Elite anglers focused on FKO/IGFA Inshore World Championship

ISLAMORADA, Fla. — The 32 top fly and light tackle "sight-casting" fishing champions from across the U.S. and as far away as Australia are set to converge on Islamorada for the ninth annual Florida Keys Outfitters / IGFA Inshore World Championship, July 7-9.

Anglers and the media have described the event as the "super bowl of inshore fishing."

The field of anglers — 16 in fly and 16 in light tackle — was invited from a variety of 36 qualifying tournaments held in 2008 in the U.S., the Bahamas and Australia to compete in the three day all-release championship. They include 26 men and five women from nine U.S. states and Australian Peter Politis, winner of Northern Territory's Barramundi Classic.

A grand champion will be crowned in each division.

New to the format will be a drawing to pair each angler with a premier Keys guide, fishing all three days as a team for tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook and redfish.

Three-time winner and current defending champion Robert Collins of Naples and Islamorada said, "The thing I like most about the new format is that your guide will now be much more important in helping you plan your overall strategy. The continuity will be a positive for both the angler and the guide. It should be much easier to execute one three day plan, as opposed to three one day plans with three different guides."

And for the first time Collins who is known for his remarkable accuracy with a conventional rod and reel, will be focusing his skills solely casting fly.

"I'll approach it the same as in past years," he said, "deciding which species I can get in the least amount of time and then go from there. A lot of that decision will depend on the conditions and who I will be fishing with. It usually takes catching and releasing a slam of all five species to win and that's going to be difficult with the fly rod, but someone will probably do it."

Collins who is also a member of the defending IGFA Offshore World Championship team said, "I fished a pretty heavy offshore schedule this past year but when I've been inshore it's been all flyrod. I know I don't have all the skills that some of the others do, but I feel pretty good about where I am with it," adding with a smile, "plus I'm hoping for a lucky break or two."

He and the other competitors may get those opportunities.

According to tournament director Sandy Moret, owner of Florida Keys Outfitters who spent several days fly fishing the Florida Bay waters, "Tarpon fishing is off the chart right now."

"I have had great reports on the snook and red fishing too. Some bonefish and permit are being caught, but most anglers are so focused on tarpon, that the other species are getting a break. The weather has settled into its late spring/early summer pattern and if it holds, fishing should be gangbusters!

"These anglers and guides have wholeheartedly embraced our new light tackle/fly tackle concept and this should be one of the most outstanding competitions of the year," he added. "Looking ahead to next year we'll have more international competitors from the 38 current qualifying events representing tournaments in US, Bahamas, Belize, Australia & Sweden."

Fishing and daily scoring takes place from the World Wide Sportsman's Bayside Marina. The Islander Resort serves as the event's headquarters. Both are located near mile marker 82.

The IGFA remains the inshore championships' sole nonprofit benefactor. A fundraiser and auction for the IGFA will be held at the event.

The championship is partnering with ESPN Outdoors and its televised Saltwater Series. Daily tournament coverage will appear on ESPNOutdoors.com and on IGFA.org.

Qualifying Anglers and Representative Tournaments

Fly Tackle Division

Cal Collier, Jr, Atlanta Ga.
Redbone @ Large Deep Water Cay, Grand Bahama Island Fall Tournament

Dave Collier, New York, N.Y.
Redbone @ Large Deep Water Cay, Grand Bahama Island Spring Tournament

Robert Collins, Islamorada, Fla.
IGFA Inshore Championship 3-time Grand Champion, Islamorada, Fla.

Mark Cooper, Aurora, Colo.
Redbone Celebrity Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Alex Cruz, Miami, Fla.
Backcountry Fly Championship, Islamorada, Fla.

David Dalu, Charleston, S.C.
Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Charles Duncan III, Houston, Texas
Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Fly Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Leslie Duncan, Houston, Texas
Ladies Invitational Tarpon Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Warren Hinrichs, Jacksonville, Fla.
March Merkin Permit, Key West, Fla.

Kathryn Hoar, Hanover, Pa.
Women's Fly Tarpon Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Rand Holstead, Houston, Texas
Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Ed Liccione, Queenstown, Md.
Islamorada Sailfly, Islamorada, Fla.

Sue Moret, Islamorada, Fla.
Redbone @ Large Marsh Harbor Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas

Jared Raskob, Key Largo, Fla.
IFACT Red Ghost Stalk, Islamorada, Fla.

Mike Rempe, Windsor, Colo.
Redbone @ Large Deep Water Cay, Grand Bahama Island

Bob Rich, Islamorada, Fla.
Redbone Celebrity Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.

Light Tackle Division

Bonnie Christ, Alexandria, Va.
Mercury Baybone Celebrity Tournament, Key Largo, Fla.

Mike Gallops, Naples, Fla.
IGFA Inshore World Championship, 2003 Grand Champion Islamorada, Fla.

Rich Gorden, Brooksville, Fla.
Red Snook Catch & Release Fishing Tournament, Collier County, Fla.

Tony Horsley, Glen Allen,Va.
Islamorada All Tackle Spring Bonefish, Islamorada, Fla.

Bill Hurst, Cutler Bay, Fla.
Mercury S.L.A.M. Celebrity Tournament, Key West, Fla.

Larry Leszczynski, Bradenton, Fla.
Sarasota Sportfishing Anglers Club Tarpon Tournament, Sarasota, Fla.

Mike McDonald, Sarasota, Fla.
Sarasota Sportfishing Anglers Club Tarpon Tournament, Sarasota, Fla.

Wayne Meland, Naples, Fla.
Gene Doyle Catch and Release Tournament, Naples, Fla.

Peter Politis, Nightcliff,NT Australia
Northern Territory Barramundi Classic, Northern Territory, Australia

Troy Pruitt, Naples, Fla.
Lucerne-Grossman Memorial Fishing Competition, Key Largo, Fla.

Barry Shevlin, Bay Harbor Island, Fla.
Lucerne-Grossman Memorial Fishing Competition, Key Largo, Fla.

Ron Silverman, Daniel Island, S.C.
Lowcountry Red-Trout Celebrity Classic, Charleston, S.C.

Marty Smalley, Tampa, Fla.
Mercury Grand Slam Celebrity Fishing Tournament, Tampa, Fla.

Chris Turner, Naples, Fla.
Red Snook Catch & Release Fishing Tournament, Collier County, Fla.

Nick Cardella, Delray Beach, Fla.
IFACT Red Ghost Stalk, Islamorada, Fla.

Aledia Tush, Sarasota, Fla.
Int'l Womens Fishing Assoc. Tournament, Islamorada, Fla.