Mercury Redbone’s Trilogy kicks off with the always-popular Mercury S.L.A.M. tournament Sept. 5-7 in Key West. The Trilogy is a three-event Florida fishing series that also includes the Mercury Baybone (Key Largo, Oct. 3-5) and the Mercury Cheeca Redbone (Islamorada, Nov. 7-9).
The event is one of approximately 30 Redbone Celebrity tournaments that are held each year, with all proceeds benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF). Redbone events raised $1,568,000 in 2007 alone, and have raised more than $11 million in 20 years. Mercury Marine, the official outboard engine of the Redbone events, began its support in 1992.
Naples, Fla., native Tony Pruitt captured his second consecutive S.L.A.M. grand champion angler award in the 2007 event, scoring the slam that signifies the release of a tarpon, permit and bonefish. A total of 29 boats participated in the event last year, and anglers caught and released 45 bonefish, 44 tarpon and 24 permit.
The same success is expected at this year’s event.
“Rich (Tudor) really found the fish,” Pruitt said, giving credit to his guide. “He knows this water so well and he really is a great, great guide.”
Financial support from the Redbone events has allowed tournaments such as the Mercury S.L.A.M. to help CFF make tremendous progress in the field of cystic fibrosis research and care. The median age of survival for a person with CF has improved from early childhood in the 1950s to 36.8 years today. Cystic fibrosis continues to be a critical health matter; however, as most individuals with the disease must battle chronic lung infections their entire lives. At least one person dies from CF each day.
CFF’s mission is to assure the means to cure and control the genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of approximately 30,000 children and young adults in the United States.
Redbone founder Gary Ellis and his wife, Susan, have supported CFF for two decades, not only because of its innovative and effective research efforts, but also for a very personal reason: their daughter, Nicole, was diagnosed with CF as an infant in the mid-1980s. Nicole is now thriving in the corporate world of international marketing, and she has witnessed – first hand – the advances made in the treatment of the disease.
The seeds for the Mercury S.L.A.M. were planted in 1988, when anglers, fishing guides and sports celebrities organized a tournament in the Florida Keys village of Islamorada. The ground rules were simple – to win, the angler must catch and release at least one redfish and one bonefish.
The inaugural Islamorada event was a huge success, and spawned the “redbone” moniker. The current format of the individual tournaments includes freshwater, offshore and flats fishing.
The environments in which the Redbone events take place have played a critical role in their success. The Florida Keys, for instance, contain miles of clear flats with acres of turtle grass and marl, features that create a welcoming habitat and a diverse fishery that includes bonefish, tarpon, permit, redfish and snook. Tournaments are also held in such diverse locations as Massachusetts, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Costa Rica, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Bahamas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Louisiana.
For two decades, this collection of events has drawn the attention and support of big-name celebrities such as the late baseball great Ted Williams, baseball stars Mike Schmidt and Wade Boggs, football legends Boomer Esiason, Jim Kelly and Ken Stabler, and the late broadcasting icon Curt Gowdy.
For more information on the Mercury Trilogy and/or the Mercury S.L.A.M., visit on-line at www.redbone.org