As most of you know, I have never been at a loss for words. But, when I think on what just happened with the first RWS, I simply run out of adjectives. Humbled, Blessed, Lucky, Fortunate, Privileged, Providential – all these and more come to mind. I cannot adequately explain what it meant to me to have the best anglers in the country compete in the most grueling, challenging, and exciting format ever devised and have it come out so perfectly.
I have personally been given many thanks, kudos, and credit for the first RWS but let me say that it is not I that deserves the credit. Rather, it is two groups of extraordinary people that made it all a reality.
First there are the anglers. Plain and simple, without them there is no RWS. These guys showed up as pros and competed as pros. No whining, no complaining, no excuses – nothing but camaraderie and competition on the fairest and most level playing field to date. For the first time in the history of redfish competition in St Bernard parish there were zero complaints from landowners, recreational anglers, and commercial fishermen. The StB government recognized that accomplishment as a first and has asked me to forward their congratulations and thanks to the anglers of the Redfish World Series. There is so much more I could say about the anglers, their skills, and their professionalism but suffice it to say that, in my opinion, there has never been a group of anglers as dedicated, as involved, as excited, and as professional as the group I just had the privilege of working with in the 2019 Redfish World Series.
Next is a group of people so dedicated to the anglers themselves that they overcame significant timeline and setup obstacles and then worked tirelessly to make the event completely seamless for the anglers. From the extraordinary Captains’ Banquet to blastoff, to check-in, to weigh-in, to the awarding of prizes, to orchestrating a parade of the top 12 on the final two days, to driving them and their rigs to the stage, to managing an entire festival, and every little detail in between – this group of people never flagged, never said no, never said can’t, and never failed.
With that said, let me introduce you to the heart of the RWS and Redfish Festival:
Becky Chaney served as overall project director and was superb in managing hundreds of details and orchestrating the completion of the banquet, the marina, and the prize packages. Her energy, enthusiasm, loyalty, tireless work, dedication, and direction were amazing to behold. She was the consummate maestro and wielded her wand with perfect balance.
Danica Williams and her astonishing army of Wish To Fish volunteers supervised and coordinated an entire festival setup without a hiccup. Their assiduous dedication to success was seen in every aspect of the festival grounds and operation. Danica is a remarkable person with immeasurable energy on an extraordinary mission. Her dedication and loyalty to her charitable work is undeniable as is her devotion to the future of competitive redfish angling.
Joe Wares ran the most precise marina operation I have ever seen anywhere, anytime. His coordination of the dock during check-in and bump tank procedures was perfection. Furthermore, he worked untiringly behind the scenes to build supporting structures, transport needed materials, and direct his crew to make every detail perfect.
Ronnie “Radar” Norris served as Joe’s right hand man and seemed to be everywhere at once doing so many things for so many people that he was dubbed “Radar O’Reilly” by many of the staff and anglers. As a former Marine, Ronnie immediately took on the task of displaying the flag during the National Anthem. His posture, his stance, his carriage, and his obvious pride while performing this simple duty was commented on by nearly every competitor.
Erik “Thunderbolt” Nelson worked diligently to coordinate the parking, lineup, transportation, and drive-through components of the event. Erik became the jack of all trades for the marina, weigh-in, and festival operations working at every aspect of the event. And, somehow, he used his superhuman weather powers to keep the thunder boomers at bay for the entire event.
Sarah Neal worked diligently with the Banquet team and was the director of the Blastoff and Check-in teams as well. Sarah kept the marina boatside operations well organized and made the flow of anglers and boats effortless.
John “Tody” Tumey worked the event as bumpmaster and the compliments are still coming in. He has been touted as fair, knowledgeable, and honest in every regard while measuring the fish brought to the scales. His quiet, gentle, demeanor and genuine concern for the anglers and crew has endeared him to us all.
Tammy Tumey worked with the marina team to coordinate the flow of anglers from the bump station to the stage and every step in between. She became an invaluable member of the marina team working with many other aspects of the operation as well.
Chris Tumey. Once again, it’s hard to come up with enough adjectives to describe Chris’ work ethic and his contribution to the success of the entire event. He was everywhere, doing everything, and doing it all perfectly. His work and energy at the marina and with the production crew at the festival big stage was extraordinary. I can honestly say that without him there would have been several areas of the event, especially the Top 12 weigh-in, that would not have gone as well as they did.
Rebecca Hillebrandt worked behind the scenes and did her job so well that she was practically invisible. Rebecca ran what is perhaps the single most important aspect of the event – the weigh-in software program. She managed the software, the weigh-in order, the flow, and the finalizing of the results. It was her work and tireless dedication to perfection that made the results honest, reliable, and indisputable.
Bob Taylor (Taysys Software) developed the very complicated software package to cover every aspect of a previously unseen and very unique tournament format. When I approached Bob and asked him to create a program to manage all the aspects of a multi-day, multi-level tournament he immediately went to work getting it done. And then, to make certain all went well, he and his wife Dolores flew down to the event to be available for any changes or corrections that might need to be made.
Ashley Stewart has been an indefatigable ball of energy since we first met just a few months ago. Ashley is an invaluable member of the team with her management of the multiple websites and social media pages. She also expertly managed every aspect of the first Redfish Festival Pageant which, by all accounts, was an amazing success. Her intelligence, capacity for work, experience, and loyalty to the project has been paramount to the success of the entire venture.
Capt Joe Ezell (Whiskey Bayou Charters) is another individual who gave selflessly of his time and expertise to help with many facets of the RWS. For many weeks he managed the social media aspects of the event(s). Then, after tiring days of fishing charter work, he volunteered his time and became an indispensable part of the RWS parade of anglers, Top 12 weigh-in on the festival grounds, and many other components necessary for the success of the overall event. His work and dedication to promote and assist with the RWS has been unflagging and I am eternally grateful for his expert participation.
Darrin Taylor (Taylor Productions) created and produced the stunning design and special effects at the banquet as well as the Festival. His work was perfection. We made constant changes and upgrades to all aspects of the events at the Banquet, the Marina, and the Festival and Darrin never said no, never said can’t, never failed to produce the desired result.
Red Shutter Media. A very special thanks to a very special group of professionals. Rob, Blain, Chris, Cass, Kody, Jon – Thank You! These guys also bought in to the RWS vision for the future of this sport and this industry. They are in it for the long haul and I am grateful and honored to have them on board.
Maureen “Mo” Liuzza and her Civic Center crew Mary O’Neal, and Tony Sercovich were absolutely amazing. Always helpful, always cheerful, never a task too great. What a terrific group. St Bernard Parish is very lucky to have them running the show over there at the Civic Center. Thank you so much guys. Job very well done!
St Bernard Parish government – Guy McInnis and John Lane – none of this would have happened without their belief in the vision and in St Bernard Parish as the future of the events.
St Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office is a very special group of individuals that managed every security aspect without fail in the most professional and dignified manner imaginable. Special thanks to Sheriff James Pohlmann, Bobby Norton, Daniel Bostick, and Brent Bourgeois for managing your respective teams flawlessly.
St Bernard Parish Marine Patrol Capt Brian Clark and his crew were, as always, dependable and capable in their role at the marina assisting with the management of the blastoff and check-in procedures.
Without the loyalty, dedication, perseverance, and belief of the anglers, the aforementioned individuals, and so many others the dream would not, could not, have happened. I am indebted and eternally grateful to you all – Thank You.