Fishing News

Tournament Salutes War Heroes

War heroes will compete with world-class anglers at the 7th Annual Cheeca Lodge All American Backcountry Fishing Tournament, November 7-9, 2019 at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, FL. In honor of Veteran’s Day, the event invites two war heroes to join the tournament inspired by 41st President George Bush, who frequented Cheeca and the Florida Keys to pursue his love of fishing. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a non-profit organization whose mission is to conserve and restore bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through research, stewardship, education and advocacy.

“The All American Backcountry Fishing Tournament is part of Cheeca Lodge’s iconic legacy,” said Paul Burke, Area Vice President, Florida & Acting General Manager of Cheeca Lodge & Spa. “We’re excited to partner with Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and to welcome Bruce Melnick, a former American astronaut and retired United States Coast Guard officer, who will fish the tournament.”

All American anglers fish on a guided charter boat or their own boat with a licensed guide. They will compete for trophies and awards for releasing five different species of inshore fish: snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon and permit. Individual and team trophies will be awarded for fly, general tackle/spinning/conventional and artificial lure divisions. Live bait is permitted in the general tackle division.

Tournament entry fee is $1,500 per angler, offering two social events with dinner and beverages for four people, including the angler, guide and one guest each. Also included is a daily continental breakfast dockside at World Wide Sportsman, boxed lunches for anglers and guides and a gift bag per person.

Social events will be held at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa, a sportsman paradise renowned for its barefoot elegance, with fishing departing from nearby World Wide Sportsman.

This first-class tournament will kick-off on Thursday, November 7, with a cocktail reception, rules meeting, patriotic banquet on the beach and live auction. Competitive fishing hours are from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9, 2019. The tournament culminates on Saturday, November 9, with an awards ceremony and banquet, where anglers can mingle with fishing celebrities such as world-famous fly angler, Stu Apte. Awards for Individual Grand Champion, Individual Runner-Up, Grand Champion Team, Runner-Up Grand Champion Team, Champions in the Fly, Artificial and General Tackle Divisions, and Best Photo will be presented.

Cheeca Lodge All American Backcountry Fishing Tournament

New for 2019 is a Friday evening reception and presentation by Bruce Melnick from 5:30-6:30pm at Cheeca, included in the entry fee.

While the tournament’s social events are included in the tournament registration, social-only tickets for the public are available in limited quantity by calling 305.517.4512 or emailing to reserve. Social tickets are $70 for Thursday’s kickoff dinner and auction; $25 for the reception with Bruce Melnick and $95 for Saturday’s Awards Banquet.

Title Sponsors to date include McCullis Oil & Gas, Inc., Abel Reels, the Bongiovanni Group, Inc. and Robert-James Sales, Inc. Partner sponsors include Blue Fin USA, Keys Audio Visual, Deco Productions, Mangrove Mike’s, Executive Printers and Printing Plus and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

Cheeca will also host the 30th Annual Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament January 24-26, 2020, the second leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship.

For more information visit, or call 305-517-4512. 

About the Tournament

Cheeca’s All American Backcountry Fishing Tournament boasts a rich history from the era of President George Bush. A regular visitor to Cheeca Lodge, President Bush helped co-found the annual George Bush Cheeca Lodge Bonefish Tournament held from 1994 to 2004. It was attended by a plethora of celebrities, including U.S. Army Four Star General Norman Schwartzkopf, tennis great Chris Evert, Olympic skier Andy Mill and former secretary of the treasury James Brady, among others. The tournament received local, regional and national publicity, including segments on The CBS Early Show and many other television shows. It was continued with the name All American to preserve the patriotic legacy. For more information on the tournament, visit, or call the resort at 305.517.4512.

About Cheeca Lodge & Spa A cornerstone of the Islamorada community since 1946, Cheeca Lodge & Spa is set on a 27-acre private estate in the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” Cheeca boasts 214 guestrooms, oceanfront suites and bungalows, and its signature feature is the classic 525 ft. wooden fishing pier. One of the most popular suites is the George Bush Presidential Suite filled with priceless photos and mementos donated by the former President. Cheeca guests can enjoy watersports activities and excursions, tennis and sports courts, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a Spa with 11 treatment rooms, a family and adults-only lap pool, poolside cabanas, an oceanfront tiki hut, Camp Cheeca for children, over 4,500 sq. ft. of event space and three distinctive restaurants. The Lodge reopened with a new look in 2017, following renovations due to Hurricane Irma. For more information visit

About Bonefish & Tarpon Trust This year’s All American Backcountry Tournament will support the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, whose mission is to conserve bonefish, tarpon and permit—the species, their habitats and the larger fisheries they comprise. As a science-based organization, BTT pursues this mission across the southeastern US, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean through research, conservation, education and advocacy. For more information visit: