Fishing for the cure
PUNTA GORDA — Going out to play on the water is a lot of fun. Making a donation to charity makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Having the opportunity to do both at the same time? Well, that’s not something that comes along every day — but ladies, you have your chance this weekend.
The Reel Ladies fishing tournament, now in its third year, will be held Saturday out of the Laishley Crab House in Punta Gorda. This event originally was conceived to do two things: to give female anglers a chance to compete in their own tournament, and to raise money for breast cancer research.
Men aren’t allowed to fish, although male captains are permitted. The tournament raises money for Susan G. Komen For the Cure Southwest Florida through a silent auction and raffles. According to organizers, the auction this year will be bigger and better than last year, so hopefully more money will be raised.
“We wanted to do an all-ladies tournament, but we didn’t want to do just a tournament,” said Jerry Cleffi of Smuggler’s Event Management, the company that runs the Reel Ladies and Flatsmasters tournaments. “We wanted to connect it to something that had meaning. We do our couples tournament in the spring, and we didn’t want to schedule the tournaments right on top of one another, so we were looking at fall dates. Then we realized that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it just seemed like a natural fit.”
For the first two years, the Reel Ladies tournament was a ladyfish-only tournament. It seemed to make sense — ladies fishing, ladyfish — but to Southwest Florida anglers, ladyfish aren’t considered much of a challenge. So for this year, redfish have been added to the list of target species. Cleffi says the change was driven by popular demand.
“I had some of the women come to me saying, ‘Hey, why is it that the guys get to catch redfish, but when it comes to our tournament, we only get ladyfish?’” he said. “But some of the women seemed to be OK with catching ladyfish, so we decided to split the difference: Each team brings back five ladyfish and one redfish.”
“The ladies fish every bit as hard as the guys do (during the Flatsmasters tournaments). This is not a casual thing for a lot of these girls — they’re there to win,” Cleffi added. “On the other hand, if you just want to go out and have fun, you absolutely can do that and maybe even still win it.”
Although the tournament will be a lot of fun, participants also will be helping with a very serious issue. According to www.breastcancer.org, about one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. More than 200,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and nearly 40,000 American women die from the disease annually. With combatting this illness being such a huge task, it’s much easier to handle if it’s broken up into smaller pieces, which is exactly what Susan G. Komen For the Cure has done.
“We are the largest breast cancer foundation there is, but Susan G. Komen Southwest Florida services just Lee, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Charlotte counties,” said Suzanne Fletcher, the organization’s local fundraising and development coordinator. “Seventy-five percent of all the funds raised here stay here locally. Last year, we granted $824,000 to 24 different grantees. The money is used for things like paying for mammograms for women who can’t afford it, and medical care if they are diagnosed. Our focus is every aspect of breast cancer.”
“October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so this is our biggest time of the year for raising money,” she added. “Obviously, we’re very grateful for the support we receive from events like the Reel Ladies fishing tournament, but there’s so much need out there.”