Now in its 32nd year, the annual Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament presented by Yellowfin must be the favorite tournament among its hundreds of participants. The anglers will tell you it's a local tradition that brings the fishing community together each May.
"The Crosthwait has gone on for so long, with so much competition, because it's an amateur tournament," said longtime Crosthwait board member Joe Kennedy. "It's been a breeding ground for many guides around here who turn it into a career after winning the tournament.
"Generations of people have fished it. Children of parents who fished it for many years are coming back to fish it themselves. You look around here and see all the young kids fishing this tournament. That's the most important thing to me."
Kennedy has helped the tournament evolve over his 29 years of involvement. What started as a small gathering among friends has grown into the event anglers talk about year round, strategizing how they will fish months in advance.
Behind-the-scenes tournament planning also starts early in the year for the committee volunteers.
"We start meeting in January about once a week, but everyone involved is constantly emailing throughout the week. There are so many hardworking volunteers who give time to help get this event organized."
In addition to tournament logistics such as time, date and place, the committee is dedicated to keeping the Crosthwait competitive with point and rule changes when needed. After feedback from anglers last year, points were shifted for given species. This year's biggest change lowered the total points cobia can bring in.
"We received a lot of feedback from anglers saying cobia were worth too much last year," Kennedy said. "We do change the point system to make it a level field. It's hard to predict what fishing will be hot on a given year, so we do our best to make it fair for everybody."
As always, the tournament will be weighing in at the Bradenton Yacht Club starting at noon Sunday for junior division teams. This year features 13 boats in the junior division, 63 boats in the inshore division and nine boats in the offshore division.
The fishing may be good, but the unsettled weather will be a factor for all anglers.
Offshore anglers have had to deal with rough seas of more than 5 feet.
Inshore participants had a round of storms Saturday evening that covered many of the local fish grounds.
The winning boats could be the ones that persevered through inclement conditions.
Hopefully everyone remained safe, and big catches are brought back to the dock. Look for a full event recap in Monday's editions of the Bradenton Herald.