Fishing News

Tommy Gifford Awards

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) today announced its 2019 Tommy Gifford Award winners in recognition of their significant contributions to recreational angling as captains, guides or crew.

This year’s recipients include big-game angling pioneer Captain Peter Bristow; renowned billfish champion Captain Bubba Carter; Australian charter legend and adventurer Captain John Cross; famed Florida Keys inshore guide Captain Billy Knowles; New Zealand angling great and swordfish pioneer Captain Bruce Smith; and IGFA World Record and light tackle extraordinaire Captain R.T. Trosset. These recreational angling greats will be honored at the IGFA Tommy Gifford Awards Ceremony during the 60th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on October 31, 2019, at the iconic Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“Named for Tommy Gifford, one of the greatest saltwater charter captains of all time, this prestigious award recognizes incredible personal achievements and innovative contributions to the development of our sport,” said IGFA President Nehl Horton. “For many recreational anglers, charter captains and crews are the key to the angling experience as they open up a world of opportunities not always available to the average angler.”

The 2019 recipients were selected by the IGFA Legendary Captains & Crew Committee, a distinguished panel of internationally renowned captains and mates chaired by Captain Skip Smith. Previous winners include Jose Wejebe, Allen and Buddy Merritt, Ron Hamlin, Charles Perry, Ralph Delph, Laurie Wright, Jimmie Albright, Bouncer Smith, Steve Lassley and more.

“On behalf of the entire Legendary Captains & Crew Committee, it is such an honor to be able to recognize these captains, guides and crew members from around the world every year,” said LC&C Chairman Skip Smith. “We need to keep this history alive and honor the contributions these greats have made to our sport.”

Captain Peter Bristow
Born in Brisbane, Queensland, in July 1938, Peter Bristow has long been a famous figure in local and international game fishing circles. In 1968, he moved to Cairns, Australia, to begin work on big game fishing vessels. The following year, he built the Avalon, a 38-foot sportfishing boat and operated out of Cairns for 23 years. He is credited as being one of the early pioneers that established Cairns, Australia, as the world’s epicenter for giant black marlin. In 1996, Peter turned his sights to blue marlin in the Atlantic and began a successful charter operation in Madeira, Portugal, fishing on the Katherine B that continues today.

Captain Bubba Carter
South Carolina native Bubba Carter first fished offshore at the age of six and received his captains license two days after turning 18. He has been a prominent figure in destinations including Cairns, St. Thomas, Isla Mujeres, Venezuela and Costa Rica. He has released over 20,000 billfish, caught 11 over 1,000 pounds and has several IGFA World Records to his credit. Today, Carter is based out of Los Suenos, Costa Rica, where he captains the Tijereta.

Captain John Cross
Born in Australia in 1954, John Cross moved to Cairns and established a charter operation with his brother. He is credited with pioneering the popper fishery for giant trevally on the Great Barrier Reef. Cross relocated to Papua New Guinea in 1991 and began exploring its inshore and offshore waters. He later served as the President of the Game Fishing Association of Papua New Guinea from 1996-1998, where he brought the club into the modern age.

Captain Billy Knowles
Billy Knowles is a fourth-generation captain and one of the best-known names in the Florida Keys. He received his captain’s license in 1961 and the list of notable people he has fished includes the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Grace Kelly, President George H.W. Bush, President Herbert Hoover and Ted Williams. Knowles has dozens of tournament victories to his credit including the Gold Cup Invitational Tarpon Tournament, Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament, Spring Fly Bonefish Tournament and Fall All-Tackle Bonefish Tournament. He still is actively guiding clients in the Florida Keys at the age of 78.

Captain Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith came to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in 1977 with the idea of working for a few weeks as a deck hand, but never left. Smith learned his craft under the mentorship of Tommy Gifford Awardee Snooks Fuller on the Lady Doreen, which he later went on to captain himself. He is well-known as an accomplished billfish captain in New Zealand’s waters and helped pioneer its swordfish fishery. He later became the President of the prestigious Bay of Islands Swordfish Club.

Captain R.T. Trosset
R.T. Trosset has been guiding anglers to scores IGFA World Record catches in Key West, Florida, for over four decades. He excels in fishing with conventional and fly tackle and is a master at catching everything from tarpon to tuna. His client list is impressive and not only consists of notable IGFA record holders such as Dotty Ballantyne and Gene DuVal, but also sports figures including Andy Mill, Don Shula and Dick Butkus. During the height of his career, he was booked as many as 285 days a year and he still guides anglers to “the fish of their lifetime” 130 days a year.

The namesake of the award, Tommy Gifford (1896-1970) is considered one of the most innovative blue water anglers who ever lived, and one of the greatest charter skippers to guide anglers to the major game fishes of the sea. Over the course of his 50-year career, he developed an encyclopedic knowledge of game fish and techniques to catch them, and he served as guide and consultant to some of the most famous names in saltwater angling, including Ernest Hemingway, Michael Lerner, Charlie Lehman and Van Campen Heilner. He never lost his zest for the sea, or his awe at the creatures beneath the waves. Raymond Camp wrote, "Big game angling has a brief history, but Tommy Gifford's name is sharply etched on every page."

About the IGFA Founded in 1939, The International Game Fish Association is a nonprofit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making, record keeping and recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the field of angling. The IGFA maintains world records in freshwater, saltwater, fly-fishing and junior angler categories. The IGFA has members in more than 100 countries.