SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — It’s the big one … waters surrounding SPI will be busy with boats loaded with fishermen seeking the catch.
It’s one of the biggest fishing tournaments on the Texas Gulf Coast and it is here this weekend.
The 78th annual Texas International Fishing Tournament is expected to attract as many as 1,500 participants.
The family-oriented event includes two days of competitive fishing and an array of activities for family members of all ages.
John Tippit, president of TIFT, is excited and ready for another year of the huge tournament.
“For a lot of people, we find, it is not a one-time thing,” Tippit said. “We talked to people who have fished TIFT for 15, 20, 25 years or more. We have literally had four generations registered at a tournament. They keep coming back. It is like a big fishing family reunion.”
That reunion starts today with registration and will continue tomorrow with some family activities and preparations for the fishing.
On the weekend, fishermen, young and old, will compete in one of three divisions — bay, tarpon and offshore.
Dockside, more than 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out to view the catches of blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish brought in by the big boats offshore.
Bay anglers will be weighing in speckled trout, redfish and flounder during the two days of fishing.
That’s some of the best times, according to Tippit.
“It is so much fun to see the people with the fish,” he said. “The young kids coming in with mom or dad, taking pictures, holding their fish and sometimes you have kids who have caught some nice fish.”
The history runs deep with this event for Tippit and others.
The current McAllen resident who also has a home on SPI, fell in love with the area many years ago. He has been involved in TIFT since the 1990s, on its board 15 years.
When he and his wife moved to Valley in 1987, Tippit went fishing with someone who he worked with and fell in love with it.
Tippit and his wife raised three boys, all of whom enjoyed fishing. But Tippit sees SPI as being a partial draw that makes TIFT what it is.
If some members of the family want to fish, and others don’t, there is plenty to do on the Island — making it a true family vacation opportunity.
“This is the best beach in Texas, in my opinion,” Tippit said about SPI.
Tippit isn’t the only one pleased for the event to be on SPI.
“We’re honored to host Texas’ largest saltwater fishing tournament year after year, and invite fishing enthusiasts to join us and compete in one of two divisions — bay and offshore — to experience a fun, family-friendly tournament like no other,” said Keith Arnold, Director of the South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau.
TIFT’s economic impact on the South Padre Island area is considerable, with an estimated $1.5 million spent by tournament participants in 2016.
TIFT also grants scholarships to eligible undergraduates each year, and has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships since the program’s inception.
TIFT most recently gave out 21 $2,000 scholarships to area students to use in their college studies. The organization also provided $50,000 for the Friends of the RGV Reef project.