DANIA BEACH, FL – March 16, 2020 – The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) today announced its 2020 Tommy Gifford Award honorees in recognition of their significant contributions to recreational angling as captains, guides or crew.
This year’s recipients include famed billfish captain and industry leader Captain Bobby Brown; Bermuda blue water pioneer Captain Alan Card; renowned big-game skipper Captain “OB” O’Bryan; offshore innovator Captain Tom Jones; and legendary Bahamian bonefish guide Ansil Saunders. These icons of the sportfishing community will be honored at the IGFA Tommy Gifford Awards Ceremony during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on October 29, 2020, at the beautiful Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort.
“The 2020 Tommy Gifford Award winners have helped to shape the sportfishing industry into what it is today,” said IGFA President Jason Schratwieser. “Captains, guides and crew members form the backbone of our sport, and we look forward to honoring these five individuals and their achievements during our wonderful event this October.”
The 2020 recipients were selected by the IGFA Legendary Captains & Crew Committee, a distinguished panel of internationally renowned captains and mates chaired by Captain Skip Smith. Previous winners include Jose Wejebe, Allen and Buddy Merritt, Ron Hamlin, Charles Perry, Ralph Delph, Laurie Wright, Jimmie Albright, Bouncer Smith, Steve Lassley, Bubba Carter, R.T. Trosset, Billy Knowles and more.
“It is such an honor to be able to recognize these captains, guides and crew members from around the world every year,” said Committee Chairman Skip Smith. “We need to keep the history of our sport alive and celebrate the successes and contributions of these sport fishing legends.”
Captain Bobby Brown
Bobby Brown was born in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1946. He caught his first blue marlin at the age of 12 that weighed 456 pounds, which had a permanent effect on his life and career. Brown received his Coast Guard Captain’s license in 1967 and began running charters out of Kona, Hawaii, until 1990 when he relocated to Florida. In 1971, he caught his first grander as captain with a 1,170-pound blue marlin on 80-pound line. Brown has 18 IGFA World Records to his credit for marlin, spearfish and yellowfin tuna and is responsible for the current Pacific blue marlin All-Tackle IGFA World Record of 1,376 pounds. Brown has been a longtime proponent of single hook trolling lures and circle hooks with bait. He spent his last three years of fishing in Costa Rica fishing the FADs out of Los Suenos, targeting blue marlin with light tackle.
Captain Alan Card
Captain Alan Card has over 40 years of experience as an offshore charter captain in Bermuda. Card caught the first grander blue marlin in Bermuda and has caught seven blue marlin weighing over 1,100 pounds. He is also credited for catching a bluefin tuna that weighed in at 782 pounds and once held both the IGFA All-Tackle and men’s 50-pound Line Class record with a 42-pound blackfin tuna. For the last 20 years, he has been running the 40-foot Gamerfisherman, Challenger, with his son, Ian, alongside him. Card has won several prestigious billfish tournaments including the 1993 World Cup and 2001 Big Game Classic.
Captain OB O’Bryan
Vernon “OB” O’Bryan grew up fishing in Pompano Beach, Florida. He began his fishing career working as a mate for Captain Allen Fields, where he fished alongside legendary tuna anglers like Pat and Fred Stone, Joe Mott, Allen Merritt, and others. In 1978 he traveled to Red Hook, St. Thomas, with Captain Arty Trager on the Sly Fox, where they won the USVI Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament. O’Bryan began fishing Cozumel, St. Thomas and Venezuela in the 1980s, where he became a vocal proponent for tag-and-release fishing for marlin. He spent 10 years working on the Knightlines where, in 1985, he would catch 510 billfish in 46 days including 16 IGFA Billfish Grand Slams. During his career, O’Bryan would fish beside some of the best anglers and crew of all-time including Stewart Campbell, Barkey Garnsey, and Peter B. Wright.
