The 2014 storyline:  “What might have been”

Every year a whole new set of stories.  In an event where most people realize that the competition is secondary, the stories are fun either way.    Success.  Second guessing.   Fame.  Frustration. I can tell you that about ten people are rethinking certain decisions.      What might have been?   If a few people paid the $10 and claimed the overall pool instead of the guys who did win it.    Division selection another big one.    Apples to oranges and water under the bridge, it is just interesting to look at the results after the dust has settled.

I don’t see any anxiety over it.   But the stories are interesting:   “I went to the wrong place”, “I got lucky”, lots of the same things from past years.  Part of the fun of the format, you only fish in one division.   New to 2014:  Ten bucks puts you in against everyone.   Our judging station error this year was that particular contest with other people who paid the ten dollars not telling the judging station (my error not yours) that they qualify for that pool.   Ben Kirkconnell decision to add the ten bucks the night before the tournament worked out great for him.   The top two Grand Prize winners in the No Motor division?  No, did not pay in so they lost the pool money (combined inches and “redfish”).

Sportsmanship all over the event, you have to look at two big items one on tournament day, the other a couple of days later.     Hunter Koch had a big day out there and claimed a sweep in the Junior division.   I did not see it but because of his winnings he acted on his own handing a rod and reel to another Junior division contestant.    Hunter was not the only one “spreading it around”.   In the Fly division, I had computed the payouts after verifying all the results and one winning participant made several inquiries about the charity by email which I answered.   Then the unexpected:  “Please donate my winnings to the Humane Society of Pinellas.”    I actually set everything else down and went back to check the total (which I thought was going to be pretty large) and Walt Ruda confirmed:   He wanted his $370 to go to the Captain Mel Classic charity.

No shocking surprise to me, my nephew Garrett in his fourth Classic, enjoyed the company of a number of great people who did a lot for him while I was occupied with tournament director duties: He had nothing but great things to say about his time talking to Walt.

Garrett’s on-the-water efforts:  Second place trout in the Fly division.   15 years old he did Junior the first three years but told me last summer “Fly” is his thing now.   “What might have been” ?    Garrett had a redfish on that got off, confirmed by his fishing pal.   Had he caught it, he might have challenged for Grand Prize and largest redfish and with the layout of the tournament:  That is potentially a $320 fish that got off.   Again:  My kind of participant, he didn’t dwell on it and he was a terrific help at the tournament party and Awards and we had fun the whole weekend.

Our two top winners “eked it out”, in fact one technically a tie and the other a miniscule win for now “defending champion” Bob Schorejs (over Scott Rhule by less than a thumbnail).    That was for the Native Slayer in the No Motor Division.   In the Open Division Bill Gregg checked in first, winning the overall Grand Prize “combined inches” and the Icehole Cooler over Vincent Fraccica who also had 38 inches of combined inches.

The Bonus Species (Flounder) is a $5 buy in to the event and we had light action on that species this year.    The LeFavre family dominated with Angel taking the Junior pot and her father David taking the No Motor pool money.  Olin Satterfield came in second.

As stated in the first summary:  This year’s event was very well sponsored and we had fantastic participants.   121 people were paid entries.    32 people backed out or did not show up at all (unpaid) from my registration records at check-in.   The breakdowns on divisions:   We had 57 people enter the No Motor.   We had 27 people in the Open division.   We had 16 people in the Fly division, 13 in the Ladies and 9 in the Junior.   I will be breaking up the sponsor thanks separately as well but some are going to be mentioned multiple times for obvious reasons.

A charity event, money raised was significant with Twila Cole at The Humane Society of Pinellas receiving around $2500 in tournament funds.  We supplemented our donation by holding an extra raffle.   100% of the general raffle funds also donated to the charity as well as a portion of entry fees.    Total payouts to anglers by my calculations is exceeding $4000.   That’s $440 in the Overall Pool, $160 for Bonus Species (flounder, dominated by the LeFevre family), and about $3300 to the division winners.   Winning payouts were aided by the donations from Icehole Cooler (Bill Gregg, Open Division grand prize champion), Native Watercraft donation of a 2014 Slayer 12 (No Motor grand prize winner Bob Schorejs) and Werner Paddle (Shuna Hooked $275 paddle, to Scott Rhule VERY close second place in the grand prize No Motor division).

