Angler Evan Carruthers and Guide Greg Dini win 49th Annual Don Hawley Invitational Fly Fishing Tarpon Tournament
49th Annual Don Hawley Invitational Fly Fishing Tarpon Tournament
June 5-9, 2023
Islamorada, Florida Keys
The 49th Annual Don Hawley Invitational Fly Fishing Tarpon Tournament, one of the “Big Three” tarpon fly tournaments, started out with two great days of catching fish (38 and 39 releases) followed by a decline in numbers of fish caught over the following three days (17, 21, 9, respectively.) A total of 124 tarpon were caught and released during the 5-day Tournament, comparable to the 119 fish caught in 2022.
Ocean tarpon fishing proved more difficult than the backcountry during the week. Locating where the fish are is one of the biggest talents that Guides bring to the team. The Don Hawley attracts some of the best fly anglers from around the world who are all competitive and passionate about catching the silver king.
The Don Hawley was the first tarpon tournament to stop the killing, in 1987, of tarpon. Anglers receive 1000 points for each fish measuring four feet or more caught and released on 12lb tippet, in accordance with International Game Fish Association rules. The Grand Champion title is awarded to the Angler and Guide with the most fish caught and released during the five-day competition. In addition to other awards, Grand Champion names will be added to the Perpetual Trophy showcasing the names of all past champion Anglers and Guides. The perpetual trophy resides at Florida Keys Outfitters in Islamorada, Florida.
Angler Evan Carruthers from Maple Plain, MN and his Guide, Captain Greg Dini, won the Grand Championship with 16 releases. Most of their fish were caught during the first two days, 6 fish on Day 1 and 7 fish on Day 2 when the daily average was only approximately 1.5 releases. As fishing declined over the next three days, the team added three more releases, keeping their score steady and strong with a total of 16,000 points. Carruthers said, “It’s an honor to fish alongside the great anglers and guides that participate in this tournament. To be able to compete and win is a great accomplishment and is a testament to Greg’s skill as my teammate and guide. I am also thrilled to continue to support the Guides Trust Foundation and participate in a conservation minded all-release tournament that holds the fish and the fishery in such high regard.” Carruthers and Dini proved their win was based on talent, and not luck, by increasing their rank over the past three years. In 2020, the team earned 2nd place runner-up; in 2021 and 2022, the team earned 1st runners-up. There’s no argument this team has worked hard to continue their progression to Grand Champions!
Coming in second place was Angler Ron Anno from Sarasota, FL and his Guide, Jason Sullivan, with 13 releases. As one of only three teams who kept zeros away from any given daily score, this team kept steady numbers, including a whopping 5 releases on Day 4, when the daily average was less than 1 fish!
Third place was won by Angler Rich Garcia from Islamorada, FL and his Guide, Luis Cortes with 10 releases. It was a close call, as they caught their last fish before Angler Thane Morgan and Guide, Dustin Huff. Rich Garcia and Captain Luis Cortes are holding strong in their talent and consistency, as they also took 2nd place runners-up title last year.
Evan Carruthers and Captain Greg Dini earned the overall High Point Day award, with highest points on Day 1 and Day 2 (6 and 7 releases, respectively.) Two-time Grand Champions, L. Mark Weeks and his Guide, Captain Andy Thompson, earned High Point Day 3 with two releases. Ron Anno and Captain Jason Sullivan earned High Point Day 4 with five releases. Wes Ball and his Guide, Captain Charlie Tindall, earned High Point Day 5 with two releases on a day that the majority caught zero fish.
The Annual Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Fly Fishing Tournament began in 1974. Proceeds benefit the Guides Trust Foundation, which assists Florida Keys Guides in times of hardship and provides scholarships to Florida Keys students interested in the marine sciences. Next year’s tournament will take place June 3-7, 2024. For more information on the Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament, the Guides Trust Foundation, our esteemed sponsors, or to apply for the tournament’s waiting list, please visit: www.guidestrustfoundation.org