Featured post

2016 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament dates, times, rules and payouts set

As sure as the current in Boca Grande Pass, the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament tradition continues on May 19 and 20, 2016. This year the prize money is $80,000, based on a field of 20 boats. The Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce holds the tournament every year.

Fishing will be from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. both days, and the awards will be given at 8 p.m. in downtown Boca Grande.

The Boca Grande Invitational Art Festival will highlight the second day of fishing, where some of the most talented artists from Southwest Florida will be selling their works. There will also be food and music.

The first place team will win $30,000, and the second place team will receive $30,000. Each day a team will take home $7,500 for the first fish released and for the last fish hooked and released. The entry fee per team is $5,000 with a 40-boat maximum. First and second wins are based on the number of fish released.

Tarpon tournaments are nothing new to Boca Grande. In the 1920s and 1930s was the “Boca Grande Tarpon Club” operated by Joe Spadero, builder and proprietor of the Boca Grande Hotel, which was torn down in 1975.

Every year the club held a two-month tournament called the Boca Grande Tarpon Tournament, which ran from May 1 through July 1. Whoever caught the biggest tarpon during that period won the trophy. Thousands of fish were caught and killed each season in those days.

The Izaak Walton Club on Useppa Island was organized in 1902 to encourage the use of rod and reel in game fishing and good sportsmanship. Membership in the club was open to amateur fishermen only, fishing in the waters of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, according to the rules of the club.

In the early 1980s a new tarpon tournament came into being in Boca Grande. It was an invitational tournament sponsored and run by the Boca Grande Club. The club turned the tournament over to the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce in 1991, and it grew into what was once known as the single richest tarpon tournament in the world, with a field of 60 boats and a purse of $165,000.

From 2005 until 2012, the 30th anniversary of the tournament, the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association held the tournament. Now, the Chamber of Commerce has become the host again.

Over time the tournament has become synonymous with “no-weigh, no-kill,” signifying the guides’ understanding that the Boca Grande Pass may not continue to yield the same numbers of magnificent tarpon if those methods aren’t employed.

In 2012, the Chamber decided to name the weekend after the World’s Richest tournament “Tarpon Festival Weekend,” and the downtown streets are packed with an art show, food and live music … all in celebration of the silver king.

The World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, a catch-and-release-only event, has become a symbol for conservation, education and sportsmanship. Working with local projects such as the Wildflower Conservancy STEM Program, which follows the progress of juvenile tarpon in Coral Creek, and the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic, everything about the World’s Richest highlights teaching future generations to protect and love nature, and making sure the tarpon that are released in the tournament are done so swiftly and with minimal stress and injury to the fish.

“Participating in the World’s Richest is something every angler should experience,” said Marcy Shortuse, president of the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce and 2016 tournament director. “We set our dates and times through the Boca Grande Fishing Guides’ Association to optimize angler chances of hooking up a big silver king. Traditional drift fishing among a big field of boats is crazy, exciting and really gets your adrenaline going. It’s big fish, big money and big excitement.”

Call the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce at (941) 964-0568 for more information, or call Tournament Director Marcy Shortuse at (941) 276-8646 for more information. You can also find out more on our Facebook page,




Ahlers takes his third belt buckle in the 2015 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament

Layout 1 (Page 1)

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – The Lucky Lady proved worthy of her name when Capt. Steve Ahlers and histeam brought more tarpon to the boat than any other in the 2015 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, held on Thursday and Friday, June 4 and 5, 2015. They released four tarpon during the tournament, which netted them a check for $22,000.

Angler Kevin Fink from Sylvania, Ohio was fishing with his son, Rory, as well as his friends Tucker Boyers and Damian Flynn. He is more than proud to win the tournament, one he has been fishing since they were still weighing tarpon at the barge.

“We come here every year we can,” he said. “We won it year before last, too, on Spooked Again. And we always try to get Capt. Stevie.”

Fink said they realized at about 10 minutes until the end of the tournament they were going to get first.

“That was when we realized the other team had to get two to the boat to win,” he said. “My son, Rory, got the fourth fish, the winner. I got the third one. The last one we caught wasn’t quite as big as the others … we caught some really big fish.”

