Fishing: 'Perfect' day on the water for Caloosa Grand Finale

Tim Rushing and daughters, Tallie, 9. and Raylie, 11, show off their catch at the Caloosa Grand Finale at the Pink Shell Resort in Fort Myers Beach on Saturday, nov. 3, 2012. Scott Butherus/Staff

Photo by SCOTT BUTHERUS // Buy this photo

Tim Rushing and daughters, Tallie, 9. and Raylie, 11, show off their catch at the Caloosa Grand Finale at the Pink Shell Resort in Fort Myers Beach on Saturday, nov. 3, 2012. Scott Butherus/Staff

— For all those involved in Saturday's Caloosa Grand Finale redfish tournament, none could have asked for a more perfect way to end the 23-year run of one of Southwest Florida's premiere fishing tournaments.

The weather was beautiful, the fish were plenty, and the laughter from fishtales over two decades in the making filled the docks of the Pink Shell Resort on Saturday afternoon.

"Perfect," tournament founder Ron Riley described. "Of all the years we've done this, I think this may be the prettiest day I've seen. It's cool. It's flat. No wind. It's nice."

"Everybody is coming off the boats with a big smile and just enjoying themselves," said Bob Wasno, a marine biologist at Florida Gulf Coast University and the tournament's weighmaster since 1990. "This is a great way to end what has been a fantastic time for the past 23 years."

With tension rising among the crowd gathered along the marina pier with each successive arrival to port, none would topple captain Kyle Potts and Team ScreenPrint Design, who returned shortly after the official weigh-in opened to lead the revelry back at the dock, confident their lunker 26½-inch, 8½-pound bull could carry the day. The Cape Coral-based team, which also included anglers Mitch Williamson, Chris Magnano and Jason Schneider, weighed in with a total of 15.6 pounds to claim the $5,000 top prize.

Potts knew it was going to be a good day when his team caught a 7.1-pound "back-up fish" on the second cast of the day.

"We caught a lot of fish today," said Potts. "The weather was beautiful. We knew there was going to be a lot of fish caught. Initially we came out to support the end of an era for a great tournament series that has been going for the last 23 years. … We're just glad we ended up on top in the grand finale. It was a great tournament and a great finish for us."

Captain Chris Whitman and Team Hooters Two, one of the later teams to reach port, finished second with 14.98 pounds, led by ladies division winner Molly Zolman's 7.62-pound entry. Scores were based on the two largest reds within the legal slot of 18-27".

Team Lynch Mob won the mystery fish competition with a 1.64-pound flounder.

More so than the fish being weighed at the end of the pier, the final event of the Caloosa tournament series was about the people filling the docks.

"It was first class. It was the best group of people you could have," Potts said. "It felt like the old days of the Caloosa. It was probably one of the best Caloosa grand championships I've ever fished."

"It hit me last night the most," Riley said. "Last night everything was as moving, and as emotional, as I expected it to be.

The Caloosa tournament also leaves a legacy of charity, having raised more than $486,000 for 47 different charities, including FGCU, their primary beneficiary.

"We've made a lot of people happy," Riley said. "We've created some phenomenal memories and we got friendships that will go on for a lifetime."

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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