Redbone Trilogy Series

With fantastic weather, a veteran guide and eager redfish, Ross Reeder, of Miami, earned the Grand Champion title among other honors at the Redbone Celebrity Tournament, which also celebrated its 25th anniversary as a major fundraiser for cystic fibrosis treatment and research.


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Ross Reeder emerged victorious while proudly fishing for a cure. Photo: Capt. Dave Denkert

Reeder, guided by Captain Dave Denkert of Islamorada, FL, caught and released 11 redfish on bait, 23 reds on artificial lures and one bonefish on bait during the two-day contest. In addition to his success, Islamorada resident Brooke Denkert added four redfish and one bonefish to their total for the Team Grand Championship title. With her efforts Ms. Denkert also secured the Lady Grand Champ title.

Last year’s combined events alone brought in $1.3 million from nearly 30 international Redbone tournaments held across the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and The Bahamas.

“Anytime you’re paired up with the Denkerts it is something special. Whether it’s Brooke or Linda, (Captain Dave’s daughter and wife respectively) both are amazing anglers,” said Reeder. “Competing in the Redbone has always been something I have wanted to do since I was a kid and to win the 25th anniversary is fantastic.”

Reeder also won the Baybone in Key Largo in October, in which he released seven bonefish and one permit to take home Grand Champion. Ross amassed the most points of any angler who competed in each of three catch-and-release tournaments, including the S.L.A.M. in Key West held in early September where he took runner up, and in turn won the 2012 Redbone Trilogy series award.

Preceding the 25th anniversary event, Nicole Ellis, daughter of Redbone founders Gary and Susan Ellis, placed a memorial wreath to legendary baseball slugger Ted Williams in the Florida Bay waters. Diagnosed with CF as an infant, Ms. Ellis, now 28, is a marketing executive awaiting a cure. The ceremonial wreath, designed with the number 9 Williams wore with Boston, signified the 10th anniversary of the Red Sox slugger and fly-fishing aficionado’s death. Williams was close with the Ellis’ and instrumental in the support and formation of the charity fishing events.

To take home the title Reeder had to beat top contenders Frank Delucas of Plantation, FL, Bonnie Christ of Alexandria, VA, and Wally Nowacki of Plainfield, IL, among many others in the trilogy of events. Celebrity Grand Champion honors went to Davey Johnson, manager of the MLB Washington Nationals, who released three redfish on artificial and one bonefish on bait. Johnson, a resident of Winter Park, FL, fished with Captain Paul Tejera of Islamorada. He beat a worthy contingent of personalities including NASA space shuttle astronaut Bruce Melnick, Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, former jai alai star Joey Cornblit, and Jim Meador of Mobile, AL, a shrimper who was the inspiration for the book and hit movie Forrest Gump.

“After 25 years the good Lord said, maybe we need to give them a break with the weather,” laughed Redbone founder Captain Gary Ellis, who has seen a share of tournaments hit with hurricanes and other adverse weather. “We could not have had a greater gift than the magnificent weather for the Redbone and as a result everybody caught fish and had a great time. When we started 25 years ago there was a moratorium on the catch of redfish. Now there’s an abundance of redfish, but we still have issues with our bonefish stocks.”

Among the field of 39 boats, 78 anglers released a total of 278 redfish and 13 bonefish. Original artwork by nationally recognized artists like Tim Borski, Craig Reagor, John Rice, Steve Whitlock, Jorge Martinez, James Harris, Tim Bellard, Allan Robinson and Jason Mathias was awarded to the top anglers and teams in general, spin and fly divisions, as well as the largest and most fish caught and released in each target species category.

Special thanks go out to Robert James Sales, The Lorelei and The Islander Resort, with full results and information on how to participate or donate to the 2013 event available at Over the years the Redbone series has lured distinguished anglers from around the world as it closes in on nearly $18 million dollars for cystic fibrosis research. Last year’s combined events alone brought in $1.3 million from nearly 30 international Redbone tournaments held across the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and The Bahamas. Join the fight to catch the cure for cystic fibrosis.

Closer To A Cure

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that can lead to life-threatening lung infections. Although remarkable progress has been made through gene research, there’s still no cure. “Medical scientists are making amazing advancements with genetic research,” said Ellis. “Not only did it lead to isolating the CF gene, but it also paved the way for the discovery of the genes for sickle cell anemia, Huntington’s and many other diseases. New CF drug research has helped improve lung function and add a little more time for patients. It’s remarkable how far they’ve come, but there’s still no cure and our variety of tournaments continue in full force to help them. We had no idea 25 years ago just how many remarkable strides would be made,” Ellis continued.

Redbone History

From Florida and beyond, The Redbone (REDfish and BONEfish) began in 1988 as a small local fundraising tournament in Islamorada to help over 30,000 Cystic Fibrosis patients across the nation. Ted Williams, a Florida Keys resident during and after his playing days, helped the Ellis family attract sports celebrities and personalities such as baseball Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Wade Boggs among many others to compete in the tournament. The first event’s efforts raised $16,000. From those watery Florida Keys roots the Redbone events gained momentum and international fame through TV, radio and print media as hundreds of celebrities competed for top honors. The impressive list of enthusiastic celebrity anglers included General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, NBA Hall of Famers John Havlicek and Bob Cousy, actress and supermodel Lauren Hutton, musical talents such as Three Dog Night’s Cory Wells and Clarence Clemons, plus NFL Hall of Famers and football legends including Ted Hendricks, Jack Youngblood, Dennis Harrah, Mark Cooper and Gary Dunn.