By MEGHAN McCOY
The Original Redfish Poker Fishing Championship attracted 25 boats, four kayakers and 93 anglers, deeming the inaugural tournament a success for Wounded Warrior Anglers of America Inc.
Team TowBoat U.S. Charlotte Harbor were the winners of the “Big Red Challenge” with a 7.03lb redfish. Pictured Kyle Potts, Nichole Beehan, Summer Dooley and Sherry Dooley.
The tournament was held in memory of Audrey Beard.
The event raised approximately $8,550 for the Wounded Warrior Anglers.
Wounded Warrior Anglers Founder David Souders said the turnout was three times more than what they had at their last fishing tournament, the Thomas W. Mawer Memorial Battle of Matlacha Fishing Tournament in November.
"It was an awesome time," he said of the May 26 event. "What a great turnout we had."
The tournament kicked off with Beef O Brady's catering in food for the captain's meeting the night before for the anglers.
About a dozen anglers headed out of the Olde Fish House as early as 6:15 a.m., May 26, for the picture and release tournament in hopes to capture the first place prize.
David said the anglers received a maximum of seven poker playing cards for every redfish that they caught within the slot limit of 18-27 inches. He said once the anglers began arriving around 2:30 p.m., the pictures were examined to determine the amount of playing cards they received.
After the anglers received a slip for the amount of cards, they walked over to the dealer who then pulled the deck of cards off the board to open. David said after the jokers were taken out of the deck and the cards were shuffled, they were then spread across the table.
"They picked the cards out themselves," he said of the anglers, adding that the cards were then turned over one by one. "The best five-card poker hand won the tournament."
David said the first kayaker to arrive at the docks was Tim Jones of Skinny Water Kayak. Jones was number 13 of the kayak division. He had a pair of kings, jack high.
The next team to arrive at the Olde Fish House, was also team 13 with the team boat division, G4S Equipment. David said they had a pair of kings, queen high.
He said the unique thing about the winners was they were both number 13, representing the year 2013. If you add those two together, David said it adds up to 26, marking the day of the month the event was held.
The team boat division 1st place winner was Team G4S Equipment with Capt. Mike Goddard, Glen Ward and Wounded Warrior Jeremy "Bullfrog" Johnson; 2nd place went to Team JBA Custom Cycles with Abraham Gonzalez, Bob Johnson and Team Captain Jeff Asbury and the 3rd place went to Team Center Bait and Tackle with Team Captain Wounded Warrior Travis Downes, Dee Brennan, Shane Dooley and Greg Temerario.
The first place winner of the kayak/SUP division was Tim Jones of Skinny Water Kayaks and Brian Lyda received second place.
Kyle Lee of Team Clean-N-Clear Pools was the winner of the child under 16 "Big Red Challenge" with a 6.48-pound redfish.
Team TowBoat U.S. Charlotte Harbor were the winners of the "Big Red Challenge" with a 7.03-pound redfish.
Judy Souders, also founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers, said Mark Barton and numerous motorcycles carried the American flag, POW/MIA flag and all branches of the military to the Olde Fish House Marina after the anglers arrived. She said respected service members accepted the flags and put them in their respected order.
Beard's daughters also attended the tournament and accepted a canvas of the Redfish Poker painting created in her memory.
In addition to the tournament, a live and silent auction and a few raffles, including the boat raffle, were also held throughout the event.
Judy said people began purchasing boat raffle tickets and bidding on silent auction items at 7:30 in the morning, which continued at a steady flow into the afternoon.
David said the flow of people continued until about 2:30-3 p.m. when the anglers returned and the bands began playing.
The drawing for the 2013 Nautic Star boat raffle wrapped up the festivities around 7:30 p.m. at the Olde Fish House Marina. Fort Myers resident Russ Seitz was announced the winner of the brand new boat.
The boat raffle raised approximately $16,490 for Wounded Warrior Anglers.
David sad the funds raised during the tournament, as well as through the boat raffle, will allow the organization to extend the opportunity to provide more access, additional outings and outreach to more warriors and their families.
The next Wounded Warrior Angler retreat will be held on June 21 and June 22, which treats the warriors to a day fishing and their caregivers to a day at Spa 33.
The Souders want to extend their appreciation and thank you to the community, anglers, sponsors, board members and volunteers who all participated in the tournament.