ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — Two U.S. Army veterans won the team grand championship award in the Cheeca Lodge All-American Backcountry tournament that ended Nov. 12.
Retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Larry Kilgore from Williamston, North Carolina, and retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Shane Markley of Riverdale, Maryland, released 18 snook on bait and Kilgore caught and released his first tarpon.
The duo fished with Captain Mike Makowski of Key Largo, Florida. Each year, the tournament hosts a team of two veteran soldiers to compete.
The grand champion individual angler was Jim Bokor Jr. of Buffalo, New York, who released four snook, two bonefish and two redfish on artificial tackle. Guided by Islamorada’s Captain Richard Black, Bokor also released five bonefish, five tarpon and six redfish on bait to win the general division as well.
Second place individual angler Jeffrey Parrish from Sanborn, New York, fishing with Islamorada’s Captain Dave Denkert, won the artificial division with 10 snook, 10 redfish and four bonefish. The duo also released four bonefish on bait.
Christopher Jordan of McLean, Virginia, earned the fly division championship. Guided by Captain Paul Ross of Islamorada, he released four tarpon, two snook and eight redfish.
Roy Huff from Bristol, Tennessee, fishing with Islamorada’s Captain Jake Turek, won the most outstanding catch award with an estimated 80-pound tarpon caught on a bonefish rod.
Game-fish catch and release totals over the tournament’s two days included 169 fish with 18 on fly rod, 100 on artificial tackle and 51 using bait.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve and restore bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through research, stewardship, education and advocacy.
Next year’s tournament is scheduled for Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 9-11, 2023.