Captain Tom Jones
While sailing the 65-foot sloop Miraamy along the Jersey coast in 1909, Tom Jones conceived the idea of fishing for the “horse mackerel” – bluefin tuna -that were too large and powerful for most of the tackle of the day. Several years later, he brought the first bluefin tuna to the Beach Haven Yacht Club dock. Jones was the key figure in developing tackle and trolling techniques on the Atlantic coast of the United States and, by 1922, was regularly catching bluefin tuna from the abundant schools on the Barnegat Ridge, some 20-25 miles from the Little Egg Inlet. IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, John Rybovich has also credited Jones as one of the early pioneers in Florida’s sailfish fishery. Jones fished out of Beach Haven, New Jersey; Palm Beach, Florida; and Bimini, Bahamas for over 50 years and was one of the first fishing captains in the United States to relocate his boat with the seasons to fish year-round.
Ansil Saunders is perhaps Bimini’s most loved and revered bonefish guide. Saunders has been building bonefish skiffs since the age of 15 and is a fifth-generation boat builder in a lineage that goes back to Scotland. Saunders was known as an excellent bonefish guide and captained Jerry Lavenstein to the legendary IGFA All-Tackle World Record for bonefish; a 16-pounder caught in 1971, which still stands today. During his career, he guided a suite of famous individuals including President Richard Nixon and Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. Martin Luther King had a lasting impact on Saunders, and he would later become a member of the Bahamas independence movement, which allowed him to meet England’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Queen of England. Now in his late 80s, he no longer guides for bonefish but still takes people to the Holy Grounds so that they can share the same experience that Dr. Martin Luther King did.
The namesake of the award, Tommy Gifford (1896-1970) is considered one of the most innovative blue water anglers who ever lived, and one of the greatest charter skippers to guide anglers to the world’s most iconic marine game fishes. During his 50-year career, he developed an encyclopedic knowledge of game fish and techniques to catch them, and he served as guide and consultant to some of the most famous names in saltwater angling, including Ernest Hemingway, Michael Lerner, Charlie Lehman, and Van Campen Heilner. He never lost his zest for the sea or his awe at the creatures beneath the waves. Raymond Camp wrote, “Big game angling has a brief history, but Tommy Gifford’s name is sharply etched on every page.”
(George Town, Cayman Islands) The Cayman Islands’ first-ever Cayman Billfish Rundown awarded more than US$260,000 in cash prizes to 14 teams hailing from both local and international shores. Held May 14-17 on Grand Cayman, 41 teams registered in the sportfishing tournament, presented by Hurley’s Media Ltd., Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire.
Managing Director of Hurley’s Media Ltd. Randy Merren said he was pleased with the outcome of the tournament. “It’s incredible to see Cayman Billfish Rundown come to life after a year of planning and preparations. We are grateful for the support from the local and international participants, and based on the feedback received, we expect even higher numbers next year,” Mr. Merren said.
Carey Chen brought his experience and expertise as the Official Artist and Tournament Ambassador, taking news of the tournament to global waters. “I’ve been fishing the Cayman Islands since Million Dollar month in the 80s. The offshore fishing is less than a mile from land in the clearest water you can imagine,” Mr. Chen said. “Cayman Billfish Rundown in its debut is one of the most organized tournaments I have been to and this will only get better,” he said.
The winning team, ‘Uno Mas’ from Florida, captained by Brooks Smith, released three billfish to win the top prize of US$100,000 for the Most Billfish Release Points and the Captain’s Award of US$10,000 presented to the Captain of the Boat with the Most Release Points. The team also entered seven additional categories that flexed its billfish skills and rewarded Uno Mas with additional payouts of more than US$16,000, making its total winnings for the tournament close to US$130,000.
In second place, ‘Happy Days’ from the Cayman Islands, took home US$35,000 for the second most billfish releases, as well as an additional US$2,250 for the smallest boat with the most billfish releases. Small boats were considered under 36 feet Length Over All (LOA).
Third place for most billfish release was tied, with seven teams earning equal points through catching and releasing a Blue Marlin. Down to time stamps, ‘Suntide’ took home third place and US$20,000, inching ahead of ‘Lazy Lady’ and ‘Trading Time’ by releasing their Marlin 10 and 20 minutes earlier respectively.
