14th Annual Fire Charity Fishing Tournament with first ever weekend festival was a great success

This past weekend the 14th Annual Fire Charity Fishing Tournament realized its vision of becoming a weekend-long fishing festival.  The Palmetto location of Riverside Park was a perfect venue to showcase a variety of local musicians, vendors, and activities for all to enjoy making the event a success.

The junior division fished Saturday from the Green Bridge Fishing Pier with over 120 kids participating.  The offshore teams were able to get an early start Friday night while the inshore and spearfishing teams were part of a shotgun start in the mouth of the Manatee River with beautiful weather early Saturday morning.  The teams were challenged by weather at times over the weekend but it didn’t stop them from producing some incredible results.

Events like this take a lot of work to plan, organize, and execute.  Erik’s Nicholson, local fireman and tournament founder, has a passion and dedication for this event that is contagious spreading from the participants and crowd to the vendors and volunteers.  The sponsor list is filled with many great businesses, the volunteers were plentiful and organized, the crowds were large and family-friendly.  The new venue required a few last-minute changes and extra work but everyone pitched in to make it a success.  Being the humble host that he is, Erik took every opportunity to thank his volunteers and sponsors who went above and beyond to ensure the weekend’s success.  The results of everyone’s contributions have made the Fire Charity Fishing Festival rise to become one of the premier regional fishing events. 

Erik Nicholson shares a moment on stage with the crowd and kids.
Some of the young participants celebrating others catches during the weigh in.

The “vibe” of the tournament is best understood by Erik’s words while describing the inshore comradery and sportsmanship, “Being our first year as a festival brought a lot of new challenges, but we were blown away by how each challenge was overcome; Above all, I was blown away by the sportsmanship and integrity of our participants. With over 500 participants who fished the event, for the first time ever one of our folders disappeared which had us miss one of our winners. When we found this mistake, we went to the team and let them know and what I was met with blew my mind. Captain TJ Stewart and Captain Trevor Hoff went back on stage together to share the spotlight. These competitive teams’ fish “against” each other and have been neck in neck, year after year; to see them come together and congratulate each other with no ego, or hurt feelings was one of the best things I’ve ever seen at this event in 14 years.”  

Events like this are important to the community for many reasons. People can come out and collectively enjoy some of our beautiful natural assets, mingle with friends, meet new friends, support local vendors, engage in some fun competition, and support a great cause.  

“We are still in the process of determining the final proceeds, but I can say without a doubt, we will be once again able to fund the Children’s Burn Foundation of Florida’s attendees and do some other amazing things for our community,” said Erik on the funds received for the charity.  It’s clear that no matter what names you read in the results below, the real winner was the community and those that are directly helped by the funds raised.  

Check out this video of the tournament’s start filmed and edited by MakSchu Productions, LLC.  MakSchu Productions “main focus is creating designs, animations and promotional videos for locally run companies. These videos will help businesses market their missions, and reach out to the community. They set out to start a company in Sarasota, FL to better serve local businesses in branding and promoting themselves in an affordable and professional way.”  

Tournament Results

Below are each team’s captains name and their boat or team name

Junior Division

1st Place: Cooper Duquette, fishing on boat Tipin Pigs

2nd Place: Devin Calderon, fishing on boat SaltyBonz

3rd: Place: Layla Turner, fishing on boat Lil Grass

Spear Division

1st Place: Ben McCann, fishing on H2O StorPro 

2nd Place: Mike Jeanes, fishing on boat Team Trident

3rd Place: Logan Reiber, fishing on boat Pokin’ Holes

Inshore Division

1st Place tie: Trevor Hoff, fishing on boat Team Hoff Enterprise powered by Star Fish Co

1st Place tie: T.J. Stewart, fishing on boat Richardson Stinton Roofing powered by Skeeter Boats

2nd Place: Nick Cardieri, fishing on boat Secret Sauce

3rd Place: Josh Bibler, fishing on boat Team Naturdays

Offshore Division

1st Place: Randall Langley, fishing on boat Gotcha

2nd Place: Paul Christi, fishing on boat Jumbo Shrimp

3rd Place: Danny Pool, fishing on boat Team Seaviche

This set of photos were taken by tournament volunteer, Heidi Scott, who does an excellent job capturing some great moments and shared with Manatee Herald for this article.  Heidi has been the face behind the camera at this event since it started 14 years ago.  She has become very close to the committee and many of the fishermen and their families.

Below are some additional moments capture by Manatee Herald staff.