At safe light Saturday morning, Nov. 3, 68 anglers headed out in canoes, kayaks and on paddle boards to compete in a fishing competition, which is a highlight of the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival. Their objective was to catch and photograph the longest "slam" consisting of one redfish, one snook and one sea trout per angler and win a Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12, courtesy of sponsors Estero River Outfitters and Hobie. with an estimated value of $3,000.
"We had 50 percent more entrants this year than last year, when we had 45," noted Joy Hazell, tournament liaison. "In fact, because we have so much more in entry fees, we will be adding $50 to each of the monetary prizes for second through fifth place."
The previous evening the entrants had attended the Captains' Meeting at Angler's Inn where the tournament rules were reviewed and measuring devices distributed. They also enjoyed food from Bert's Bar and Grill before heading home to get some shut-eye in preparation for an early morning launch.
Calusa Blueway Fishing Tourna-ment first prize winner Travis Rupe with his Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12.
The digital weigh in began at 1:30 p.m. at the Matlacha Community Center but most entrants took advantage of the 3 p.m. deadline to get in a little more fishing.
Entrants provided their photographic evidence via memory card. Hazell then downloaded the photos for comparison.
Jim Van Pelt, who operates Kayak Fish South Florida, noted the fishing was better this year.
"Last year it was cold and windy, today was much better," he said.
Chris Faust of Fort Myers was fishing the tournament for the third time.
"I got into a little bit of everything," he said. "I hooked into nine redfish, some small snook and a 22-inch trout, but I don't think I'll be going home with a new Hobie."
At 3:40 p.m. the awards program began with the raffle of donated items including fishing rods, reels and lures. Tournament winners were, first prize, Travis Rupe, winner of the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 with an estimated value of $3,000; second prize, Cameron Schurlknight, $550; third prize, Doug Schallmoser, $350; fourth prize, David McCleaf, $200; fifth prize, Jason Cull, $100; and Esteban Gutierrez had the longest Mystery Fish (21-inch ladyfish).
In addition to Hobie and Estero River Outfitters, tournament organizers wish to thank Saltwater Lures, Stickit Anchor Pins, Bert's Bar and Grill, Angler's Inn, Deep South Fishing Rods and Yakinitup Kayak Charters, along with the many volunteers who made the tournament such a success.
Tournament proceeds benefit the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism, Florida Sea Grant, Lee County Parks and Recreations and the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail.