Tourney hooks good publicity for area

Tourism Development Council members heard glowing reports recently about the May 24-25 Glades Sportswriters Invitational Fishing Tournament that was staged out of Lakeport and Moore Haven.

“It was a wonderful event,” said Glades County TDC Executive Director Tracy Whirls, complimenting council member Jeff Patterson, whose idea it was to restart an annual tourney last held years ago and known as the Harold DeTar Memorial Fly Fishing Tournament, named after its founder who was a Moore Haven retiree.

“Jeff did a fantastic job both with recruiting the writers and working with the local folks to help organize the event. The coverage that we got during the event was good,” Ms. Whirls said. She added that she got a chance to speak with leaders of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA) and that they noted other events throughout the year in Glades County in which they were interested. “So I’m hoping that we can develop a really good relationship with them and encourage them to come back not just for the sportswriters invitational but for other events.”

Glades County Democrat/Courtesy of VisitGlades.org
Captain Ray Markham shared this photo of the bass he caught with a TFO fly rod while fishing the Big O with Clyde Johnson during the inaugural Sportswriters Invitational Fishing Tournament that took place May 24-25 out of Harney Pond in Lakeport.

Mr. Patterson said there were 13 sportswriters who participated. “We have been getting a lot of coverage. So far we’ve had a story run in The Miami Herald (and) … in the FOWA newsletter, which was really good because a lot of other writers see that. We had Butch Newell, who is the new director of FOWA,” he said. “He did a lot of drone footage, a lot of through-the-day videos … that were great in showing people what we have to offer.”

He said he wanted to thank the tournament’s sponsors, including Lakeport Lodge, Ahern’s, Beck’s Food Store, Big Water Bait & Tackle, Custom Lures by Sam, Hi-Tech Jig Co., the Seminole Tribe and Seminole Casino Brighton, North Lake Estates, Café 27, the City of Moore Haven, Moore Haven Marina, Glades County and Visit Glades (another name for the TDC itself; the council has a website at visitglades.org).

Mr. Patterson singled out fellow TDC member MacKenzie Johns-Bowers of Seminole Casino Brighton for special praise. “MacKenzie’s group out there at the tribe, that was an exceptional dinner put on. People were able to get in there and talk to each other, which was really great,” he said.

Adding that he hoped he wasn’t forgetting anyone, he also complimented Okeechobee-based fishing captains Scott Kerslake and Rob Holley, who “both volunteered to help.” He said the big fish of the tournament was an 8-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass caught by Jimmy Jacobs, who also won the top fishing writer award. Mr. Jacobs posted a video on June 8 about his outing; to watch it, search for “Glades County Bassing” on YouTube.com. The top fishing guide award, Mr. Patterson said, went to Steve Daniel.

He added, “We have been getting a lot of traction on the digital magazines,” mentioning that he’d just seen one from Ron Presley, editor of Catfish Now.

On the tournament’s second day, “we set him up in the river with Devin Whidden … and they caught 45-50 catfish. So that was good, and that’s a whole different market that we never even thought about going after, catfishing,” Mr. Patterson said. “Everything went off basically without a hitch.”

Captain Ray Markham also made mention of the Sportswriters Invitational during his Weekend Fishing 4Cast for West Central Florida on Florida Sportsman Magazine’s website, he said.

TDC member Bret Whidden, the mayor of Moore Haven, also was happy. “It was a great opportunity to get some positive publicity from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River, which is our most natural resource that we have here,” he said. “It’s a proven fact that these writers already wrote articles about how Lake Okeechobee is not dead, how it’s flourishing and how many fish they actually caught. And it wasn’t the best weather, but it didn’t seem to bother those guys, so it was a real positive move in our direction.”

Ms. Whirls said: “We got 400-and-some-odd hits. Everything trended really well on Facebook, and because they all had their own Facebook outlets, that’s bringing more exposure to us and VisitGlades, so I was really just tickled to death.”

TDC Chairwoman Patty Register asked whether anyone was keeping track of the articles written about the tourney, “whether they’re online or not, and the potential for what their subscription levels are and what their followers on their social channels are. That would be good information to have.” Mr. Patterson said he’d been forwarding them to everyone as he received the web links. “There will be a lot more to come,” he said.

Ms. Register noted that the tourney was approved for a $9,000 grant from the council “without any expectation for reporting back on the fruit of the $9,000, and you know, best business practices are, you want to know what the return on your investment is.”

“It’s going to end up being about $6,200; I got everything turned in except the fuel bill,” Mr. Patterson said.

“And you came in under budget! Good news!” Ms. Register said.

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