More Than A Fishing Tournament
By: Jerry Costabile
For three days, I was honored to be part of a fishing tournament that was a lot more than just fishing and competition, but first let me tell you about a special young man and what has become a great cause by the means of a fishing contest.
The inaugural PFC Geoffrey Morris Memorial Governors Cup Fishing Invitational was held on June, 17th & 18th at Waukegan Harbor in Waukegan, Illinois in 2005.
PFC Geoffrey Morris signed up for the US Marine Corps in 2002 during his senior year at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, IL. He joined the Marine Corps. for three reasons: to defend the freedoms of this country, to help those who are unable to help themselves, and as he told his father, “The Marines are the best of the best, and I wouldn’t want to be part of anything less.”
Geoffrey strongly believed in the values this country stands for and willingly stood in harm’s way to defend it. He was killed in action in Iraq on April 4, 2004.
This fishing tournament was established in this great young man’s honor. Geoff and his father Kirk loved to fish and spend time on Lake Michigan. Together, they fished tournaments in Racine, WI, Kenosha, WI. and Winthrop Harbor, IL. Although they rarely won anything, they enjoyed the experience and often wondered why a fishing tournament wasn’t held in Waukegan. In a letter home while stationed in Iraq, Geoff wrote about riding in the hot air over the methodic bumps in the road. “If I close my eyes, I feel like I’m on the boat riding the waves heading to the fishing grounds.” Nothing else could be more fitting to pay tribute to Geoff’s memory than a fishing tournament!
First, let’s hear how the tournament works; there are two divisions, Pro and Amateur.
The Pro Division is a two day contest that will fish on Friday and Saturday. Here’s the rundown on the points system that these very experienced captains must set their strategies to;
There is a 15 fish limit for each day per boat. Scoring is based on a points system where points are awarded for species, number of fish, and weight.
The crew gets 20 points per species, (coho, king, brown trout, lake trout, rainbow or steelhead trout. 10 points per fish, and 1 point per pound.
The Amateur Division is one day only and the points system is set up at 10 points per fish and 1 point per pound.
Every year the competition level is at its highest and the fishermen work hard to tally the points needed to be in the money. The pay outs for this contest are awesome; The Pro side pays out $10,000 for first, $6,000 for second, and $5,000 for third. 4th place thru 10th place are paid out on a percentage depending on the boat entry number.
Day one brought foggy conditions and the committee was forced to delay the start to the Pro division buy an hour. When blast off was announced, the fleet of 30 boats all headed out to the fishing grounds that hopefully hold the combination it takes to win. Everything was good and all of the boats arrived at the weigh in safe and on time! I was helping out at weigh in and I was as excited as the large crowd that had gathered at the brand new Illinois Salmon Unlimited pavilion, to see what the captains were bringing in for their day one points. Most all of the boats weighed in a 15 fish limit which made the point standings close! But the few teams that had all 5 species, sat in great shape going into day two. All of the fish that were weighed in on day one were donated to the Hillside Food Pantry in Evanston, IL. Approximately 1,200 pounds of trout and salmon were filleted and donated thanks to a ton of volunteers.
Day two started out just like day one with thick fog, delay of the starting time and 49 boats eager to get fishing! Fishing was good and some great catches came into the weigh in. Amazingly, there were 1,044 trout and salmon weighed in for the two day tournament, which equaled 5,800 pounds of fish.
Day three for me was the best day of the tournament. Day three is a day that is put aside for the veterans in the area. It brought veterans from all military branches and was a day to thank them for their service and sacrifice. You see I am a US Army veteran and my son is also an Iraq Operation Freedom veteran. This was a day I get to give a little back and say thank you to these men and women that I call my brothers and sisters. From the Jones Dairy breakfast, to the great morning of fishing, to the banquet co-hosted by the USO IL, and the Wounded Warriors Fund. It all was something that I felt was the reason that this weekend was is in existence and why so many people volunteered their time, money, boats and lives to give back to our loved veterans. The out pouring of support was emotional to say the least.
I was fortunate to climb aboard “The Memory Maker” with Captain John Anderson and take a crew of five individuals that really put on a fishing clinic. I am honored to call these following individuals brothers; Scott Phillips US Army, Noah Currier U.S.M.C, Aaron Matthews US Navy, Bob Arciola US Army, Steve Ronning U.S.M.C. You guys are and always will be my heroes, thank you for your individual sacrifices. As long as we have each other, we will never have limitations.