It wasn’t until 5:09 p.m. on the first day of the tournament when Capt. Willie Mills’ team on Tracy Lynn got the first bite of the tournament. His angler was Bill Bonner, and the fight only lasted seven minutes before that fish was released. His team ended up taking second in the tournament and winning $11,000.

Mills also took second place the next day during the Gasparilla Island Kids’ Classic, and he took first place at the 11th Annual Howl at the Moon Tarpon Tournament held on May 30.

The last fish of the tournament for third place was released by the team on Casuarina with Capt. Charlie Coleman. It was hooked at 7:30 p.m. and released at 7:41 p.m.

Coleman was excited, not just because they placed in the World’s Richest but because he was fishing a team he considers to be family. And while he was busy chasing Mills and Ahlers for first right up until the end, he was more than happy with the way things turned out.

“Not only did we place, but I got to fish with a great team who always has fun, no matter what,” Charlie said. “And, one of our experienced anglers that day caught one of the biggest fish I’ve ever seen. We had a great time, and I contribute part of that to my great first mate – and cousin – Travis Joiner.”

Coleman also took third in the Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament. At 5:37 p.m. on Thursday, the team on Native (with Capt. Frank Davis) started a progression of releases that lasted until fishing ended that day, with the last release recorded for Team Hammerhead at 8:14 p.m.

Mills’ team got three releases on Thursday, leading the first day of tournament fishing. Ahlers’ team had releases at 7:15 p.m. and 7:25 p.m. that first day and two releases, at 6:59 and at 7:24 p.m., on Friday, which made for four total releases by the end of the tournament.

In all, 16 tarpon were released the first day of the World’s Richest. On the second day, just 22 minutes into fishing, Capt. Mark Futch and Sitarah set the bar with a 4:27 release. The Lucky Lady team with Capt. Ahlers sat back patiently, watching boats around them consistently bring tarpon to the boat. It was at 6:59, with an hour left, that Ahlers came on the radio with “fish on.” His team released that fish and hooked up again at 7:24 p.m., with a release time of 7:27 p.m. That put Lucky Lady in the lead with four fish, leaving Tracy Lynn with no fish on the second day at all.

On the second day of tournament fishing 11 tarpon were released, for a total of 27 from both days.


5:09/5:16: Tracy Lynn

5:37/5:39: Native

5:45/6:00: Faithful II

5:57/6:30: Casuarina

6:08/6:14: Miss Sarah

6:36/6:42: Had ’em

6:45/6:52: Searene

7:10/7:15: Lucky Lady

7:10/7:18: Tracy Lynn

7:12/7:21: Hey, Moma!

7:19/7:25: Lucky Lady

7:25/7:29: Jill Marie

7:44/7:55: Tracy Lynn

7:53/8:07: Miss Sarah

7:58/8:13: Faithful II

7:59/8:14: Hammerhead


4:22/4:27: Sitarah

5:55/6:01: Hey, Moma!

6:04/6:16: Blaze

6:09/6:17: Miss Sarah

6:11/6:16: Sundown

6:15/6:22: Casuarina

6:43/6:49: Sitarah

6:45/6:54: Faithful II

6:59/7:05: Lucky Lady

7:24/7:27: Lucky Lady

7:39/7:41: Casuarina



Team Leader Kevin Fink

Tucker Boyers

Rory Fink

Damien Flynn



Team Leader John Judson

Joel Trust

Doug Zeis

Will Bonner



Team Leader Howard Wise

Chase Wise

George Nelson IV

John Mark Jordan

Team Native Takes 2014 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament

2014 World's Richest Tarpon Tournament WinnersCapt. Frank Davis and his team aboard Native won the 2014 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament … without even catching a fish on the second day.

To be honest, no one did. While there were 22 total releases yesterday,a front that swept through overnight seemed to stymy the tarpon and not one tarpon was released on the second day of the tournament.  

In first place for this tournament is Native with three releases. In second place is Family Tradition with Capt. Matt Coleman with three releases. Third-place goes to the Tracy Lynn and Capt. Willie Mills for the last release yesterday.

