The Notable Tournament, Held November 10-12, Names Angler Tom McGraw as This Years Winner, Benefitting Florida Keys Guides Trust Foundation

An icon 70 years in the making, Cheeca Lodge & Spa hosted the 5th Annual All American Backcountry Fishing Tournament, gathering the industry’s finest in the sport fishing paradise. The acclaimed event raised funds for the locally based Guides Trust Foundation (GTF), and Cheeca Lodge hosted two veteran soldiers to compete as a team in honor of Veteran’s Day. The tournament’s field of 14 anglers posted overall game fish totals of 39 snook, 17 redfish, 13 tarpon and eight bonefish over the two-day tournament.

“We were thrilled to welcome talented anglers and qualified guides to experience some of the finest fishing in the country at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, ” said General Manager Bob LaCasse. “Cheeca is honored to celebrate the great sport of backcountry fishing, while giving back to the community through our partnership with Guides Trust Foundation.”

Taking home top honors was Tom McGraw of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, who released 10 tarpon, 10 snook and four redfish all on bait, in addition to three redfish using artificial tackle. Guided by Islamorada’s Captain Mark Gilman, McGraw took the overall win and the general tackle division trophy. 

U.S. Army Sergeant Justin Burdette of Palm Bay, Florida, and Travis Green of Canyon Lake Texas, a gunnery sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps, earned the annual challenge’s grand champion team honors. The duo released 10 snook, one tarpon and one redfish all on bait under the guidance of Captain Mike Makowski of Key Largo, Florida.

Legendary fisherman and notable author Stu Apte earned the artificial tackle division’s champion trophy by   releasing one snook and two redfish under the guidance of Captain Dave Denkert of Islamorada.

The fly tackle division’s trophy was awarded to New York City resident John Kukral for five snook, one bonefish and one tarpon. Kukral was guided by Captain Luis Cortes of Islamorada.

All American anglers competed for trophies and prizes for releasing five different species of fish: snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon and permit. Tackle divisions included fly, artificial and general, and both individual and team trophies were awarded. 

The event’s proceeds benefit the Guides Trust Foundation, a local organization that assists Florida Keys fishing guides in need. The organization is committed to helping the member guides meet their financial obligations in times of injury or crisis, as well as providing scholarship awards to local students.

Title Sponsors included Wells Fargo Bank’s Hospitality Finance Group; Robert-James Sales, Inc.; and Mayfly Outdoors which owns Abel Reels Ross Reels and Charlton Reels. Partner sponsors include Costa, Fishpond, TrueFlies, JL Promotions, Sunsect Insect Repellent, Bluefin, Executive Printers of Florida, Printing Plus, Linens & More, Icelandic, Tommy Bahama, Keys Audio Party Rentals, Avalon Fishing Center, Caribbean Breeze, Theatre of the Sea, Fireball, World Wide Sportsman and more.