The New IGFA

Why I support the International Game Fish Association

marlin fishing illustration
Nehl Horton, president of the International Game Fish Association, shares his vision for the future of the famed organization.Dennis Friel

When I first walked into the old IGFA offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the first thing that caught my eye was all the vintage tackle. The rods and reels had name tags on them from famous anglers like Hemingway, Glassell and Lerner. Then there were the antique fresh- and saltwater lures that were all chewed up. It was fascinating to see all that history.

Over the years that I spent world-record fishing, I studied the IGFA rule book night after night. I was always looking for an edge in the rules and memorizing the records for any species we might come across.

Along the way, I have seen the organization go through many changes. Recently, it appointed a new president named Nehl Horton. When I met him, I was pleasantly surprised. Horton was passionate, full of energy and ready to get to work.

I enjoyed his enthusiasm and asked him to share his new vision in my column.

"After hearing for years about the pioneering voyages of The Madam and The Hooker, imagine my surprise when Capt. Skip Smith dropped by my office at the IGFA for a visit last fall.

Many Marlin readers know that Skip has a long-standing relationship with IGFA, not only as a part of one of the most successful world-record-chasing teams ever assembled, but also as the longtime chairman of our Legendary Captains and Crew committee, which selects outstanding captains, guides and crew for our prestigious annual Tommy Gifford award.

While Skip still had his hackles up about some of the recent changes to the IGFA’s backing rule, I could tell immediately that he remained committed to the association’s vision and mission. And thanks to some effective diplomacy by another IGFA stalwart — Capt. Bouncer Smith — Skip and I were able to focus on the many opportunities that lie ahead in the future, rather than arguing over rule changes of the past.

I told Skip that as the new kid on the dock, I would need the sage advice and candid counsel of folks like him if I hoped to take the IGFA to new levels of success. Immediately, he agreed to act as a sounding board for me and to continue his leadership of the Legendary Captains and Crew committee.

With the IGFA’s 80th anniversary approaching on June 7, 2019, we have recently announced five big initiatives designed to galvanize the support of the IGFA family around the world. These include strengthening and expanding the international network of IGFA representatives, clubs, weigh stations, captains and members to increase IGFA’s presence and relevance in angling communities around the world; establishing an International Game Fish Angling Day (known as IGFA Day) on June 7, 2019, as a platform to reach new anglers, educate them about ethical angling practices and activate them as ambassadors for the sport and advocates for game-fish conservation; teaching 100,000 kids to fish in locations around the globe to help build a new generation of educated, ethical and conservation-minded anglers; launching three major signature research initiatives to better deliver on our commitment to game-fish conservation; and re-establishing the IGFA as a leader in recreational angling competitions focused on outstanding angler achievement rather than cash prizes.

These five initiatives are designed to focus the efforts of the IGFA family around the globe on common goals like ethical angling practices and teaching more kids how to fish. By doing this, we will bring urgency to the task of modernizing one of the world’s great angling institutions and ensuring the health and vitality of the IGFA for another 80 years. Together, let’s fish for the future.”