Angler Shaun Bodden from ‘Cool Change’ hooked the heaviest yellowfin tuna, weighing 77.2 lbs., which awarded his team US$10,000 from the guaranteed payout and an additional US$10,000 for entering and winning the ‘Tuna Doubler’ category.
The heaviest wahoo was caught by Baron Jacob from ‘Ecks-Change’ weighing 39.2 lbs. The heaviest dolphinfish was caught by Nathan Ebanks from ‘Reeladdiction’. Both teams won US$10,000 and each team kindly donated U$1,500 to the Alex Panton Foundation, the charity the tournament chose to support. Anglers were encouraged to donate a portion of their winnings to the Alex Panton Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve the mental health of the Cayman Islands’ children and young adults.
Forty-one boats entered the tournament with 230 registered anglers, including 41 international anglers and 28 females. Between them, they released twelve Blue Marlins, one White Marlin and one sailfish. A total of 14 yellowfin tuna, five wahoo and six dolphinfish were brought to the scale.
“The Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction of choice has so much to offer, and this tournament is no different as it highlights the high professional standard of sport fishing,” said Mr. Merren. “Billfish in particular hold a special place in Cayman Islands sportfishing and for me personally, it was great to bring the action so close to our shores,” he continued.
The tournament also supports responsible fishing and teamed up with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the School of Marine Sciences at University of Maine, and The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in a Tag and Release Program. Mr. Chen said, “Of all the islands I have travelled to, Cayman takes the most pride in its reefs and ocean by protecting it from pollution and overfishing.” The tag and release programme encourages participants to tag and release undersized dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, skipjack and bigeye tuna, and ocean whitetip sharks. ‘Conched Out’, captained by Colin Wilson earned the most release points and were awarded with an Ulysse Nardin CI Limited Edition Watch valued at US$10,000.
The awards dinner and closing ceremony took place on Friday evening at The Crescent in Camana Bay and included a live performance and an impressive display of fireworks. Sponsors, including: Dart Enterprises, Esso, Ulysse Nardin and Island Heritage handed out trophies and checks to winning teams. During the closing ceremony other sponsors were also thanked for their involvement in the tournament including: Chivas Regal; Michelob Ultra; Parkers; Automotive Art; Suzuki; Mikes Ice; Ogier; Shipping Registry and Pro Yacht.
Helping with the presentation of awards, Nicole Spenc, a sportfishing icon from Florida, also thanked sponsors and tournament organizers for welcoming her to the Cayman Islands. “The people, the island, everything is so welcoming and I am just blown away! I can’t wait to come back!” she said. Nicole writes an adventure blog and is popular across YouTube and Instagram.
Reflecting on the tournament, Mr. Merren expressed gratitude to participants and sponsors. “Thank you to those who participated and to the team at Hurley’s Media, Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire for a successful inaugural event. My hope is that next year we have even more participants, increase the prize pools, and perhaps even can break the Blue Marlin record,” he said.
Mr. Chen also said he’s excited for next year’s event. “Looking forward to next year with more boats and even bigger jackpots. I am proud to call Cayman my second home.”
1st – Caramba
2nd – Mi Lujo
3rd – Demencia
The 65th edition of International Billfish Tournament of Club Náutico de San Juan (CNSJ) ended
up with 89 releases, including 22 releases among the top four boats and winning teams from
CNSJ, Palm Beach Florida and South Africa, among others, said Salvador Egea, Jr., chairman.
Top boat, Caramba, released five blue marlin and one sailfish with Capt. Victor González, whose
name is now included in the “Mike Benitez Best Captain Perpetual Trophy”. Egea highlighted
Gonzalez’s work as outstanding and committed to sportsfishing.
Second best boat, Mi Lujo, release four blue marlin and two white marlin with Capt. Jose Colon
on the helm, while the third best boat, Demencia, released five blue marlin with Capt. Javier
Rivera. All three captains received a check from CNSJ.