Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament has become area institution

31-year-old amateur event has become area institution

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 18, 2014 

PALMETTO -- The genesis of the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament was a simple one.

This according to Wade Thompson, who fished in the inaugural Crosthwait and now sits on the tournament's board of directors.

"We're just a bunch of guys who like to fish," Thompson said, "that ended up running a tournament."

Thirty-one years later, the Crosthwait has become an area institution, steadily drawing 100 boats per year. On Friday night, Thompson and Joe Kennedy, the tournament's chairman, sat under the shade of a tent at the Bradenton Yacht Club while fishermen filed toward the registration table.

The tournament is for amateurs only. Charter and commercial fishermen need to quench their competitive juices elsewhere.

"That's one of our creeds from the beginning: It's supposed to be a family gig," Thompson said. "It's a little bit more family friendly."

Thompson and Kennedy were wearing green collared shirts with the Crosthwait name stitched on them. A glossy 69-page booklet detailing the tournament's rules and full of well-wishing sponsors were available at the registration table.

Not bad for an event hatched by, as Thompson put it, a bunch of guys who like to fish.

"We've been doing it for so long," Kennedy said. "We've got legacies who have fished the tournament for years and years. We've got a core group of guys that continue to put this on, and each year we try to change things up, as far as our point system, to keep it fair."

Fishing for all divisions ends at noon Sunday. The awards presentation will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Bradenton Yacht Club.

Weather forced a postponement to a wrinkle in this year's tournament. The Crosthwait was supposed to serve as the first leg for the inaugural Florida West Coast Triple Crown Billfish Series.

But because of Thursday's inclement weather, the local leg has been rescheduled for Aug. 6. The second part of the series will be at Sarasota's Galati/Yellowfin Billfish Classic in July, and the final leg takes place at the Old Salt Loop Tournament in St. Petersburg beginning Aug. 19.

"It was 8- to 10-foot seas ... and they were going to fish until Sunday," Kennedy said of the decision to postpone the Billfish. "They would have been out there for three days in 8- to 10-foot seas, and you can't ask someone to do that."

The Crosthwait uses a point system to decide the winning boat, with each boat permitted to keep six fish. The fish selected and entered by each boat's captain at Sunday's weigh-in cannot include more than two fish of any species.

For example, in the inshore division, a boat earns 20 points for bluefish and two points per pound.

"We modify it every year," Thompson said. "The fisheries change, the laws change. ... And it works. We add and subtract fish as we see fit."

The Crosthwait also works as a philanthropic vehicle, benefitting Manatee Technical Instiute's Marine Mechanics Program -- "Those guys are going to be fixing our boats one day," Thompson said -- and Project Healing Waters, which benefits disabled veterans through fly fishing.

"It's very therapeutic for the veterans, physically and mentally," said Laurence Lurie, regional coordinator of Project Healing Waters. "It takes their mind off the fear, takes their mind off the anger."

There was a time, Kennedy said, when the Crosthwait used to get between 140 and 160 boats a year. Because of the economy, that number has been at about 100 for the last few years.

But that's fine, Kennedy said.

"We're still doing well," he said. "And to be honest, we won't want to get much bigger than that. It's very manageable."

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