A speckled trout tournament format, designed by fishermen for fishermen, proved successful this summer and could lead to a series of contests on the Mississippi coast in 2019.

“We held it in conjunction with the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, which had seen its Speckled Trout Shootout lose its popularity until it had gone away,” said Capt. Jeremy McHugh. “It wasn’t just at the Rodeo, but pretty much coastwide. Interest was going away because fishermen were tired of how events were run and tired of the rules.

“I am a tournament fisherman, too, and I wanted to end that trend. I got together with other tournament fishermen and discussed rules and formats and came up with a plan that would prevent any gray areas or drama, which was the root of the problems.”

This year’s Speckled Trout Shootout at the Rodeo drew 115 fishermen in 33 boats, and McHugh said it was a big success.

“Everybody loved it,” he said. “The format was simple and was based more of what you’d see at the major offshore, bluewater tournaments. We allowed boats to have up to four people per team, had them line up in the harbor for a boat inspection, gave them stickers and then blasted a horn, and they all left at one time. They had 12 hours to fish, and they could enter the boat’s best five fish. 

“It went smoothly. The winners, Team Foreplay, had 19 pounds, and 10 ounces. We had a 100-percent payback, and because of a sponsor, we were able to add to the pot. There was no jealousy; we saw more camaraderie. Fishermen by nature are jealous, but if you are fishing for the right reason it won’t happen.”

Instead of continuing with more tournaments in 2018, McHugh said he and others decided to spend the rest of the year recruiting sponsors and fishermen, as well as honing the concept.

“We put that Shootout together in about a month last summer, and we decided to instead to start planning for 2019,” McHugh said. “We’re shooting for a series of events across the Mississippi Gulf Coast with a grand championship at the end. We’re focusing on locating sponsors and educating fishermen to get it right for 2019.”

McHugh said the plan is to have biologists involved in the events and to have a polygraph available in case of any questions.