Mexico Beach Kingfish Tournament reels in hundreds

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MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - According to the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) this year will be its biggest year of reef building.To help fund projects like those, each year they host a Kingfish Tournament.

It's the 20th year the fundraiser the group has hosted the fundraiser and organizers say it's quite the catch for fishermen.

"We've got 135 boats registered," said Bob Cox, President of MBARA. "Well take it, that's a good sized tournament."

From 5 a.m. until 5 p.m. boats took to the water.

"We was 30 miles off shore til the sun rose up," said Bobby Everett, a long-time participant from Kentucky.

Everett's boat name is "Reel Fun."

"We named it that just cause it's real fun," said Everett.

Those participating were hoping to catch King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel and Wahoo.

Organizers said Saturday that memories are made out on the water.

"You know so a lot of old friends come together, tell stories," said Cox. "A lot of tradition happens here."

"We actually have more friends down here (Mexico Beach) than in Kentucky," said Everett. "There's just a great bunch of guys down here."

Every boat entered in the tournament pays a registration fee of $125. That money goes back to help fund MBARA projects.

"Ninety Seven cents of every dollar we raise goes into artificial reef building," said Cox. "And this is all through the work of volunteers that are a part of our organization."

The MBARA isn't the only group benefiting from the popular weekend which organizers say would otherwise be a dead one in Mexico Beach.

"So it's that last push before Labor Day weekend," said Cox. "It brings a lot of people here, they stay in the hotels, the condominiums, they eat at the local restaurants, shop in local stores, so it's good for the local economy also."

Promise Coalition in Apalachicola is also getting a piece of the pie.

Many of the fishermen who participated in the tournament donated their fish to be sold, and money from the purchases will go directly to the Coalition.

Spectators come from all over to participate in the tournament festivities.

"We got some friends in the tournament," said Fred West, who's vacationing with his wife. "We enjoy watching weigh-ins. It's exciting."

To some, the tournament is a way to release stress.

"Ya feel like you died and went to heaven," said Everett. "It's just good."

Patrick and Nick Sapp say it's family tradition and they even placed in the tournament last year.

"It's just a lot of fun," said Patrick.