In years past, anglers were supplied everything from Horny Toads to DOA shrimp to test their angling skills. For this tournament, I wanted to try to capture the very simple way Mark would fish. If you looked into his milk crate, you would only find a handful of lures: one was always a Mirrolure of some kind, as well as some kind of DOA lure. With that in mind, I reached out to those respected companies in hopes of supplying anglers with some of Mark’s favorites.
As with most things in life there were some communication issues, so with time running out I had to go to a backup plan. I contacted Damon Albers at Riptide, who had sponsored one of our tournaments last year. Immediately he asked, “What do you need?”
The lure packages were set. Each angler would get a MirrOlure “MirrOmullet XL”, and four packs of lures from Riptide: a “Flats Chub” in Firefly, “Realistic Shrimp” in Golden Glow, 4” “Mullet” in Smoke and a “Conley Grub” in Rootbeer. The only lure-related items the anglers were allowed to bring were three weedless/weighted hooks and three jig heads. For an entry fee of $10, the competitors would get all the lures they would need, with half the fee made as a donation to Project Snook in Mark’s name. Mark was the voice of “Bill Bird,” the Addictive Fishing mascot. Project Snook was one of their fundraising efforts to improve Florida’s snook population.
The event date was set for October 27, the anglers were signed up… and wouldn’t you know it, we had a hurricane form off the east coast of Florida. With ever-increasing wind forecasts, the tournament committee decided to postpone to a later date. While the storm stayed well off shore, we had some pretty strong winds and a quick visit to a couple of launches just reinforced our decision.
The event was rescheduled to November 17, and before you knew it was time to fish. The morning was cold, foggy, and a little bit windy. Forty five anglers were eagerly awaiting my arrival (I was running just a few minutes late), and as quickly as we could we got them signed up and on their way with a lure package and envelope with discount coupons from Dick’s Sporting goods as well as Culprit/Riptide. Just like that they were gone, and I was standing there with Paddle-Fishing.com site owner Rik Llewellyn. We had planned on fishing an area out of the wind, but for me that area had special meaning. Picnic Island was the very first place Mark Bellotte and I ever fished. On cold and windy day, Mark explained to me how he fished this area and why. As I towed my kayak down to the launch, I wondered if Mark was looking down on us. I’m pretty sure I heard him chuckle when while out on the water I asked for a little help finding the fish.
Anglers fish the waters off Picnic Island
Finally, it was time to head in and tally up the score sheets. Our tournaments are all Catch-Photo-Release, so we don’t have weigh-ins - we call them “Pic-N-Sips”. This one was held at a restaurant owned by one of our anglers, Jason Chamoun. The staff at the St. Pete Brassiere in St. Petersburg was waiting and ready for all the tired anglers to settle in for some good food and fellowship.
Before we announced the winners, we all raised our glasses and held a toast to our good friend Mark.
No snook-redfish-trout slams were caught. Substitute fish included flounder and snapper
- 1st Place: Daniel "carniekayaker85" Hall - 17" trout, 27.5" snook, 16.5" flounder - $112
- 2nd Place: John "jbdba1" Bishop - 20.75" redfish, 19" trout, 12.75" flounder - $68
- 3rd Place: Mackenzie "MacMahi" Ruhnke - 18.5” redfish, 17.5" trout, 13.5" flounder - $45
Largest Fish Categories
- Redfish: Brian "Madocian" Arnold - 29.5" (his personal best!) - $25 gift certificate from Metalfab
- Snook: Dave "rugrat181" Stewart - 27" (his personal best!) - $25 gift certificate from Masthead Enterprises
- Trout: Capt. Ryan "Remaxryan" Herrington - 26" - $25 gift certificate from T.A. Mahoney
- Flounder: Bob "Dunfly" Riggins - 19.5" - $25 gift certificate from T.A. Mahoney
Newbie Largest Fish
- Evan "Wonderboy" Bishop - $50 gift certificate from T.A. Mahoney
I, along with the folks at Paddle-Fishing.com and all the anglers that fished this event, would like to thank the many fine sponsors who donated items for the raffle held afterwards. We raised $240 dollars for Project Snook in Mark Bellotte’s name.