The Gene Cloud Memorial Spearfishing Tournament is the largest charity spearfishing tournament in the country, and next weekend it returns for a third year.
Local competitors have fallen in love with the unique format and will be vying for a title in one of the numerous categories.
“We’ve got over 200 shooters at this point,” said tournament director Justin McNesky. “The support we’ve had has been awesome. There have been a lot of great sponsors. The way we designed it with the limited depth and limited distance really puts everyone on an even playing field that anyone could win.”
The limitations are 30 miles or 120 feet, whichever is less. This means it’s not always the biggest, fastest or craziest boat that is getting to the best spots. Within 30 miles there are thousands of spots that could hold the biggest fish, so every participant really feels like they’ve got a shot. At only $100 per person, it’s also affordable.
“You need to be a good spear fisherman and have a little bit of luck to win. You never know where you’ll see the bigger fish. The biggest gag grouper could be in 25 feet of water,” McNesky said.
Prizes and cash will be given to the largest, second-largest and third-largest for gag grouper, red grouper, hogfish, mangrove snapper, flounder and sheepshead. The largest snapper trifecta will also claim a prize, while the largest shovelnose lobster and lionfish also offer a cash prize. The smallest and most lionfish will also be rewarded.
Last year, Randy Deen claimed the biggest gag at 22 pounds, while the biggest red grouper went at 16.8 pounds. The largest mangrove snapper was 8.6 pounds, while the largest hog snapper was 4.6 pounds
Proceeds totaling $15,500 raised during last year’s tournament were donated to All Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children. McNesky says it’s all been possible with the help of tournament sponsors like TDS Construction, Sturdy Built Trailers, the Bearded Clam, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Crowder Bros., the CCA and many more.
“I’m overwhelmed with how successful it’s been,” he said. “It’s all for charity. Everyone involved has been absolutely great and we couldn’t do it without them.”
The captains’ meeting will take place at Crowder Bros. on Manatee Avenue at 7 p.m. Friday. The weigh-in will start at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Bearded Clam Tiki Bar and Restaurant.
For more information and to register, visit genecloudspearfishingtournament.com. Register soon, as the field is approaching capacity of 250 people.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data