Salty Fly 2011 official write up
Monday November 29th 2010 I put up a post on face book.
“Putting together a fly only tournament in Tampa the weekend after the Miami Boat show in Feb. Cash payout, looking for some ideas. Got any? I have all kinds of goodies already in the kitty. It’s gonna be a good one.”
When I got 11 likes and 45 replies in a couple hours I quickly realized there was a bit of an interest in a fly fishing tournament.
The number one request was to not make it very expensive so normal people could afford to fish in it. They gave me examples of the ones held in the keys where the entry fees are usually $1,000 and up.
I wanted to host a grass roots tournament to get people interested in saltwater fly fishing. A lower barrier to entry was a must.
Monday December 6th 2010 we made public the entry form and paypal links.
Wednesday 8th of December 2010 06:18:56 AM, Not even three days and the tournament was completely sold out.
Yes, Salty Fly was completely sold out, paid in full and the tournament was almost three months away. To me this was quite impressive, especially for a first run event.
Once the 40 team limit had been reached word started to get out, people got excited. There was an out pour of people that wanted to be on the waiting list and friends that wanted me to sneak them in. Not to mention fly vendors and companies that wanted to be part of this grass root fly event.
Going over the list of teams was also very interesting. There were teams from all sectors of the flats genre. These are just statistics from the top of my head as I write this.
30% had been fly fishing for less than 1 year.
6 Teams fishing were Kayak or Canoes
16 teams their home waters was not Tampa Bay.
1 team came from as far away as Boston and Denver
Teams came from all parts of Florida. Some of the ones I can remember were from Destin, Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Melbourne, Pine Island, Sarasota, Naples, Dunedin, St. Pete, and Bradenton.
The next few weeks leading to the tournament was definitely work. Getting the participants to get excited and come together was done. Now it was time to make a million phone calls, correspond with vendors, put miles on the truck meeting with sponsors and working all the kinks out.
The venue had to be secure, waiver forms printed, logistic spread sheets created , make captain’s bags , getting all the t-shirt sizes right, and a ton more little behind the scene things I won’t get into. Yes, you will stop reading this due to boredom.
In mid January we opened it up for five more teams. After creating the join form, I emailed all the teams on the waiting list all at once to be fair. In twelve hours all five open spots were taken.
Just out of curiosity I wanted to see what was currently largest fly fishing tournament in Florida. I made some calls to key people in the fly fishing industry and went through many Google searches. There were many tournaments that had 100 teams but they were conventional tournaments or a mixture. I am happy and surprise to say that I believe Salty Fly is now the largest Fly Fishing tournament in Florida.
This was interesting, looking around I noticed most of fly tournament are design to keep beginners and people of lower income out. By making the entry free excessive this as easily achieved. That was the one thing I did not want. I wanted beginners to be involved. I mean, how do you grow a sport only catering to a privilege few? This however, is another story for another day.
Let us get back to the tournament in hand. The last week leading to the tournament was as hectic as can be. The last few minute items had to be gathered. Finalizing the logistics of the 6am captain’s meeting and the check in at 3pm, where to store all the captain’s bags, Cash, raffle items came down to the wire. Thankfully I had a few helping hands to push things along.
We had a pre tournament party at Circles Tiki bar on the water. This was not mandatory by any means, just some guys getting together for a beer after they prefished and to talk about tomorrow’s big day. I was glad to see about 20 or so guys show up to join the fun. I pulled out my camera to do some quick and candid interview which made for some entertaining sound clips. (I will put something together soon)
Knowing there were lots to be done, I was up at 4am the next morning. I arrived early at the Captain’s meeting around 5:15am and surprise to see a few guys there already. One team had an RV with their skiff in tow sleeping in the parking lot.
With the truck head lights as our only source of light we started to set up. Indeed low budget but people loved it. With the help of Dale, Tom and a couple other guys we started to check everyone in. The waivers were signed, Calcutta joined, and everyone was eager to leave and get fishing by 6:15am. I stood up on the skiff that we used as table and was amazed to see how many people was out there full of energy this early in the morning.
The rules had been up for quite a while so there were not many questions to be answered. I briefly went over them anyways but for the most part it went quickly. I wished them luck and safe travels and the guys were running towards their vehicles to get to the fishing holes.
At Cherry’s bar and grill, the weigh in was helped by Dale and Lauren who was cool enough to come by and gave me hand. They were checking people in and collection ID chips, giving our raffle tickets before I got there.
Once checked in the participants sat on the lanai grabbed a cold beer and relaxed. Thanks to Cherry’s for having the extra staff handy to help us out. Between the anglers and everyone that came to hang out we probably had 100 people there.
The captain’s bags were then given out along with the custom microfiber Salty Fly shirts. This kept the teams busy along with food, beer and everyone mingling, while we tabulated the numbers.
I have been to and participated in many tournaments. The way most tournament are design encourages anyone that did not do well that day to go straight home. No chance to network, no chance to meet new friends and no chance for any sponsor exposure. I bump into many people I have met at these tournaments for years and to this day most still feel like strangers.
I wanted create a fun, friendly, non intimidating atmosphere. Making everyone come back for raffles and captain’s bag was big bonus for many. Even if they did not catch anything, having everyone back gives them the opportunity to network, have fun and share fishing stories. Not to mention this gives the sponsors much more exposure.
Once we tabulated the top5 teams and verified their catches it was time announced the winners. Using the Nautilus Reel combined with Mardi Gras beads, we made a Flava Flav style trophies.
1st place Team Native Revolution, Nicholas Felts/Chris Revelo
2nd place team Hurrah, Fred McClendon/ Marcus Dean
3rd place team Ramrod, Rich Osgood/Jeff Ruppart
Congrats to these guys. With mad skillzzz and a little luck mixed in, they topped some of the stiffest fly competition our area had to offer. They walked away with $3000.00 in cash prizes as well as one of kind Salty Fly engraved Nautilus trophy. Not to mention the $100 wanganchor bonus and the $400.00 in Calcutta money.
Lauren and Dave were next up to help with the raffle items. The raffle items were over the top. We had Fly rods from Scott, G.Loomis, Temple fork, and Echo. A Salty Fly engraved reel from Galvin along with thousands of dollars with of awesome prizes.
I have to say even though I was pretty busy with the tournament I was glad to see everyone mingling and having a great time. I had people coming up to me wanting to enter the 2012 already so have their spot for next year.
As the crowd disperses, many did not want to leave. I was zonked out by 9:30pm and left. I heard the next day, the party did not end until 11pm. I had lots guys came up to thank me for putting on the event. The best compliments were the ones that told me it didn’t even feel like a tournament and that they had a great time just hanging out enjoying everyone’s company. I believe this is what really builds friendships and make the sport grow.
This confirms that the mission was accomplished. Not bad for a Fly only tournament that started on Facebook, sold out in 3 days and became the largest fly only tournament in Florida. You just can’t make this stuff up. 🙂
If you were at the tournament and want to send our sponsors a word of gratitude please click on the link bellow and fill out the form. A kind word or two goes a long ways and will make next year’s Salty Fly tournament be that much better.
Again, thanks everyone for coming out, helping and of course to all our wonderful sponsors without whom none of this would be possible.
These are shots taken by my friend Hank.