The following “GFTT Rules,” as amended May, 2015, shall govern the 2023 Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament
1.01 The Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament (the “Tournament”) is one of the “Big Three” tarpon fly tournaments and the purpose of these rules is to promote and foster the Tournament’s legacy of sportsmanship and fair competition among friends in pursuit of landing large tarpon on fly tackle.
1.02 The Tournament shall take place each year in Islamorada, Florida, beginning on the Monday immediatly preceding Memorial Day, and shall continue for thee full days through Wednesday. There will be a kick-off and registration banquet the Sunday evening before the first day of fishing and an awards and closing event after the last day of fishing.
1.03 The Tournament shall be governed by the fly fishing rules of the International Game Fish Association (“IGFA Rules”) and these GFTT Rules, as amended from time to time. In the rare instances when the GFTT Rules may conflict with the IGFA Rules, the GFTT Rules shall supersede the IGFA Rules. It is the responsibility of each Angler and Guide to know the IGFA Rules
and the GFTT Rules.
1.04 The Tournament shall be conducted by various committees as set forth below by the chairperson. In the event the chairperson cannot serve, the chairperson shall be the prior year’s Grand Champion or First Runner-Up.
II. ANGLERS AND GUIDES
2.01 The Tournament is open to a limit of 25 Anglers by invitation only. Invitations will be issued to prospective Anglers based upon approval of an Invitation Committee. Anglers desiring an invitation may submit an application to the Tournament Chairperson. Anglers receiving an invitation must confirm participation by paying an entry fee prior to November 15 preceding the Tournament. Unpaid Anglers risk losing their place in the Tournament.
2.02 The Chairman and Rules Committee should consider the following factors when selecting Anglers to receive an invitation:
1) Anglers who participated in the prior year’s Tournament, 2) past Grand Champions, 3) past participants based on number of years fished, and 4) new anglers based on waiting time.
2.03 Each Angler must fish with a Guide licensed by the United States Coast Guard. Guides cannot fish. Only the Angler and Guide are permitted aboard the skiff during the fishing day.
2.04 Guides may not guide for a member of their immediate family, defined as spouse, sibling, child, or parent.
2.05 An active Florida skiff Guide, defined as an individual having provided guiding services for hire within the prior six months, shall not be eligible to participate as an Angler.
2.06 The Tournament shall set an entry fee which shall include all banquets and other daily and evening activities for the Angler and Guide. Guests may be added to these activities for an additional fee set by the Tournament.
2.07 In the event of emergency or illness, an Angler or Guide may have a substitute. The Chairman and Rules Committee must
approve all substitutes.
2.08 The Angler is responsible for daily Guide fees.
2.09 The Anglers and Guides shall be randomly placed on three teams of equal size for purposes of starting times and team awards.
2.10 Either the Angler or his Guide must attend the pre-tournament kick-off banquet to confirm registration, receive Tournament information, and pick up measuring packets.
3.01 Only fly casting will be permitted, and only artificial lures may be used. Only one-handed rods and single action reels are eligible to be used. The rod may not be altered after a fish is hooked.
3.02 Tippet will be 16 lb. manufacturer’s stated test and will be furnished at no charge by the Tournament.
3.03 Leaders may not exceed 15 feet in length and must contain not less than 15 inches of Tournament approved tippet material between the knots. A shock tippet may be of nonmetallic or metallic material, may not exceed 12 inches including the knots, and must be tied directly to the Tournament approved tippet.
3.04 A broken rod, above the reel seat, will not disqualify a caught or released fish.
3.05 A release gaff may be used and must be no more than two feet long with ropes or straps not to exceed 12 inches. Fish may be lip gaffed only.
IV. FISHING TIMES, TERRITORY, AND RULES
4.01 Each day the fishing shall begin at a Fishing Headquarters selected by the Tournament, and all Anglers must sign-in prior to departing to fish.
4.02 All boats must depart from and return to Fishing Headquarters by water. Anglers and Guides may fish any areas accessible by boat from Fishing Headquarters.
4.03 Under the direction of an official starter, skiffs will leave in a “staggered start” fashion by teams. The first team shall leave at 5:45am, the second at 6:00am and the remaining team at 6:02. Starting times shall be rotated among the teams each day to assure that each team receives a different starting time each day, and that each team receives each starting time once during the Tournament.
4.04 Fishing may begin as soon as a skiff arrives at a fishing spot. Fishing may continue until 3:00pm at which time lines must be out of the water. A fish hooked prior to 3:00pm may be fought, caught, and released after 3:00pm. However, all boats must return to Fishing Headquarters by 5:00pm. Boats returning to Fishing Headquarters after 5:00pm may incur a penalty as set forth in Section VI.
