Party with the IGFA

28th annual IGFA banquet a success at its own headquarters

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For decades, the International Game Fish Association has held its annual "big event" - the banquet and auction - each winter at the very exclusive The Breakers Hotel, in West Palm Beach, Florida. This year for the first time, the IGFA moved the event to the home field - specifically, the association's headquarters and museum in Dania Beach. As editor and IGFA rep, I traveled down to Dania Beach to take in the Friday, Jan 27 event, and to see if the IGFA's HQ was up to handling the hundreds of attendees. In truth, I loved it. I liked the venue far more than the breakers. I guess in part I felt the atmosphere was just a bit less formal and a bit more relaxed. And instead of eating dinner while enjoying the spectacle of live auction bidding in a cavernous ballroom, we ate under an amazing array of life-size fiberglass mounts, "swimming" just over our heads - so much more appropriate and, well, just more fun. So, bottom line: One of the great events in the world of sport fishing just got even better. PHOTO: The calm before the storm when the onslaught of approximately 300 guests will turn the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum into a hub of activity.Adrian Gray
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Ready and waiting for guests to begin pouring into dining room.Adrian Gray
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But first, there's time to bid on silent-auction items as well as enjoy a pre-dinner drink and catch up with friends. Bidding this year no longer involved sheets of paper on which to scribble bids. Rather, each guest received a digital, Ipod-like BidPal electronic bidding device.Adrian Gray
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Among the many silent-auction items were fishing trips with resorts and charters all over the world...Adrian Gray
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... and rods, reels and lures representing top brands.Adrian Gray
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Many original paintings were on the silent-auction block.Adrian Gray
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Some amazing fish sculptures were on hand as well. This one, called "Sword Dance," from the hands of one of the best, Kent Ullberg.Doug Olander
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Ullberg himself was in attendance. His huge, magnificent original "Sword Dance" graces the entrance of the IGFA building.Adrian Gray
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Meanwhile, out front of the IGFA building sit two of the more impressive items that will generate bidding at the live auction during dinner: a Mako 234 center console and Hell's Bay Professional 17.8 flats skiff.Adrian Gray
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Guests are seated. Besides the IGFA's trustees, many are high-profile, well-known figures in international fishing.Adrian Gray
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As always, a number of annual awards were announced during dinner.Adrian Gray
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One such award went to IGFA representative Bob Kurz (right). Here, he receives from IGFA President Rob Kramer this year's IGFA Representative Conservation Award. Kurz was a driving force behind the creation of the Great Marlin Race at the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. The success of this program has inspired us to launch the IGFA Great Marlin Race, where we are expanding globally on the great work that was started at the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament. Kurz has already been very helpful with suggestions in structuring the IGMR and will undoubtedly continue to be an active participant in this exciting new program.Adrian Gray
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Barbara Wolfe of New York City was thrilled to see the first annual IGFA-Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award announced, the award in the name of her late husband. Nominees for this award are chosen by tournament officials based upon an act that demonstrates fair play, graciousness, respect, and/or ethical behavior that he or she displays while fishing in the tournament. Captain Loren Monterroso was awarded as the inaugural winner of this award for his admirable angling during the Roatan International Fishing Tournament, in which he lured circling sharks away from a fellow competitor's boat to ensure the safety of the hooked marlin.Adrian Gray
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Another Conservation Award was accepted by Russ Fisher on behalf of Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. BTT was formed in 1998 by a group of anglers, guides, and scientists in the Florida Keys who wanted to learn more about bonefish and tarpon in order to enhance their dwindling populations. Since then it has grown to include concerned anglers from over 20 countries, researchers from throughout the world, and guides committed to working with BTT in order to educate anglers and gather data while on the water. IGFA is honored to have partnered with BTT on several of their important initiatives.Adrian Gray
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A soft-spoken man of few words who nevertheless carries a big stick, Neil Patrick comments on his receipt of this year's Gil Keech Heavy-Tackle Award. Australi'as Patrick was head of that continent's venerable Halco Lures for years and is also a longtime IGFA trustee.Adrian Gray
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Auctioneer Scott Robertson kept things lively during dinner, with 26 items on the auction block to support the work of the IGFA.Adrian Gray