I got a chance to fish the Redbone Celebrity Tournament series here in Islamorada last week. If you’re not familiar with the Redbone, it’s a series of saltwater tournaments created with one purpose in mind: To raise money for cystic fibrosis research. The tournaments were created in 1988 by Gary and Susan Ellis of Islamorada, after learning their daughter, Nicole, had the disease when she was very young.
Instead of accepting the grim diagnosis handed to them back then, the Ellis family chose to fight, and fight they have. In the 23 years since the first Redbone, the series has branched out into dozens of tournaments around the country and around the world, all with the same goal of raising money for CF research. The tournaments have raised millions of dollars toward that end, and have funded significant progress in fighting this dread disease.
The Redbone pairs celebrities from various walks of life with tournament anglers, and has seen a who’s who of sports stars, musicians, politicians and actors fish the events over the years. I got to fish with Jim “Crash” Jensen, the former Miami Dolphins star who in 12 seasons, played in many different positions for the team and is generally considered one of the most versatile and valuable players to ever play in the NFL.
Unfortunately, I think I brought bad luck to our team. In my last editorial in SWS, I made fun of redfish, a species that really is one of my favorites, all in good fun. Well, apparently, the redfish gods didn’t find it funny. During two days of fishing, those same fish whose intelligence I doubted in that editorial did a pretty good job of eluding us. If you made a movie of our escapades, you’d call it “Revenge of the Redfish.” We had a great time though, and in the end, it’s the raising of funds for CF that matters most, and once again, that mission was accomplished.
And in a moving tribute to his late brother, Clarence, Bill Clemons played a solo sax rendition of “America the Beautiful” for us one evening. It was awesome. Those are the kinds of things you only see when you fish a Redbone tournament.
As for Nicole Ellis, I’m happy to report that she’s now in her mid 20s and doing well, thanks in no small part to the work of her folks and the Redbone. To learn more, log on to http://www.redbone.org.