I have always enjoyed the history of big-game fishing, from walking through the headquarters of the International Game Fish Association when E. K. Harry was sitting behind his desk, back when they were located on A1A in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to reading books by Zane Grey and Ernest Hemingway. I am even more excited about what Johnny Morris is doing with the new IGFA fishing museum in Springfield, Missouri, as millions of people will now be able to learn more about our sport. Among the many displays will be the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame, representing some of the most influential members of the worldwide sport-fishing community.
While I was attending the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame inductions over the years, I noticed that not too many captains and crews were being recognized — the criteria for the award did not apply to anglers and captains unless they were also an inventor or writer. It dawned on me that if it were not for the many great captains and crews out there taking people fishing, introducing them to the IGFA angling rules and showing them a good time on the water, there would not be as many people enjoying our sport. It was time to start recognizing our peers.
The IGFA agreed, and the Legendary Captain and Crew Awards were born. The first thing we needed was a list of those deserving of such an award and the criteria to receive it. A selection committee was formed, consisting of me, Karl Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gary Ellis, Bark Garnsey, Billy Harrison, Steve Lassley, Charles Perry, Bouncer Smith, Gary Stuve, Laurie Wright and Peter B. Wright. We then made up a list of captains and crews and, with more than 100 names on the list, the event was approved. We had our first awards presentation in 2011, and what a terrific event that was.
The awards were great, but it was the stories that made it even more special. Before they received their awards, each person had a couple of friends share a few stories about them, and it really turned into a fun evening.
Each captain or crewmember is presented with the Tommy Gifford Award, so named because Gifford is considered one of the most innovative bluewater anglers who ever lived, and one of the greatest charter skippers to guide anglers to major game fish. The primary criterion for receiving the award is that the captain or crewmember must have provided leadership in their trade and have earned the respect of their peers, thus making a meaningful contribution to the sport of recreational angling over an extended period of time. The nominee must also demonstrate that he or she has espoused the ethical angling standards set forth by the founders of the IGFA. To quote Mark Sosin, “There is no greater honor than to be recognized by your peers. You cannot buy it — you have to earn it.”
This year, the Legendary Captain and Crew Awards will be held during the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, which will make it easier for many of the younger captains and crews to attend, and where they will be able to pay respect to the inductees and hear about their accomplishments on the water.
The stories alone are well worth the price of dinner. See you there in November!