The 2023 Martha’s Vineyard Rod & Gun Club Fly Rod Striped Bass Catch and Release Tournament was another success for seemingly everyone involved, despite Saturday evening’s heavy rain.
The club has been putting on the tournament for 31 years. The rules have changed with striped bass populations in decline, but the mission has stayed the same: having a good time and bonding with fellow fishermen.
“Everybody was having a blast,” said Cooper Gilkes, a tournament committee member and owner of Coop’s Bait and Tackle. “It’s not about catching a big fish. It’s about the camaraderie.”
Gilkes said that about 100 fly-fishermen came out. The tournament starts at 7 pm and runs until 2 am on Sunday morning. The club hosts a breakfast and awards ceremony in the morning.
That camaraderie was on full display during the awards ceremony on Sunday.
Anyone entering the tournament has a chance to win a top prize, which include fly rods, reels, and gift certificates to local tackle shops. Josh Kochin won an expensive fly rod. Instead of taking the rod for himself, Kochin handed the rod to a newer fisherman there on Sunday, who recently entered the Coast Guard.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Gilkes said.
Plaques are awarded each year in the tournament to the largest fish caught and released; quota filled in the earliest time (three fish per team member, four fish for teams of three members or less); and quota filled by teams using only one fly.
Only one team met its quota this year, maybe because of the heavy rainfall.
“I handed out plaques at random when it became obvious that few teams had met the catch-and-release minimum,” Nelson Sigelman told the Times. Sigelman was the MC for the awards ceremony on Sunday. “But everyone had a great time, which makes this tournament so unique.”
Team Double Haul was the sole team to meet their quota. It took them until about a half-hour after midnight to catch their respective four fish each. The team was made up of Wilson Kerr and Clint Eller.
Tim Sherran caught and released the largest fish: 32.5 inches long with a 19-inch girth.