NAPLES — Editor's Note: Captain Matt Maloney's name was corrected to go with the adult guided winners Brad Dickerson and Andrew Willis.
A lot of the anglers would go to great lengths to ensure their children had an enjoyable time while competing in the Gene Doyle Fishing Tournament.
Troy Pruitt went overboard. Literally.
When a massive, 36-inch snook took daughter Karlie’s bait and became tangled in the mangrove roots, Troy dove into the water and freed the fish, and saved his daughter the disappointment of the one that got away.
“We kept losing a lot of fish in the mangroves, and when she got one hooked, I said I was going to get that fish,” Troy Pruitt said. “She was soo thrilled. Typically, I wouldn’t do something like that, but I did it for her, and that’ll be something she remembers forever.”
Although the fish didn’t count because of her father’s assistance, everything worked out in the end for Karlie, who later landed a 34-inch snook to claim the biggest fish prize in the youth open division. Troy caught his own giant snook to claim the corresponding title in the adult open division. The elder Pruitt also claimed the grand championship for the division after accumulating 7,750 points over two days.
“We had a great weekend," he said. "The weather was awesome and the fish were really cooperating.”
Brad Dickerson and Andrew Willis, who were fishing along with captain Matt Maloney, won the adult guided division with 7,930 points. Harrison Rogers, fishing with captain Adnrew Werner, won the top overall award for the youth guided division, and Aaron Brown won in the youth open bracket.
“I was a personal friend of Gene (Doyle) so this is a big honor,” Dickerson said.
Now in its 15th year, 82 anglers took part in the catch-and-release tournament - 35 of which were in the youth divisions. Points are determined by the accumulated length of the first four snook, red drum and spotted sea trout that were successfully measured, photographed and released.
To make the tournament more accessible to many youth anglers, there were also categories for the most unusual catch, and for the trash can slam of ladyfish, catfish and jack crevalles.
“We had some unusual catches this year including a six-foot hammerhead, some batfish and a big lookdown,” tournament chairman Sean Morton said.
All proceeds from the event go to support the Gene Doyle Memorial, which provides scholarships to local high schoolers to pursue their “dreams of adventure.”
Although the exact figures weren’t available, the tournament did reach its target of being able to provide three scholarships for next year, according to Morton.
“I think it was another successful tournament. A lot of kids were fishing and everyone had a good time,” said Kris Doyle, the mother of the late Gene Doyle for whom the tournament was named.
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Grand Champion: Dickerson/Willis 7,930 points
Top snook: Dyskow 35 inches
Top redfish: Travis 30 inches
Top trout: Miller 22 inches
Grand Champion: T. Pruitt/K. Pruitt 7,715 points
Top snook: Pruitt 34 inches
Top redfish: Parsons 31 inches
Top trout: Ortengren 25 inches
Grand Champion: Harrison Rogers 4,255 points
Top snook: Bedell 34 inches
Top redfish: Rogers 24 inches
Top trout: Rogers 19 inches
Grand Champion: Aaron Brown 3,535 points
Top snook: K. Pruitt 34 inches
Top redfish: K. Pruitt 35 inches
Top trout: Johnson 25 inches
Trash can slam: Heidi McLean 52 inches
Most unusual: Austin Finger (6-foot hammerhead shark)