More than 250 exuberant partygoers dropped anchor at the Naples Yacht Club Oct. 1, joining Naples resident Roland Martin, celebrity angler and TV host of the “Fishing with Roland Martin Show,” for several hours of camaraderie that kicked off two days of intense fishing competition to benefit the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s water quality and estuary protection programs.
The celebration featured an Outback Steakhouse landlubbers buffet, a Yacht Club seafood feast, and beers and natural wines provided by Whole Foods. In support of the event were Miami Dolphins cheerleaders, blond Tatiana and brunette Jessica, both on hand to autograph squad photos; and Troy Drayton, retired Dolphins player who broadcasts the post-game season on WQAM 560 radio.
Event chairman Wayne Meland, with honorary chair Martin and Conservancy CEO Andrew McElwaine, welcomed the entire RedSnook Committee; fishing pairings, both male and female, senior and junior; guides; corporate sponsors; and Conservancy staff, volunteers and VIP supporters.
Roland Martin was paired with a longtime friend, Fred Kemp of St. Louis, who founded U.S. Reel. In attendance were Roland’s wife, Judy Martin, who’s a member of Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and the only female with both husband and father members as well. Fishing fanatic Michelle Brown of Naples was teamed up with Sarah Zundel, another Naples residents, who incidentally competed against her dad, attorney Robert Zundel.
More family fishing paired Neapolitan Tom Bulloch and his son, Robert. Len Zaiser introduced his 15-year old son Oliver, a junior division competitor who went on to win top junior angler honors in the tourney last week.
Successful evening fundraisers included a Go Fish! raffle drawing in addition to Fund-A-Need and silent and live auctions. All were thanks to the acquisitive talents of Julie Kukk, auction chair, and the gavel action of auctioneer Scott Robertson, a fisherman himself, as his piscine-motif bow tie and waistcoat attested.
Major sponsors included Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, M&I Bank, Comcast and Naples Yacht Club. Net tourney proceeds, with some 40 teams participating, exceeded $75,000, according to Barbara Wilson, Conservancy director of marketing and communications.