4.05 The start on any day may be delayed by the Tournament in the event of imminent inclement or dangerous weather. In the event of severe weather (i.e. tropical storm), the Tournament committee may reduce the number of fishing days.
4.06 The policy of the Tournament is that the first skiff to reach a spot is entitled to fish there. The Guides Committee strongly recommends strict observation of all recognized courtesies and sporting practices between skiffs. This includes giving way and sufficient room to other boats in an area that typically accommodates more than one skiff under normal fishing conditions. Understanding that the Florida Keys waters are fished by many skiffs each day, it is considered unsportsmanlike and a rules violation to have a spot “saved” by another boat.
4.07 Chumming or fishing in or near chummed areas is not allowed. In addition, there will be no fishing within 150 yards of known “pet fish” areas, such as Robbie’s Marina.
4.08 There will be no fishing or staking above the “pocket” of Buchanan Bank.
4.09 No assistance may be given to any Angler other than by his Guide who handles the boat, gaffs or grabs fish, and measures or releases fish.
4.10 No Angler or Guide may scout for fish using aircraft during the period from the beginning of fishing on the first day until the end of fishing on the last day.
V. SKIFFS AND BOATING
5.01 The fishing boat shall be a traditional flats skiff design or at the discretion of the Rules Committee.
5.02 Each skiff shall be properly equipped with Coast Guard safety equipment. Guides are expected to operate skiffs in keeping with applicable boating laws and traditional fishing and boating norms for the areas fished.
5.03 All skiffs shall have running lights; any skiff without operative running lights shall not be allowed to leave Fishing Headquarters prior to 6:15am. Running lights must be kept on until 6:15am whether running or stationary.
5.04 No ladder or heightening device platform shall extend more than four feet above the gunwale of the skiff.
5.05 Electric motors are not allowed. The Rules Committee may waive this rule for valid medical reasons.
VI. MEASURING AND SCORING
6.01 The Tournament Grand Champion shall be the Angler who accumulates the most points during the three days of fishing. In addition, the Tournament may also recognize point totals or fish caught by other finishers in individual awards.
6.02 For purposes of measuring and scoring, the Tournament shall issue to each Angler and Guide a measuring packet including: a four foot stick, a measuring tape, five zip-tie “straps,” a roll of sticky tape, and three Catch and Release forms. The Angler or Guide shall provide a digital camera.
6.03 Fish may be submitted for points as either a released fish (a “Release”) or as a weight fish (a “Weight Fish”). Anglers may submit no more than five Weight Fish for scoring during the Tournament. As described below, Weight Fish must be hooked, fought, and brought to hand or lip gaff to earn points. Fish shall be scored and points shall be earned in compliance with State of Florida fishing regulations in force at the time of the tournament.
6.04 There is no limit to the number of Releases allowed; however, an Angler’s total Release points allowed may not exceed that Angler’s total Weight Fish points. For team scoring, a team may count release points of an Angler without weight points, provided that the team’s aggregate release points do not exceed the team’s aggregate weight points.
6.05 After an Angler has hooked a tarpon, one may attempt to earn release points. Release points are earned when the nail knot, at the junction of the fly line and leader, is reeled through the top guide of the angler’s fly rod. The boat may be in gear throughout the release process. Release fish must exceed the four foot length minimum. The provided measuring stick can be used to assist both guide and angler with judging the fish’s length. The length is verified with the four foot stick, as measured along the side (lateral line) from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. A release fish is worth 200 points.
6.06 After hooking a fish and completing the release point scoring procedure, the Angler and Guide may then decide to score the fish as a Weight Fish. Their decision is to be taken based on judging the size of the fish in the water. It is considered unsportsmanlike for an Angler or Guide to partially lift a fish from the water to estimate weight.
6.07 If the angler and guide decide to score a fish as a Weight Fish, the Angler and Guide must complete the following procedure as quickly as possible: 1) Using the measuring tape, the length of the fish shall be measured along its side (lateral line) in inches from the tip of the lower jaw to the center of the fork of the tail with such length recorded on the Catch and Release form, 2) The girth shall be measured using a zip-tie “strap” which shall be placed around the widest part of the fish, perpendicular to the lateral line, and closed snugly, 3) The Angler or Guide must then take a digital photograph of the fish (the Strap Photo) showing as much of the fish as possible with the strap on the fish, 4) The strap should be slipped off and secured with the sticky tape. If for any reason, the Weight Fish scoring procedure is not completed, but the release point procedure is completed, then the Angler is still entitled to release points for successfully capturing the fish.
6.08 At the conclusion of each fishing day, the Angler and Guide must submit a signed Catch and Release form to the Tournament judges whether or not any fish have been caught. The Catch and Release form shall include times for catch and release of all fish, plus measurements of each Weight Fish released. Any Angler who has caught fish must turn in the sized and taped strap from any Weight Fish. Finally, Strap Photos for each fish caught must be shown the scorekeeper. These items must be turned in by 5:00 pm, or the Angler will be not be allowed any points from fish that day. The Tournament judges may waive the 5:00 pm rule for boat breakdowns or unusual circumstances.
