Events tend to be most successful when they 1) have a strong local following and 2) use the area’s resources effectively. If you’re fishing in Florida and have an affinity for tarpon, then the place to be is the gulf area of Boca Grande, where they stage the not-so-humbly titled “World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament.”
First, a little information about the tarpon: Tarpons might be the big-game prey of the fishing world. They are big, growing between four and eight feet, and when they’re hooked, they jump like a seven-foot forward in the NBA finals, which makes the fishing even more exciting. The Boca Grande/Punta Gorda/Fort Myers area of Florida’s Gulf Coast is the home to some of the best tarpon fishing around, hence the tarpon tournament, which will be held this year on June 4-6.
Organized now by the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce, the “World’s Richest” Tarpon Tournament was originally called the Boca Grande Club Invitational when it was started in 1983 and was sponsored and run by the private Boca Grande Club located on the north end of Gasparilla Island.
In 1991, the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce took it over renaming it the “World’s Richest” Tarpon Tournament and opening entries to the general public. Its mission is conservation and it’s a catch-and-release tournament.
At its height, the total purse of the “World’s Richest” exceeded $175,000 and anglers from all over the world traveled to Boca Grande to enter for a chance to win it. The “World’s Richest” perpetual trophy is on display at the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce office and features the names of the winning team leaders for each year the tournament has been in existence.
The Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association took over the tournament and renamed it the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association Tarpon Tournament which ran until 2011 until the Chamber took it over again.
And, of course, like most events, it’s grown to include music, kids’ events and more. In fact, it’s a central park of the big fishing business in southwest Florida, a business that it’s estimated to bring in more than $100 million annually from amateur anglers.
For an area that depends on the transient nature of tourism for its livelihood, the “World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament” is a way for the greater Boca Grande area to show off its resources while engaging the community in an event whose resources uniquely fit southwest Florida.
(photo courtesy www.lowetidecharters.com)