With less than 12 hours until Friday’s start to the offshore competition of the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament, the Palmetto-based event had four boats enrolled. Winds forecast to be 15-20 knots through most of the weekend in the Gulf of Mexico had discouraged some of the potential participants from spending more than 48 hours out on the water.
However, the Crosthwait Fishing Tournament staff gathered at Bradenton Yacht Club at noon for the offshore captains meeting and were greeted by an encouraging development. The offshore division had picked up seven more boats. By early Friday afternoon, 11 boats were on the water, not expected to return to the yacht club until after noon on Sunday.
“We’re pretty happy with that,” said Bob Gause, chairman of this year’s Crosthwait.
The 34th annual tournament began Friday with two events. In addition to the offshore division’s start, competitors in the river master division spent 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on the water for a professional event.
11Boats in the offshore division of the 34th annual Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament.
The river master division, which gave the Crosthwait its first professional component in almost 20 years, wound up with five boats in the field after a late entrant registered Friday morning. The Crosthwait staff was tracking the competition using iAngler Tournament, a mobile application.
“We actually can see the fish that are being logged,” Gause said. “I’m not sure that it’s not more fun for us right now because we’re actually getting to see how everyone’s doing in real time.”
TJ Stewart won the competition with a 40-inch snook and 98 points. Second went to Alan Elgel, who weighed in a 35.5-inch snook and earned 84 points. Ryan Farner, with a 32.5-inch snook and 71.5 points, finished third.
The offshore division will spend far more time out on the water until weighing in Sunday afternoon, and the 11 boats represent a small increase from last year’s 10. Given the weather concerns, the Crosthwait staff was thrilled with the size of the field. Gause said he knows of at least a handful of boats that opted not to compete this year because the captains didn’t want to contend with the elements.
In the final hours leading up to the tournament, though, the lure of the increased purse pulled in a strong field. This year’s $10,000 purse is up from last year’s $7,500.
“It’s the $10,000 that drew them,” said Elizabeth Biggins, a member of the Crosthwait committee.
While the offshore boats continue out on the gulf Saturday, inshore and junior divisions will take off from either Bradenton Yacht Club, Marina Jack in Sarasota or St. Petersburg Yacht Club at 7:30 a.m. The healing waters event for veterans will run from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., and the children’s fishing tournament will go from 9-11 a.m.
Fishing will end for all divisions at noon Sunday.
“Tomorrow morning will be really busy again and then it’ll calm down again in the afternoon,” Gause said, “and then Sunday is when it just gets really crazy exciting around here.”
34TH CROSTHWAIT TOURNAMENT
What: Offshore, inshore, junior and children’s tournaments
Where: Bradenton Yacht Club
Weigh-ins: Children’s tournament, 11 a.m. (Saturday); junior and inshore divisions, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. (Sunday); offshore division 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (Sunday).