Backcountry Fly Championship Series: 2017 Hurricane Cup Tournament results

Lisa Everett and Gail Kennedy holding up one of their many snook.

Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys hard, destroying homes and businesses, but it did not break the spirit of the community. As they have come to use a term #keysstrong, the community came together to help their neighbors, friends and even strangers in worse hit communities. Many Keys residents, including fishing guides went down to the lower Keys to help feed others while assisting them in the clean up of their properties, this is what the Florida Keys is all about, helping others in their time of need.

This time of year, Captain Paul Tejera from Islamorada puts together a tournament called The Backcountry Fly Championship Series; which is a 2-day, catch and release, fly only tournament where anglers target redfish and snook and are only able to count their two biggest fish caught for each species. Anglers are able to continue upgrading their catch in hopes of accumulating as many inches as possible. The series is held in the spring on the last Friday and Saturday in February and again in the fall in October. The anglers and guides that fish both the spring and the fall tournaments compete towards the coveted title for the “King of the Backcountry” which is a perpetual trophy where the winner’s name and the Captain’s name is etched on and displayed at Sandy Moret’s Florida Keys Outfitters in Islamorada.

When Hurricane Irma hit in early September affecting many hotels and restaurants, Tejera made a call to cancel the tournament, much to the dismay of many of the guides who really could use the business since many of their trips were cancelled due to the effects of the storm. Anglers were also upset and still wanted the tournament to go on. With there being so much need for the guides, Tejera thought of putting together a fun format for fishing, finding sponsors and all funds collected donated to the Guides Trust Foundation. The response was amazing not just from the anglers signing up but also from sponsors that wanted to help.

The one-day tournament, called the Hurricane Cup, was an open format where anglers could fish from anywhere in the Keys, from Flamingo Marina to Key West. Target species were tarpon, bonefish, permit, redfish and snook of any size and at the end of the day anglers could check in at the Lorelei Restaurant in Islamorada or they could text in their score sheet to the scorekeeper. 36 boats competed in the tournament, releasing 694 fish, 644 of which were snook. Hurricane Irma did not affect the fishing and these numbers are proof that the fishing in the Keys and Flamingo is still great!

Top Guided Team: Lisa Everett, Capt. Larry Sydnor, and Gail Kennedy McManus

The winning team consisted of two female anglers, one being an Islamorada resident, Gail Kennedy McManus fishing with her North Carolina and International Women’s Fishing Association friend, Lisa Everett. The duo caught and released 255 snook amassing a score of 6575 points, which put them above all other teams to take home the Top Guided Team, Most Snook Releases, Top Spin Team and Top Female Angler to Lisa for her 150 snook. Amazing fishing by these two anglers and their Islamorada guide, Capt. Larry Sydnor.

Top Unguided Team went to Islamorada residents Kyle Velunza and Karina Kempter who fished with their friend, Nelson Padron from Miami. They released between the two anglers, 95 snook on fly and spin tackle totaling 2575 points.

Top Unguided Team: Kyle Velunza, Nelson Padron, and Karina Kempter

Most Tarpon Releases – Jayce Chamizo from Islamorada and Lincoln Rodriguez from Miami they also received the Most Permit Releases with 1 permit.

Most Bonefish and Top Junior Angler went to Konnor Ross and Capt. Randy Towe from Islamorada

Most Redfish Releases – Capt. Mike Hutchisson and brother Greg Hutchisson from Miami Springs

Fly Division Champion and Most Species Award – Jeff Harkavy from Coral Springs and Capt. Steve Thomas from Islamorada.

Releases – Break Down

644 snook

34 tarpon

13 redfish

1 permit

2 bonefish

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