Anglers and tournament directors in South Florida know that with an active hurricane season you never really know what to expect. While the Herman Lucerne Memorial Backcountry Fishing Championship was originally scheduled for late August, the threat of Hurricane Irene prompted a last minute change of dates.
In its 10th year, this exciting event celebrates the life of Herman Lucerne, one of Everglades National Park’s most respected backcountry anglers who tragically passed away during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Known affectionately as “Mr. Everglades,” Herman’s knowledge of the backcountry was almost unparalleled, having been painstakingly acquired by exploring each area of ENP for almost 40 years. One of his favorite spots was the remote and hard to reach Hell’s Bay. Herman would say, “It’s called Hell’s Bay because it is hell to get into and hell to find your way out of.”
With all proceeds benefiting Everglades National Park, this event is a true anglers’ tournament for those who care about the future of this incredible ecosystem.
He was one of but a handful of individuals able to navigate the labyrinth of canals, water trails and bays, as well as the twisting maze of mangroves to find the best fishing areas, especially to catch one of his favorite fish—snook.
Herman appreciated the beauty and physical significance of Everglades National Park. Long before it was fashionable he pushed for its preservation for enjoyment of future generations. Through the Championship, his legacy, spirit and passion for backcountry fishing lives on and serves as an inspiration for others. In honor of Mr. Everglades this unique two-day catch-&-release event limits anglers to the boundaries of Everglades National Park. With bait, artificial lures or fly tackle, guided and unguided anglers target snook, snapper, redfish, trout, bonefish, tarpon and black drum. With participating anglers of all ages and skill levels, everyone leaves a winner with all proceeds benefiting Everglades National Park. In all, there are over 20 awards presented in the general, artificial, and fly divisions.
“Our event is truly the most unique and challenging fishing tournament in the Florida Keys with seven species to be caught, but anglers of all skill levels are welcome. Not only will their skills be tested to the limit, but they will have great fun and also enjoy the beauty of the Everglades,” said Dr. Lloyd Wruble, president of the Herman Lucerne Memorial.
“We are excited to be celebrating our 10th anniversary and anticipate an excellent turnout making this our best event ever,” he added.
Anglers had the option to check out at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada or Don’s Bait & Tackle in Homestead. With a variety of targets, points are awarded by length of qualifying species. The length of an eligible fish shall be calculated and rounded down to the nearest half of an inch, unless the fish is being calculated for entry in the big fish division. The maximum inches allowed for tarpon and snook shall be 36 inches, except for entry in the largest fish category. Furthermore, for the largest fish entered by a team or individual in an eligible fish category there shall be a bonus awarded for fish caught on fly or artificial. Teams are required to photograph the measuring process with a tournament provided measuring device and catch token.
After a wet and soggy day one, Ross Reeder was in the lead with a 40.6-inch snook, 54-inch tarpon, 31.5-inch redfish, 24-inch trout and 33.8-inch black drum. Reeder’s guide, Chris Wilson, didn’t fare too poorly either catching 4 of the 7 eligible species.
On day two Reeder was able to coerce a 26.5-inch bonefish and 11.5-inch snapper, successfully capturing all 7 species for a total of 221 inches. Reeder was awarded Grand Champion Angler, Largest Bonefish and Largest Snook, in addition to their Team Grand Champion and Hell’s Bay Top Skiff & Angler awards.
“We are very pleased with the turnout and success of the tournament,” said Dr. Lloyd Wruble. “In addition, we were honored to have the participation of Captain Rick Murphy, Captain C.A. Richards, Chico Fernandez, Pat Ford and everyone else who contributed to the event. We’re also grateful to our presenting sponsor Hell’s Bay Boatworks for their generosity and support,” he continued.
If you’re looking to break into the inshore tournament circuit this is the event for you. Tournamnet Director Linda Denkert is an active angler and wife of seasoned Captain Dave Denkert. Through their dedication and hard work the Herman Lucerne is one of the greatest fishing tournaments in the state. With all proceeds benefiting Everglades National Park, this event is a true anglers’ tournament for those who care about the future of this incredible ecosystem. With so many awards presented, be sure to visit hermanlucerne.com for complete results and info on how to participate in next year’s event.