The other prizes to winners in 3rd place and second place in the smaller divisions:  Exceptional donations and might I add:  Increases over past years.    I’m not sure everyone realizes how much great stuff the sponsors sent!    Things were similar to years past.  On tournament day I assign items as prize payouts for the Junior division (all prizes) and third place finishers in all other divisions.   If some stuff is not claimed (say there are not three redfish caught in a division) I will shift a prize to another division in the event of a tie or it ends up in the raffle.

We held a second separate raffle this year for the Humane Society of Pinellas.   I put in some of the best gear to that raffle, but the same items were also in the general raffle.   It should be noted that Shon Lassiter with Smith Optics threw in another pair for that separate raffle (I believe bringing their donation to 7 pair of sunglasses for this year’s event!)

Most people don’t realize that prizes are assigned.    So if certain fish (or combinations of fish) are not caught, those prizes move to the general raffle.   I’m not sure if anyone noticed but two pair of the Smith sunglasses and three of the Anchor Pins, and I believe one of the fishing rods went to the raffle winners.  I think it is a good system because people do buy a lot of raffle tickets.  By my calculations, people bought nearly 400 raffle tickets.

First time in tournament history:  Every trophy claimed.   Trophy maker Alex Berg (down with his father Allen) was part of the awards presentation.    The trophies, a very special perk for our Classic champions will be part of the program every year.   I hope Alex and Allen are able to come down again for the event in the future.   Redfish and trout caught in every division means that we had the maximum number of Classic champs (15).

Stay tuned for the Tournament photo album to conclude the 2014 Classic summary.

The results are listed at the bottom again.  We had some great fish caught.  We also had some great stories too.  We had a lot of exhibition of kindness and sportsmanship.  Guys like Walt Ruda and then a kid like Hunter Koch.   Hunter ran away with the Junior Divison prizes and a lot of loot.   I didn’t see it but he walked over and gave a rod and reel away to another Junior division participant.    It took me several days to confirm all the information on the Overall Pool winners and then calculate the payouts.   After I did I got a response from one of the Fly division contestants who asked that his winnings, all of it, go to the charity.   I went to calculate that:  $370 that Walt Ruda has donated to the H.S. of P.   Thank you Walt.   You were already one of my favorites but that was just first class!

The 2014 Captain Mel Classic Results:

No Motor


1.  Kevin Ketchum  25.5

2. Olin Satterfield, 23.7

3.  Bob Schorejs 23.7


1.  Scott Rhule   33.9

2.  Bob Schorejs  31.1

3.  Ben Kirkconnell 30.9

Combined Inches

1.  .  Bob Schorejs  54.8

2.  Scott Rhule   54.4

3.  Ben Kirkconnell    49.4




1.  Gene Kent 25.8

2.  Parker Rabow  24

3.  Kenny Smith 17.5


1.  Aaron Myers 30.25

2.  Bill Gregg  24

3.  Vincent Fraccica 23

Combined Inches

  1. Bill Gregg 38
  2. Vincent Fraccica 38
  3. Brian Pershing 29.75



1.  Walt Ruda 18.25

2.  Garrett Taylor 17

3.  Phil Still  15


1. Phil Still 26.1

2.Walt Ruda 17.25

Combined Inches

1.  Phil Still 41.1

2.  Walt Ruda  36



1.  Jennifer Kent  22.1

2. Gail Stanley  20.1

3.  Jessica Brown 18.25


1.  Pam Wirth 19.1

Combined Inches

1.  Pam Wirth   36.6



1.Hunter Koch  22.9

2.  Shawn Blanton 13.4


1. Hunter Koch  23.8

Combined Inches

  1. Hunter Koch  46.7

Bonus Species:


Angel LeFevre   12 inches.  Payout:  $20

No Motor

David LeFevre  14.6 inches.  Payout:  $140

Olin Satterfield 12.75.  Prizes

Fly, Ladies and Open divisions:  No flounder caught.   Pool money applied to Overall pool payouts ($95)

Overall Pool:

Total pool money $440.   Two places each, longest trout, longest redfish and longest combined inches.

Two places each, longest trout, longest redfish and longest combined inches.


1.  Kevin Ketchum 25.5

2.  Olin Satterfield


1.  Ben Kirkconnell  30.9

2.  Aaron Myers  3.25

Combined Inches

1.  Ben Kirkconnell  49.4

2.  Kasey Arrowsmith  46.9

Neil Taylor

Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding.Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed and eventually became that web site’s owner.
Neil Taylor

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