6.09 The official weight of a Weight Fish shall be calculated by the Tournament scorekeeper. The strap shall be marked, cut, and the strap length (fish girth) measured in inches. The weight shall be determined to the nearest tenth of a pound using the following formula: (L” x G” x G”)/800 or the length in inches multiplied by girth in inches squared divided by 800. An Angler’s points for that Weight Fish shall be the calculated weight times 10.
6.10 Under no circumstances are fish to be killed and brought to the dock unless the Angler and Guide believe the fish to be a prospective world record. Any fish bought to the dock for record purposes shall, for tournament purposes, be scored as a Weight Fish using the Tournament measurements and calculation, not the actual weight.
6.11 Any potential Weight Fish measured and scored less than 70 pounds shall not be awarded any release or weight points, and that fish shall be counted towards the Angler’s five Weight Fish limit.
6.12 A scoring example: an Angler catches two releases on the first day. He has no points, but two releases (400 points). On the second day, he catches two more Releases and a Weight Fish with these measurements: length – 62 inches, girth – 30.5 inches; therefore, his calculated Weight Fish weight is (62 x 30.5 x 30.5)/800 = 72.1 lbs., and his weight points are 721. He now has 1,442 points; his four releases total 800 points, but he only receives release points equal to 721 – his weight points. On the third day, he catches and measures his second Weight Fish, estimated by the Angler and Guide to be over 70 pounds, but which scores 69 pounds; he receives no points for this fish and loses the strap. Having scored two Weight Fish, he may score only three more Weight Fish.
VII. GOVERNANCE AND DISPUTES
7.01 The Tournament shall be conducted by the chairperson and a volunteer committee of Anglers and various sub-committees as set from time to time.
7.02 The standing committees shall be: the Rules Committee composed of active Anglers; the Guides Committee, composed of active Guides; and the Arbitration Committee, composed of distinguished former Anglers and Guides who no longer participate in the Tournament.
7.03 The Tournament may hire professional administrators to assist with operations, bookkeeping, marketing and public relations, logistics, and other duties. In addition, the Tournament shall secure judges to oversee daily sign-in, start and return times, Weight Fish scoring, total point calculations, and scorekeeping.
7.04 There shall be a rules meeting and check in on the Sunday evening prior to the tournament. The GFTT Rules shall be reviewed and explained, but not changed, at this meeting. Failure of at least one member of an Angler-Guide team to arrive by at least 6:00 pm on Sunday evening for the meeting shall result in a 500 point penalty for that team.
7.05 There shall be an annual Anglers’ meeting after fishing on the Tuesday of the Tournament week to conduct any business of the Tournament. All Anglers are invited to attend and are entitled to vote on matters that come before the group. In addition, the Anglers will appoint a Rules Committee to review the rules for the next year’s tournament. The Anglers at this meeting may approve any proposed changes to the GFTT Rules, and this annual meeting is the only time the GFTT Rules may be amended. Suggestions and comments on tournament operations or the rules are encouraged. Failure of BOTH members of an Angler – Guide team to arrive by 5:15 on the Tuesday of the tournament week for the Anglers’ meeting shall result in a 500 point penalty for that team.
7.06 The Guides Committee is responsible for organizing meetings of the Guides to clarify rules interpretations, discuss starting and boating procedures, emphasize sporting practices, and other matters as are required.
7.07 All grievances concerning the rules shall be in writing, signed, and submitted to the judges by 5:00pm on the day of the alleged infraction; oral or anonymous grievances, or those filed after 5:00pm, will not be considered. The matter in dispute shall be referred to the Rules Committee who shall determine the proper treatment of the issue. If the decision of the Rules Committee is not accepted by either party to a dispute, the matter will be referred to the Arbitration Committee whose judgment shall be final and binding on all parties. All decisions by the committees shall be final and irreversible as of 5:00pm on the last day of fishing.
7.08 Any infraction of the rules will result in the Angler losing all points for that day of fishing.
8.01 The Tournament operates on the honor system, and as such, relies on the integrity of its participants to guard its reputation as one of the premier fly fishing tournament in salt water. Any Angler or Guide found to have knowingly or willfully violated this, or another tournament’s rules, may not be issued an invitation.
8.02 The intent of these GFTT Rules is to create an understandable and fair environment where the Angler and Guide’s expertise in locating, hooking, landing, and releasing large tarpon on fly is rewarded, and to preserve those angling skills and Weight Fish judgment as similarly as possible, and in keeping with, the tournament’s legacy as kill tournament.