’s Richest memories flow through this island’s veins and live in the hearts of the people who make up the history. I love this tournament because it celebrates the fish we are all obsessed with, TARPON, provides opportunities for the old guard to tell stories to the young guns, and brings the entire community together in a way that is so special it makes me cry. I am humbled by the opportunity to work on the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament.
Growing up, it was my favorite event of the year, and now I love it even more. Thank you!
World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament