By NICK WALTER
The tournament was designed for the community, for amateur anglers to determine the best fishermen on the west coast of Florida.
The numbers of the 26th annual Sam Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament have dwindled, so the organizers have changed some rules that hopefully will bring more families and “regular” anglers out to the Bradenton Yacht Club-sponsored tournament from May 15-17.
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Here goes: Warsaw grouper, cubera snapper, marlin and swordfish have been eliminated from the competition. Sailfish are release only and worth 100 points.
With some offshore anglers possessing so much technology, simply because they can afford it, some anglers have expressed that they’ve been discouraged to compete.
Also, the offshore entry fee has been cut to $350 and includes two dinner tickets and T-shirts. Registration and more information is available at http://fishcrosthwait.com.
Warsaw grouper, in particular, had been a tournament buster in years past. Anglers knew that if they could venture far enough offshore, with tackle that could shake an artificial reef from its roots, they could have a shot at a monster Warsaw grouper and an offshore division championship.
There had been some brought to the docks at the tournament that make anglers’ jaws drop, but they seemed less the product of skill than of deep pockets.
In a perfect tournament, all tackle would be the same, boats and motors would be identical, and weather conditions would be the same in every area. Those things are beyond tournament control, but limiting species is a great way to entice the regular angler.
What is a regular, amateur angler? Perhaps one who owns regular boat. One who has a strict budget on how much gas he can spend. One who doesn’t have a choice between throwing a Berkley Gulp bait or a D.O.A. shrimp because he can only afford one or the other.
A regular angler loves to fish, but cannot spend every day on the water. He fishes for fun, not always for the money. He fishes not only for the fish, but because of the jibberish told on the boat. He fishes the tournament, most of all, for memories.
But even a regular angler can be fiercely competitive.
These rules changes are nothing new. Almost every year, the rules have changed to adjust to certain loop holes — such as a man in the first Crosthwait winning with six big black drum — or because of changes in fishing regulations.
The Committee members also hope that the rule modifications help conserve the fishery.
And with the economy battering wallets, I think these rule changes come at an appropriate time.
In the end, we are still left with one of the most popular amateur fishing tournaments on the west coast of Florida, a place where the community can gather and celebrate not only the history of this great tournament, but also our backyard, outdoors paradise.