SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Cheerful anglers and several pounds of mouthwatering catches were a sight to behold this past weekend in the Laguna Madre Area.
The 80th annual Texas International Fishing Tournament drew in a little more than 1,000 anglers.
Fishermen and women of all ages competed in one of several divisions — bay, tarpon, fly fishing and offshore.
McAllen resident McCoy Wolthoff, 11, won third place in the Fly Fishing Division.
“It was an incredible feeling,” McCoy said. “I was up against a lot of good fly fishermen and this was my first year to enter this division.”
McCoy has been participating in the tournament with his parents for the past eight years.
“I really enjoy fishing in TIFT every year,” he said. “I think it’s a great tradition in our family and I am lucky to be part of this tournament.”
McCoy began fishing when he was just 2 years old.
For him, the hunt for fish is what he enjoys most.
“In fly fishing you have to really spot the fish way before they see you,” he explained. “Also, I tie my own flies so I try to figure out patterns I think the fish will eat.”
McCoy’s mother, Lucy Ann Wolthoff, is a TIFT board member.
She said she feels extremely proud of her son’s determination and mental toughness during each tournament.
To her, TIFT is a celebration of people’s love for the outdoors and developing family memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.
“He has worked extremely hard to improve his fly fishing skills at a young age and refuses to give up,” she said. “He spent 16 hours over two days on the bow of the skiff hunting fish this past weekend.”
Lucy Ann said her son wants to follow in his cousin’s footsteps and fish the big tarpon tournaments in the Florida Keys.
DREAM COME TRUE
Rheagan Bryant, a 20-year-old student studying allied health at Texas A&M University in College Station, has been competing and volunteering in TIFT since she was a child.
For Rheagan, being selected as the hostess for TIFT had always been a lifelong goal.
And this year, she was able to achieve that goal alongside her friend, Sarah White.
“It was such an incredible and amazing experience,” Rheagan said. “Getting to share it with Sarah White was such a blessing.”
According to TIFT organizers, there isn’t an area of the event that Rheagan hasn’t been involved with, and she aims to carry on the tradition of service her parents established.
Her mother served as a volunteer and her father serves on the TIFT’s Executive Board.
Rheagan said family is one value that sets TIFT apart from other tournaments.
“My family’s fished for a long time and it’s something I’ve looked forward to every year ever since I was little,” she said. “So, I think TIFT’s made a pretty big impact in my life.”