By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Almost eight decades. That’s how long the Texas International Fishing Tournament, or TIFT, has been around. Seventy-eight years. That’s a long time and it marks TIFT as one of the most long-lived traditions in the Rio Grande Valley.
If TIFT were a person, it would likely have kids, grandkids, even great grandkids. And, in a way, that’s actually true because TIFT is definitely a family affair. It’s a generational affair. As I was speaking with Tournament Director Kristi Collier earlier this week, we spoke of the multi-generational appeal of TIFT. Collier mentioned how she’s seen families who have four generations of people come back year after year.
It’s a rite of passage, she said. And if you’ve ever been to TIFT, you’d see why. I’ve covered the tournament for several years now, and it’s not uncommon to see happy parents posing for pictures with marlin or sailfish while holding chubby cheeked babies in their arms.
And TIFT couldn’t succeed as well as it does without the help of dozens of young volunteers who do everything from help out at Playday, to manning the dock at weigh-in. It’s no secret that many of the kids on the dock are repeat volunteers who got their first tastes of TIFT fishing for piggy perch when they were only knee-high to a grasshopper.
The boats are filled with familiar faces, too.
It doesn’t take long to realize that the longevity of TIFT has fostered a strong sense of community amongst anglers, volunteers, and even spectators. I don’t think I’ve run into anyone yet who doesn’t have a TIFT story, whether it was that time they saw a 700 pound marlin get hauled in one year, or how they fill up on the fried fish tacos, or of their time volunteering on the docks.
Even among we in the media industry, there’s a certain kinship among those of us lucky enough to cover a TIFT tournament. It’s just not TIFT if I don’t get a chance to say hi to local meteorologist Tim Smith or nature reporter Richard Moore, for instance.
The bay and offshore competitions may only last for two days, but they’re some of the most fun days of the summer. For landlubbers like me, it’s one of the few chances we get to see some of the amazing marine life that call our Laguna Madre and Gulf home. And it’s one of the few opportunities we have to see what world-class anglers can do with a rod and a reel.
So, for those of you who are TIFT regulars, I’ll see you out there. And for those who have never been, what are you waiting for?
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