VERO BEACH — Anticipation was rising Friday night at a Captains’ Party at the Ft. Pierce River Walk Center for the Seventh Annual Offshore Big 3 Fishing Tournament June 3 to 4 to benefit the Hibiscus Children’s Center.
The tournament was pushed back a month this year to enable them to combine it with the Ft. Pierce Saltwater Classic, which is sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association, enabling anglers the opportunity to compete for SKA points and greater payouts.
Hibiscus supporters came out in droves to volunteer for the event, with some up before dawn Saturday to check the boats out at 6 a.m. from the Sebastian, Ft. Pierce and St. Lucie Inlets.
“I love this event; it’s very casual and relaxed,” said Heloise Halcomb at the Captains’ Party, where anglers and volunteers enjoyed a chicken and wing buffet courtesy of Hurricane Grill and Wings. “This is one of my favorites, besides the gala. Tomorrow it’s another exciting day; especially when they come back with their catches. It’s a good introduction to summer.”
“It takes a whole year to put it together,” added Susan Kamer, commenting on the work involved in gathering permits, sponsors and prizes. “And the dates have to fall into the right weekend.”
Halcomb agreed saying, “It’s the height of the season, the fishing season, so it’s difficult to coordinate.”
Donna and Horace Lindsay have volunteered every year and, in addition to helping at the Captains’ Party would be rising early to check boats out of the Sebastian Inlet.
“I don’t think there’s any other organization that compares with all that Hibiscus does,” said Donna Lindsay. “From certifying foster parents to clinical services, and of course we have our village in Vero Beach and our shelter in Martin County that literally change the lives of abused and neglected children.”
Tournament Chair Andy Ingle founded the tournament and has been fine-tuning it ever since. Ingle teaches AutoCADD (computer aided draft and design) at IRSC and created a virtual reality walkthrough of the Vero Beach Hibiscus Village prior to its construction.
“We were trying to come up with ways to raise money for the Village and they didn’t have a fishing tournament” said Ingle. “It’s a fun fundraiser; it’s gotten easier every year. We try to make it as smooth as possible; shiny smooth.”
The tournament has categories for Dolphin, Kingfish and Wahoo, and strict rules for fishermen and tournament organizers. It’s a very expensive sport, but for some the thrill of reeling in a big one never diminishes.
“I have a passion for fishing; I’m a country boy I guess,” said Ray Sparks, an IT Administrator for Hibiscus Children’s Center.
“We’ve got choppy waters this year,” added Sparks. “The water will be rough – three to five-foot swells at two-second intervals. It will be an up and down day for sure.”
The tournament coincided with a number of other festivities at the Ft. Pierce Marina, including Friday Fest and Saturday Farmers Market which helped to introduce the mission of the Hibiscus Children’s Center and gave land-lubbers plenty to do while waiting for the boats to return.
After a rough day on the seas, by 5 p.m. boats had all returned to the Ft. Pierce City Marina for the weigh- in and prizes. The elusive wahoo never made an appearance, but the kingfish were definitely biting, and anglers overall were happy with their catches.
Top king mackerel winners were Tom Kenney aboard Offshore Warrior at 30.56 pounds, William Poertner aboard Tactical Angler/Imagine That with 28.95 pounds, and Robert Wummer aboard Bandit with 26.03 pounds.
Dolphin top honors went to Jason Solano aboard Monster Energy at 24.73 pounds, Larry Vogt aboard Bam Bam/Full Throttle at 23.32 pounds and Willima Brumley aboard Cowboy Up with 18.55 pounds. Chase Large won the youth category with a 26.03 pound kingfish, Brittany Bradley the lady category with a 30.56 pound kingfish, and Bob Ivey won the senior category with a 22.58 pound kingfish.
The tournament helps to raise funds and awareness to help the Hibiscus Children’s Center fight child abuse, neglect and abandonment in Martin, Indian River, Okeechobee and St. Lucie Counties.