Ryleigh Hunter was the main star for the 2012 Florida Sportsman SE Bash.


As soon as I heard Florida Sportsman was putting on a benefit fishing tournament I couldn’t wait to hear the details and sign up. There’s nothing better than being able to help out someone in need and do something that you love doing in order to raise some funds.

Simms bus and the Real Time rig showing off.

This particular fundraiser was for Ryleigh Hunter (Ryleigh Foundation Facebook Page), a 16- month old who has had a list of life threatening conditions. Please click on her Facebook page to help her out in any way that you can.

My parents were coming into town to visit so I signed my dad up to fish with me. This was the first tournament that we had ever fished together. We did some pre-fishing in Ft. Pierce and I actually had another pretty decent day. We missed out on some nice snook on topwater, but saw some impressive

Dad with one of our tournament trout.

acrobatics of mullet flying in the air. Along our route in the kayaks, up ahead I saw one fish going after a 20-inch mullet, making violent thrashes in the water like a dolphin would after its prey. As I paddled closer, I took some casts in the direction where the action was happening. Waiting up for Dad, and about the fifth cast later, a humongous bust on my topwater plug about eight feet away from my kayak got my heart pounding and my hairs raised. The goliath fish didn’t latch on to my plug, but still, I could feel the impact and the power of this fish through the plug and through the line up to my hands. I was a little frightened! If it was a snook and I hooked up to it, I would have gone for a sleigh ride to the North Pole.

My friends Stacie and Russ. Stacie out-fished the guys AND got the "biggest pompano" for the Yeti & Costa package.

After making our way to our hole, I got into some decent trout numbers, catching one after the other – while yelling over at Dad, “I got another one.” Some highlights of the day were over a dozen trout, including a nice 22-incher, and my biggest snook on the flats as of yet, 32 inches on the dot. Dad pulled in two trout, but still had a great day with me on the water.

After the pre-fishing, it was a little challenging where to fish for tournament day. A front had moved in, bringing 20-plus mile an hour winds and we were up against power boats in our kayaks. When my friends, Stacie and Russ, said they were heading for some wind blocked mangroves in another area, I thought it would be fun to enjoy the tournament all together in a group. Between four guys in our group, Stacie out-fished the men, then rested peacefully in the front of the gheenoe while we all tried to salvage our dignity. We paddled with the wind to get out to our spot, and long story short, it was a long ride back into the wind and back to the kayak launch.

Once we got to the weigh in and festivities, it was great to see how many people had actually participated and what a great turnout (considering the predicted weather) it was. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a juicy steakburger to regain a little energy I had depleted on the water.

First time meeting Blair "Mogan Man" Wiggins.

There were many great prizes and sponsors that showed up for the event, and we wouldn’t have had the success we had if it wasn’t for them and the great community spreading the word. Costa Del Mar sunglasses and Simms Clothing were the headline sponsors. Wow, did they show up too! Simms and Costa each brought their deluxe, travel buses to the event! Cary Chen offered some beautiful artwork that was auctioned off to the high bidder as well.

“We had to order more shirts, buckets and beer,” said Bash Chairman Jim Serra. “We sold out. We had two hundred entries and went through three hundred meals. I can’t wait to get the final tally on how much we raised for Ryleigh, but it looks to be over $5,000.”

A radio station and crew helped drum up support, while TV personalities, such as Blair Wiggins, came out for the event. It rained some in the morning, and the winds never died down all day, but the event was a success! For each place on the board that wasn’t filled with a name, the prize went into the raffles to be won. Click here for more pictures and coverage from the event.

What a great turnout!

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