The 31 men and six women gained entry as winners in one of over 55 light tackle IGFA 2005 sanctioned tournaments held in eight countries around the world and in 12 U.S. states representing over 2,800 anglers on four continents.
Since its inception the tournament has been held in Islamorada, hailed as the "sportfishing capital of the world," located in the middle of the Keys.
"Of those 37 champions 17 will be first timers to the tournament, one from as far away as Africa," said Ms. Denise Hartman, IGFA tournament coordinator. "Most of the anglers will be coming from across the U.S, Canada and the Bahamas."
The five anglers from the Palmetto State and the tournaments they won include Amy Bennett, Charleston, Mercury Redbone @ Large Lowcountry Red*Trout Tournament, Charleston; Ned Johnson, Charleston, Outback Steakhouse Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament, Islamorada, Fla., Baker Bishop, Sullivan's Island, Mercury Redbone@Large Rocky Mountain Fly Classic, Aspen, Colo., and Jim and Cathy Scott, Okatie, Mercury Redbone@Large Rich-SeaPak Golden Isles Red*Trout, St.Simons Island, Ga.
Dubbed the "super bowl of light-tackle fishing," the celebrated world-class inshore catch-and-release format features anglers stalking bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and redfish on Florida Bay. The anglers participate in a captains draw matching a different guide and angler each day.
The ICT features three days of fishing with the contestants vying for engraved Rolex timepieces, a long list of prizes and the prestigious grand champion title. The Islander Resort is the tournament headquarters, with fishing and daily scorekeeping taking place from the World Wide Sportsman marina. Both are located near mile marker 82 in the Keys.
"The Rolex/IGFA ICT continues to attract some of the finest men and women, fly and light tackle anglers to gather and compete in one of the highest rated fishing regions with top rated guides," said Ms. Hartman. "It brings over 150 anglers, guides, spouses, tournament officials and sponsors together for four days to the Florida Keys."
"The point value of the fish is determined by species and the angler's preference choice of fly fishing, artificial lure or bait casting," added tournament director Mike Myatt.
"Some may use one approach or all three over the three days," he said. "With so many different fishing disciplines represented by the qualifying champions, this format levels the on-the-water playing field. The rotating guide and angler format relieves the 'home field' advantage to a degree and lends itself to maximizing not only the angler's strengths, but also the guide's."
Like the Masters in professional golf, past Rolex/IGFA ICT champions are invited perpetually, though both defending champion Robert Collins, Naples, Fla., and Bokor, the 2002 grand champion "qualified," each by winning IGFA sanctioned Redbone events. Bokor is in the field for his sixth straight year.
"As a past champion you're automatically invited back but all of the five past winners have wanted to qualify so that you 'really feel you've earned your way there,'" said Collins. "July is a great time to fish in the Keys for the five species. The one big variable will be the weather, as the anglers have dodged storms and hurricanes in past years."
Last year Collins won by catching all five species (a slam) twice.
"I'll be using the same game plan of focusing on multiple slams. I'll try the long run to the Flamingo Bay area (below the Everglades) one day for redfish and then the other areas closer to Islamorada for the rest of the species.
"I love the format because it tough challenging competition and you're working with great guides. It makes you think and plan and use the attributes of the guide and angler each day. It's always tough for the fly anglers especially with a couple of species like permit and snook."
Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the tournament's grand champion and grand champion runner-up based on slams, and also to the overall release champion and runner-up release champion based on total points.
The divisional champions -- first to third places -- in fly, spin and bait, plus the overall top three guides will also receive trophies and merchandise among the 16 tournament award categories presented.
The ICT is the second in a series of world wide competitive fishing events that includes the seventh annual Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championship Tournament held in May in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Title sponsor Rolex U.S.A., respected world wide for producing the finest watches and other timepieces, became the title sponsor and exclusive timepiece of the ICT in 2000. Rolex is joined this year by Mercury Outboards, Bacardi, Costa Del Mar, G. Loomis, Hook and Tackle, Islamorada Fish Co., Islander Resort, King Sailfish Mounts, Rapala, Robert James Sales, Inc., Shimano, Stiffy Push Poles, 3M Scientific Anglers, Reel Life Art, World Wide Sportsman, Zane Grey Lounge, KD & G Sea Life Masterpieces, Redbone Gallery, Image Graphics 2000, Momoi and Daiichi.
Pasta Pantaleo is the official artist of the ICT.
The International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping. It was founded in 1939 and has members in over 125 countries.
The association welcomes visitors to their 60,000 square foot IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. The IGFA web site is www.igfa.org.
For further information, contact Ms. Hartman at the IGFA, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida 33004; (954) 927-2628; Fax (954) 924-4299; Email: DHartman@igfa.org.