A New Generation of Fishing Tournaments

A New Generation of Fishing Tournaments
The weigh-in crew were very professional and took great care in handling live fish.

This past February brought nearly a week of bone-chilling cold to the Texas coast. Shallow bay water temperatures plummeted into the 30s for several days. Sadly, a lot of fish died. Speckled trout possess a markedly low tolerance for survival in these conditions and the Laguna Madre was hit particularly hard. In response, Texas Parks and Wildlife enacted emergency fishing regulations to conserve the spawning biomass that made it through the event.

So, fishing’s been tougher than normal in many areas; just ask any veteran angler who frequents the mid-coast or Laguna Madre. Many fishing guides and conservation-minded anglers were quick to pledge complete catch and release for specks to enable the fishery to recover. Through all this, the question of whether fishing tournaments were still a good idea jumped right to the front page.

Long story short – the answer is yes. Fishing tournaments can continue so long as the formats are adjusted to reflect the condition of the fishery in which we are participating. The story I want to relate is notable in this regard.

Ron Hoover RV and Marine’s Donna dealership had scheduled a fishing tournament to take place in spring 2020. Then came the Covid pandemic and a series of postponements. Eventually, with no hope for pulling it off last year it was rescheduled for July 24-25 2021.

The Hoover team rolled up their sleeves and did a lot of thinking outside the box to create a format that was both fishery-friendly and challenging for participants, and for this they are to be commended. Speckled trout remained on the program, but with teams of four anglers submitting only one speck between 17-20 inches. The redfish category was trimmed similarly with a very tight slot length of 20-21 inches. The redfish stringer was limited to two fish of that length, although a third red of TPW-legal length could be submitted in the “most spots” contest. The icing on the cake for this event was the encouragement for anglers to keep their catch alive for release after weigh-in.

Long about now you might be wondering whether a tourney of such downsized proportions might still be challenging for anglers. Well, we fished it, and it was VERY challenging! In my view, anglers who demonstrate the ability to catch the MOST fish are also likely to catch the RIGHT fish, no matter the size restrictions. And isn’t catching the right fish what competitive fishing is all about in the first place?

The Hoover tournament was a tremendous success with 140 teams (approximately 500 anglers) packing the South Padre Convention Center auditorium Friday evening for the captain’s meeting and again on Saturday for awards and raffle prizes. Everybody enjoyed the food and the live entertainment was a big hit as well. How could you not enjoy the Spazmatics and their high-energy rock and roll performance?

In addition to all the cash prizes in the various fishing categories, topping the list of raffle prizes was a brand-new RV and a Majek boat-motor-trailer package – tough decision for the two lucky winners. Crowd reaction during the grand prize raffles was wild, everybody shouting what the winner should choose, like we see on TV game shows.

Fifty teams weighed their catches. The weigh-in team were very profession and took great care as a considerable number of the 50 reds and 27 trout were released successfully to continue growing and spawning.

Just a quick aside; we fished the event with Capt. Ernest Cisneros and we managed to keep all our fish alive for the weigh-in. While preparing to remove them from the live-well he gazed down proudly and remarked…this is how all tournaments should be conducted! I couldn’t agree more.

Hats off to Dustin Hoover and his team for a very well organized and entertaining fishing tournament!