This past weekend we hosted our 1st tournament outside of the Tampa Bay area ever. It was the 1st Annual SWC Red Drum Classic in Destin, Fl. SWC Collective member and guide in the area, Royce Dahnke of Cast N Blast Charters, reached out to Jenn a couple months back after seeing the event we did with Florida Cracker Kitchen in Brooksville and asked if we could do one up there. He collaborated his good friend Chatham Morgan and they secured Chatham’s Local Market for the event venue, and it worked out awesome! Chatham was really generous in providing everyone dinner at the angler party in addition to the hosting the Fly Tying and awards.
The format for the tournament is really fun and easy. The target species is only Red Drum (Redfish), and the goal is to catch as many spots (the false eye on the Red Drum) as possible. All fish must be caught on artificials only (no live bait), and each spot is worth 1 point. And to make it super sporty, all spots on a fly caught fish equal double points. So if you catch a fish with 2 spots on artificials, you get 2 points. The same two fish, if caught on fly, would equal 4 points. It makes for a fun event, and having the fly caught fish equal double points makes it so your strategy can really help.
We ended up having around 40 total entrants, and the vibe at the Captain’s party was really great with our friends at RCI Optics coming out to hang and donating 3 pairs of their awesome shades to the event.
It was a bit nerve racking going up to a new region for us, and I wasn’t exactly sure how we would be received. In going over the rules, there were a couple minor questions in regards to the rules like, “how can we prove that a fish was caught on fly, or that bait wasn’t used”. I am used to doing stuff like this in our region and I always make it clear that you’re free to cheat if you want, just let us know that you’re doing it so we don’t award a trophy to a cheater. I pretty much went the same way, and it was quickly understood that what we were doing up there was trying to bring like-minded anglers together, rather than just host a super competitive money tournament that brings out the kind of guys that do cheat. It was great that everyone quickly understood, and everyone was light and joking about it rather than creating unnecessary drama.
Another thing we had going for us was that all of the proceeds of the event are donated to the Chocktawhatchee Basin Alliance, who take care of the local waterways in Destin and the surrounding basin area through action, education, and research. Please take a moment to look at their site and if it’s in your heart to help them in any way we would encourage you to do so. I explained at the Captains meeting that all proceeds were going to the CBA, and I have to say that more than half of the room thanked me later. They pretty much all knew of the organization and they spoke highly of it. They were all really proud to be supporting a great organization, which in turn made us feel really good. We look forward to growing our relationship with them.
A cold front came in the night before the tourney, so the day of, it was really windy (15-20 Knots steady) and really cold (to me at least lol). Temps were probably in the 50’s but I didn’t really look. I was focused on staying warm. The fishing was pretty tough for everyone, and there were quite a few skunks back at the check in on Saturday. Below are the results, with local old-time Destin guide Captain Shawn Dahnke (Royce’s Pops) taking 1st place with 80 spots on 2 fish! Charlie Breitenbach, and Tim Creasy both tied for 2nd and 3rd with 16 spots each, and they decided to just split the total checks for the 2 spots rather than fuss about who was back at check-in 1st, which just goes to show how laid back and cool the people of the Panhandle are. We will really be looking at growing the tourney up there for next year now that we see for ourselves the vibe of the panhandle. There really is no place like it! Looking forward to next year already!