Get ready for the inaugural CCA Florida STAR Tournament
The CCA Statewide Tournament and Angler’s Rodeo (STAR) has been a summertime staple for anglers in Texas and Louisiana for many years, and on May 23, anglers in Florida will finally have an opportunity to get in on the action with CCA Florida’s inaugural STAR Tournament.
Thanks to the successful STAR blueprint developed by CCA Texas and CCA Louisiana, Florida has a proven formula, but as Florida’s STAR Tournament Director Leiza Fitzgerald states, Florida is putting its own spin on the tournament.
Like the other STAR tournaments, the CCA Florida STAR will run from Memorial Day through Labor Day, allowing for 108 days of competition. By catching one of 80 tagged redfish, anglers could win a pick-up truck, Contender 22 Sport, Pathfinder 2200TRS, Hell’s Bay Waterman and many other great prizes. Other division prizes in the CCA Florida STAR will include college scholarships, Power Pole shallow water anchors, Shimano fishing tackle, Raymarine electronics, Costa Sunglasses, gift cards – nearly $500,000 worth of prizes in all. And perhaps most exciting of all, youth anglers are eligible to win a share of $100,000 in scholarships. The Youth Division includes kids ages 6 to 17 and will award at least 12 college scholarships. Youth Division species include cobia, speckled trout, snook, sheepshead, jack crevalle and ladyfish, giving even the youngest anglers the opportunity to compete for scholarships.
By working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Florida STAR has added a few unique features of its own, such as the Conservation Division that will help FWC study Florida’s fisheries. FWC’s research arm, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), is rearing the redfish that will be tagged and released on Florida’s west coast in late May. Each fish caught will help further the science of fisheries management and conservation, with the hopes of ultimately improving future hatchery efforts. Conservation is the name of the game, and in the Conservation Division anglers will record and share data about all of their catches to give FWC even more information to better manage the resource.
CCA Florida also worked with the Snook and Gamefish Foundation to create its own state-of-the-art smart phone app that will allow anglers to enter fish right from the boat. The Catch-and-Photo format is another new wrinkle that allows all fish that are caught to be eligible for prizes. Best of all, prizes are not awarded based on the largest fish of each species. The Open Category, complimented by categories for kayaks, fly, ladies, guides and youth, and the Guide Division, which will award prizes for simply signing up STAR entrants, are other distinctive features of the Florida STAR. The licensed Guides Division is designed to recruit more participants and will award $17,500 in prizes to the three guides who register the most anglers for the tournament.
“Where most recreational tournaments exclude guides, we wanted to find a way to help the guys and gals who are some of CCA’s best supporters and often our eyes and ears on the water,” said Fitzergald, a licensed charter boat captain who developed the Guides Division.
STAR is a nonprofit tournament focused on attracting people to Florida’s outstanding saltwater resources. It gets families on the water and helps educate all anglers about the importance of conserving and protecting their coastal resources. Last year, Texas, with less than 400 miles of coastline, had 45,000 people fish STAR. By comparison, Florida enjoys more than 1,300 miles of coastline and boasts more than 1.2 million licensed saltwater anglers. With numbers like that, CCA Florida hopes to reach thousands of new anglers every year through the STAR Tournament.
“This tournament represents the most exciting opportunity in our history to educate the public about Florida’s marine resources and how we can best preserve the future for our children,” said CCA Florida Chairman Bill Camp.
Much of the excitement over this tournament stems from the enthusiasm of the sponsors that have provided overwhelming support to the launch of the Florida STAR.
“Maverick Boat Company has been an integral part of the success of CCA Florida for more than 25 years and they have stepped up once again with another donated Pathfinder bay boat,” said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida executive director.
The newer boat sponsors, Hell’s Bay Boatworks and Contender, have lent incredibly strong support as well. In addition to the boats already donated for Florida’s banquet program, these corporate stewards of our marine resources have each donated a second boat for STAR prizes. Other donors like Power Pole, Wells Fargo Bank, Costa, Papa’s Pilar, Florida Sportsman Magazine, Shimano, Raymarine, Finlandia and LIVETARGET have also made significant donations that will go to support scholarships and other prize categories.
During its first two years, CCA Florida STAR will release tagged fish on the west coast of the state providing an opportunity to catch a tagged redfish from Pensacola through the southern reaches of Everglades National Park. After those first two years, Florida expects to expand STAR tagged fish to the entire state and will potentially include more species.
For complete rules and to enter Florida STAR, please visit www.CCAFLSTAR.com , and make plans to get in on the action this summer.