From registration on Friday, July 13th through the 'weigh-ins' on Sunday afternoon Tarpon Point Grille & Tiki Bar at 801 Riverside Drive East was bustling with activities for the Hernando Desoto Historical Society 16th Annual Fishing Tournament.
I had several meals over the weekend at Tarpon Pointe Grill and I have to say I'm hooked on the sweet potatoe fries! Hospitality they definetly get high marks on. On Friday night the bartender, Leah, spotted my flat tire as I was pulling out of the lot and immediately rounded up fishermen leaving the captain's meeting to change it for me.
"Good Karma for fishing," they said.
The Pee Wee Division fishing competition for children on Saturday morning was sold out early. I met Lacey, a Mills Elementary school first-grader from Palmetto, as she returned to the big white tent at 11 a.m. to return her fishing pole and collect her medal.
"I caught five fish!" she said.
The photo shows how proud she was of her accomplishment. I think they will need more poles for the tournament next year because it was a very popular event.
This is the third year I have attended the tournament and it's not because I'm a fisherman. I was introduced to the sport of fishing as a life-style and a mental health tool by a former employee at Manasota Operation Troop Support, Brock Horner. I hired him within five minutes of meeting him as a military Veteran's Coach with MOTS. A quick decision, but definetly the right one. His disarming smile, his experience as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his absolute love for life won me over.
Veterans followed him like the Pied Piper across the college campus and to MOTS events because he had been there, done that, and survived. As a disabled Wounded Warrior he had street credibility with veterans morphing from the world of war to the civilian world. He guided them through the college registration process, took them fishing if they were having a bad day and always brought the energy level in a room up two notches just by walking in the door.
Fishing is Brock's passion, I have never seen him happier than when he steps off of a boat after a day on the water. Not surprisingly, the first proposal he brought to me at MOTS was to form a fishing team for veterans. That was the first year that he captained a boat at the Desoto tournament. I learned very quickly that fishing is great therapy, physical and mental. There was no denying that as I watched the vets drag themselves back to the dock, sunburned and dog tired, but happy as clams.
Of course fishing tournaments are expensive to enter, but with the help of great folks at the Historical Society he has competed in the Desoto tournament for the last three years. This year he suffered severe migraines throughout the competition and called me in the evening to apologize for being too exhausted to barely talk after the weigh-in. But I know he would do it all again tomorrow, he's that kind of guy.
I can't tell a red-fish from a snook, but I have learned that just the act of tracking them down and fighting the wind and the water to reel them in brings with it a feeling of fulfillment and victory. Thanks for introducing me to the healing powers of fishing, Brock, and for being a great mentor to a lot of your fellow veterans.
Linda Craig, Director, Manasota Operation Troop Support