Reel Time: The Waterman

Reel Time: The Waterman
The winners of the Waterman Tournament are presented their prizes by tournament founder and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper Boar Member Adam Fernandez. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

The second annual Waterman Fly Fishing Tournament was held last weekend. The two-day, fly-only redfish tournament and snook Calcutta had 114 two-member teams and three single-angler teams.

The fishing boundaries were wide, including the west coast of Florida from Crystal River to the southernmost tip of Sanibel Island. The photo submission format and the IAnglertournament App made it possible for fishermen in this entire range to participate. The tournament culminated in an awards banquet and prize-rich raffle at the Bradenton Yacht Club on Sunday evening that was made possible by a large number of generous sponsors. All proceeds from the Fly Fishing Tournament benefited Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the protection, preservation and improvement of the Tampa Bay watershed.

Two-angler teams received two, long-sleeved microfiber tournament shirts, two Tampa Bay Waterkeeper hats, dinner for two anglers at the awards ceremony and one raffle ticket for each angler. Target species were redfish and snook. Scoring was done by the highest combination of the two longest redfish caught between Day 1 and Day 2. If a tie had occurred in any of the three top places, it would have been decided by a casting competition based on fly casting distance and accuracy.

Sponsors were pivotal to this event and the fishing community stepped up to support TBWK’s mission. Some of these included a $5,000 donation from Tampa-based primary care physician Antonio Castellvi MD and his wife, Christine, a Helios 3D Fly Rod 8wt. four-piece rod donated by Orvis, a Pro Dry jacket and pants donated by Simms Fishing Products, fishing trips by Capt. Derek Rust, Rusty Fly Charters, Capt. Greg Peterson, Head Shot Charters, Capt. Dustin Pack, Fly Tide Charters, Capt. Brian Jill, Lost Coast Anglers and Capt. Bucky Goldman.

Others included Two License Plate Fish Art pieces compliments of Cody’s Fish, fly lines by Cortland Line Company, gift cards from the Compound Board Shop, Sarasota’s go-to fly shop, a $250 gift card from Tampa Fishing Outfitters, a Tailing Redfish original acrylic on watercolor paper by internationally-recognized Florida Keys artist Tim Borski and an NRX + T2s 11wt. fly rod courtesy of G. Loomis. See the full list of sponsors at Tampa Bay Waterkeeper’s website.

Participants were greeted upon entering the yacht club with fresh oysters from Lost Coast Oyster Company, which aims to revitalize the lost industry along Florida’s Gulf Coast and become a leader in sustainable aquaculture practices.

Of the 117 teams that competed (only three of which were single-angler teams), some large redfish were landed during a close two-day event. In the end, the winners were Sean Kersting and Trip Saunders with two fish totaling 67.25 inches. My fishing partner, Benny Parrish, and I came in second with 64.75 inches. The team of Mike Rogel and Jeff Harrell won third place.

Anglers were pleased with the numbers of redfish that were spotted and landed but concerned with the condition of the bay. That sentiment was shared by tournament organizer and TBWK board member Adam Fernandez in his introduction at the evening’s awards ceremony and raffle. Other speakers included Maya Burke from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Justin Bloom, founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper. Kudos to all the sponsors, anglers and TBWK board members that made this event such a big success.