Tournament Fishing for Charity

The local communities benefit in many ways
A fleet of sport-fishing boats docked at a marina during tournament relief efforts.
Hurricane Dorian relief efforts began almost immediately after the storm had passed, thanks to the efforts of passionate tournament fishermen. Scott Kerrigan / Skip’s Tournaments

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There are so many tournaments that think they need to say they donate the proceeds from their events to this or that charity—maybe it’s a cancer foundation or a conservation group or a veterans organization. There are some that are simply commercial business ventures and others that prefer to say nothing at all, but where does the money really go? Maybe they support the family that runs the tournament or the many families that are part of the event each year, and that’s perfectly fine as long as everyone knows it.

One resounding truth is that tournaments have a very significant economic impact on the areas where they’re held, no matter if it’s Ocean City, Maryland, or South Padre Island, Texas, or Kona, Hawaii. This is often way more important than “someone getting rich.” In fact, many of the sport’s earliest events were founded to financially support the surrounding communities. I have been fishing in tournaments since the early 1970s and remember that in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we always had our tournaments during the slow tourist seasons to support the local fishing community. And it worked—people came to town, chartered the boats, went fishing and had a fun time. It was great!

There’s no doubt that the boat owners, captains and crews love the competition with their peers, and tournaments have grown to become big business in their own right. Nowadays we have quite a few multimillion-dollar events with some serious cash prizes and quite a few memorial tournaments for friends who have passed away too early. In one, you can win a life-changing bunch of money, and in the other, you feel really great even if you do not win, knowing your entry fee is supporting a very worthy cause.

Over the years, being involved in the Custom Shootout—a true 501(c)(3) charity—has been very rewarding. We have donated millions of dollars to breast cancer research and quite a few other very well-deserving charities. Since the tournament is hosted by the Abaco Beach Resort in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas, we were very blessed to have some generous boat owners that have helped us out when the people there really needed us.

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After Hurricane Dorian devastated the island, we reached out to the tournament participants and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to assist the locals in rebuilding the island while also helping to feed and shelter them through their recovery. Then, we recently found a young girl with a very bad case of scoliosis. We sent out an email to the tournament participants, and one boat owner said to get in touch with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. They were fast to respond and took in this child to help her with her health so she could live a normal life. That same boat owner even sent the family some money to help in the girl’s recovery. That kind of generosity is truly heartwarming.

Being part of these life-changing events has been special in my life. The good news is that there are a lot of tournaments doing the same thing. So whether you win or lose, those local communities certainly enjoy your continued support.

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