Davis and his team took home $23,000. 

For the complete story see the Boca Beacon next Friday. For photos, see this Tuesday’s Gasparilla Gazette and next Friday’s Boca Beacon.

“Rich History…Priceless Future – The Tarpon of Boca Grande Pass” Educational Short Film

After special screenings at the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium and Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s Immersion Cinema in Sarasota, we are pleased to announce the public release of, “Rich History…Priceless Future – the Tarpon

of Boca Grande Pass”. Presented by the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce and produced by Think Out Loud Productions, this educational short film and documentary preview can now be viewed and shared directly from the Chamber’s website at BocaGrandeChamber.com. We encourage everyone to watch this important film which features local personalities and experts, and to stay tuned for news about the upcoming full-length documentary on this important and evolving story. For more information, please contact Lew Hastings at 941-964-0560 or visit BocaGrandeChamber.com and ThinkOutLoudProductions.com.

Legendary angler and host of popular TV program “Hooked on Fishing” Captain Bill Miller fishes World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament








I was in Boca Grande this past week fishing in The World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament sponsored by the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce and world famous artist Guy Harvey.


The World’s Richest was part of the Tarpon Festival Weekend in Boca Grande that also included a children’s tarpon tournament, a lady’s tarpon tournament, art show and concert….

Boca Grande and the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament – 2coolfishing forum

Boca Grande and the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament

It was my first time to drive out to Boca and we had a blast! I put the boat in the water at 3 on Saturday afternoon. The pass was full of live bait boats so I hung around them for a while trying to get a general idea of what going on. I didn’t have bait with me so I just watched, trying to pick up on any details that may help us later in the week when the rest of my crew showed up. On the way back to the dock I motored out and picked up a few thread fins with the hope that some fish may show off the beach before dark. They sure did. I spotted a few rolling fish just off the sandbar of Little Pass, positioned my boat in the same way that I was showed by capt. Mark Bennett and it paid off. The first thread got bit and I was tight on a nice 70 lb fish. Catching that first fish was a real confidence booster. Driving back in the side scan picked up on a big tarpon under the bridge between Little Pass and Uncle Henry’s marina where I had rented a slip for the week. The first thread I dropped back in the current got bit and I was tight on my second bigger tarpon of the evening. He pulled out some drag and jumped a few times before throwning the hook. That was the first day….

Best Selling Author Randy Wayne White pulls sponsorship for PTTS in Letter to Editor











To the Editor:

This message is to “Professional” Tarpon Tournament Series, Ms. Sheli Sanders, Mr. Joe Mercurio, PTTS Sponsors and participating anglers


This is to inform you that neither I nor the Doc Ford Restaurants will participate as sponsors in any fishing tournament that allows snag-fishing (‘jig fishing’ is the common euphemism) for tarpon or other game fish. Snag-fishing has, justifiably, been banned to protect numerous game fish world wide, and I am, frankly, mystified why the tarpon (among Florida’s most valuable natural resources) has not been granted the same protection by governing state bodies.

As a former Sanibel Island fishing guide, I do not hold participating captains in any way accountable for using whatever means allowable to bring a tarpon to the boat. Their job is to catch fish. If tournament rules allow the use of snag-fishing techniques, a working professional is necessarily obligated to give his clients an equal chance. I also understand that snag-fishing is a boon to film makers and TV producers because snag-fishing all but guarantees that tarpon will be landed. As reprehensible as the technique is, it does provide the sort action demanded by producers of the Jerry Springer ilk…..

Mills emotional after capturing World’s Richest reboot – Gasparilla Gazette










Capt. Willie Mills aboard the Tracy Lynn won the 30th anniversary World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament Friday in Boca Grande.

Mills, assisted by team leader Bruce Aikens and anglers Scott Adams and Ken Fry, collected $26,400 for first place with five tarpon caught and released.

“The prize money does not mean nearly as much as winning the Jay Joiner belt buckle means to me,” Mills said. “I have been waiting a very long time to receive this very special award. This is all about Jay Joiner and remembering a great fisherman. “