Officials that brought the first public fishing tournament series to Southwest Florida will cast their final lines on Fort Myers Beach before calling it quits.
The Caloosa Tournament Series, which began in 1989, will end after 23 years with The Caloosa Grand Finale at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa on Nov. 2 and 3, 2012.
Founder Ron Riley emotionally announced the news at Shoeless Joe's Sports Caf in Fort Myers on Wednesday, Aug. 8. Since then, he said he has received hundreds of phone calls, texts and emails about the positive contributions the series has made, then offered his reasons for the decision.
Caloosa Tournament Series founder Ron Riley emotionally announces the end to the 23-year-old series at a press conference at Shoeless Joe’s Sports Café Wednesday.
"Economics are without a doubt part of it. It's really hard to field the same level and quality of the product that we were able to do for so long with so much less money. That in itself is certainly a driving factor," he said. "It's also difficult for the fishermen. The anglers generally don't have the side income, so to speak, to be able to enter as many tournaments as they once did."
Riley stated he is "proud of the high end product" produced during the series, but sounded discouraged by the watering down effect of fishing tournaments in recent years.
"The secondary factor also relates to economics. Clearly there was hundreds and hundreds of tournaments that came in this competition that tried to make their tournaments like we had," he said. "I don't want to disparage other tournaments. I just don't want to get to the point where we are just running a mediocre event that is just not that special."
Riley said he has "many other doors that are opening to him" He, along with his daughter, Kristi, still have plans for fishing tournaments such as Grouper Grab and Chix-N-Stix.
"It just felt like the right time," he said about the close of The Caloosa Tournament Series.
Called "The End of an Era" by founder Ron Riley, the final series tournament will be one area anglers do not want to miss. It will again provide anglers of every skill level the opportunity to compete for cash, prizes and trophies and welcome families and friends to stay and enjoy the destination resort with a family-friendly tournament weekend.
"We are going to drive this tournament at Pink Shell to the point it once was 23 years ago," said Riley, who announced there will be no qualification, yet the field will be limited to 50 paid teams with no exceptions.
"The tournament that led the market since 1989 will close as it began ... with a high pay-out, open bars, high end gear and fantastic food at a great location and the last chance to celebrate 23 great years," he stated through an emailed release.
The tournament purse promises $10,000 of guaranteed money, including $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second place and $1,500 for third. A Redfish Bonanza payout is also $10,000 ($5,000 -first place, $3,000 second, $2,000 for third, etc.).
"It'll be an emotional time. What I'm really trying to accomplish is bring back some of the original people and players that helped form and create this thing," said Riley, who hopes to also get some of the original sponsors.
"Pink Shell is a great way to go out and a great partner of ours," he said. "They are partnering with me to make everything as high end as possible to make everybody remember this series forever."
The Caloosa Tournament Series began at the 'Tween Waters Inn and moved to South Seas Island Resort in Captiva. Pink Shell has hosted series' tournaments for roughly six years.
Riley said he has already received a lot of interest in the final tournament of the series. Go to website www.caloosacatchandrelease.com to sign up and for tournament highlights, rules, hours and all other information pertinent to the event.