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Ultimate Guide • Updated Wed, Jun 28, 2023

Famed Tarpon Tournaments of the Florida Keys

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the five most prestigious tarpon fly fishing tournaments held in the Florida Keys, renowned for its exceptionally diverse fisheries. Tarpon, also known as "the Silver King" are a powerful gamefish revered for their acrobatic leaps and incredible strength. These tarpon fishing tournaments have made the Florida Keys a celebrated hub for top anglers and fishing guides from around the globe. Each tournament offers unique experiences for anglers seeking a thrilling tarpon fishing adventures amidst top-tier competition.

This article covers:

  • The Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament
  • Don Hawley Invitational Fly Fishing Tarpon Tournament
  • The Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament
  • Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament
  • The Herman Lucerne Memorial Tarpon Cup
  • FAQ

The Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament

Date Hosted

May 22-24, 2023

About

The Golden Fly Tournament is an invitational-only fly fishing tournament run out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. 2023 marked its 28th consecutive year. The Golden Fly Tournament holds the distinction of being the first of the "Big Three" tarpon tournaments that take place annually in the Florida Keys. The Golden Fly took place from May 22nd to 24th this year and crowned Capt. Greg Dini and his angler as champion (2023).

The Tournament 

The tournament launches from the Lorelei Restaurant and Marina, with winners of the Golden Fly Tournament not only earning recognition, but also receiving custom sculptures from renowned wildlife artists and top-quality gear and apparel from premier fly fishing brands. 

Don Hawley Invitational Fly Fishing Tarpon Tournament

Date Hosted

June 5-9, 2023

About

The Don Hawley Invitational Fly Fishing Tarpon Tournament is the second of the "Big Three" tournaments held yearly. The tournament was established in 1975 as a tribute to the late Don Hawley, and has a rich history spanning nearly five decades. The Don Hawley Tarpon Invitational took place from June 5th to 9th this year and crowned Capt. Greg Dini and his angler as champion (2023). The Don Hawley was the first tournament to adopt a catch and release policy in 1987; thanks to the leadership of Charlie Causey and the support of environmentally conscious anglers, it has become renowned for its commitment to tarpon conservation. 

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Capt. Greg Dini and angler Evan Carruthers hoisting the 2023 trophy, c/o The Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament

The Tournament 

The tournament supports the Guides Trust Foundation, which assists local fishing captains during times of need. It spans five days, and participants have the choice of using either 12 or 16-pound tippet for their fishing gear, adding an exciting element to the competition.

The Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament

Date Hosted

June 12-15, 2023

About

The Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament, an all-release, fly fishing invitational tournament for women, is held annually in Islamorada, FL, during the peak of the famed Tarpon migration in the waters of Islamorada and Florida Bay. Established in 1977, it celebrated its 46th in 2023. The Tournament has a deep history of female anglers who share a passion for the sport of saltwater fly fishing and conservation. 

The Tournament 

The Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament raises funds through an annual auction to support local charities and causes, which include donations to scholarship funds for young women pursuing careers in Marine Sciences and support for initiatives like Florida Bay Forever and the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Foundation.

Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament

Date Hosted

June 19-23, 2023

About

The Gold Cup Invitational Tarpon Tournament, often called the "Wimbledon" or "World Series" of tarpon fishing, is one of the 'big three' and is one of the oldest tournaments in the US. It is held in Islamorada, Florida Keys, with a history spanning 60 years. The Don Hawley Tarpon Invitational took place from June 19th to 23rd this year and crowned Capt. Luis Cortes and his angler as champion for the third consecutive year (2021, 2022, 2023).

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Capt. Luis Cortes and angler Dave Preston sporting their 2023 trophies, c/o The Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament.

The Tournament 

With participation capped at 25 anglers, this all-release tournament invites premier fly anglers and guides, ranging from experts to novices seeking to enhance their fishing skills. The Grand Champion's name is engraved on the perpetual trophy alongside past champions, showcasing the tournament's esteemed legacy in saltwater fly fishing. Proceeds from the tournament go towards supporting the Guides Trust Foundation of the Florida Keys.

The Herman Lucerne Memorial Tarpon Cup

Date Hosted

September 15-17, 2023.

About

The Herman Lucerne Memorial Tarpon Cup is a prestigious two-day tournament that takes place annually in honor of Herman Lucerne, a renowned angler and conservationist with a mission to preserve, protect, support, and enhance the natural resources in the Everglades and Florida Bay for posterity. 

The Tournament

The tournament features a seven-species challenge of catching at least one tarpon, redfish, snook, sea trout, snapper, bonefish, and black drum. While the tournament is, of course, about fishing, it also helps to directly engage anglers in the unique and challenging experience of the Everglades and Florida Bay, activating them as stewards through advocacy and education, fundraising for Lucerne's initiatives, and fostering corporate involvement to raise awareness and support. The tournament awards ceremony at the Islander Resort in Islamorada, Florida, recognizes outstanding achievements in 22 individual categories!

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