Saturday marked the 17th year for the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association’s Kingfish Tournament. The event registered 139 boats of which 121 were recreational and 18 professional.
Tournament Director Ron Childs said, “This event is our biggest fundraiser, and we have raised over a million dollars used to build over 200 new artificial reefs off of Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, and Panama City.”
Childs added, “We had boats from Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and Florida. Over 60 percent of our anglers came from outside Florida with the majority coming from Georgia. These visitors do so much to support our local economy-we all win.”
First place, and the $3,000 prize, went to the Bluewater Predator’s crew with a weigh-in of 43.95 pounds. The team included Mike Chavez, Jr,, Jim Rentz, Phillip Cochran, Capt. Michael Lodge and Jack Hittinger.
The $2,000 second place prize went to the crew of the Sea Ment with a weigh-in of 33.2 pounds. The team was made up of Andy Williams, Capt. Keith Carraway, Rod Prince and Rocky Greene.
Third place and $1,000 was awarded to the crew of the Reel Natural. The team, which included D. L. Scoggins, Capt. Bill Connally and Bird McBride weighed in with 32.1 pounds.
In the professional Kingfish Division, Capt. Thomas Cardenas and the crew of the Sword-A-Crazy had a weigh-in of 48.5 pounds and took home a $1,440 prize. The crew also included Butch Cardenas, Marvin Glasgow, Ben Dover and Blake Campbell.
In the Spanish division, Capt. Hayes Woodward and Dell Jordan of the Random Chance won $500 for their 4.9 pound catch.
Robert Hutson, Jr., Bonita Thompson and Capt. Robert Hutson III of the Peggy Sue took home $1,000 for their Wahoo catch of 36.65 pounds.
In total, 555 fish, 22 Kings, 11 Spanish, and 3 Wahoo were weighed, along with an Amberjack weighing 64 pounds.
The annual Kingfish Tournament helps MBARA raise money for artificial reefs. Since 1997, MBARA has built over 160 reefs worth over $1 million dollars. The annual tournament is their main source of funding, and those monies are often used as seed money for grants from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and private foundations.
To view photos of the winners and official weigh-sheets, visit www.mbara.org.