DANIA BEACH, Fla. – The International Game Fish Association (IGFA), a global nonprofit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices today announced the 2023 recipients of its prestigious Annual Awards. Comprised of six awards, two of which are new this year, each award honors a unique component of sport fishing including conservation, heavy tackle angling, light tackle angling, sportsmanship, freshwater angling and fly fishing.
This year’s award winners include Tuna Champions founder Dr. Sean Tracey (Barry M. Fitzpatrick Conservation Award); passionate angling advocate and promoter Bonnie Powell (Chester H. Wolfe Sportsmanship Award); renowned billfish tournament angler Nick Smith (Bob Herder Light Tackle Award); lure-making innovator and big game specialist Andy Moyes (Gil Keech Heavy Tackle Award); experiential retail pioneer and renowned conservationist Johnny Morris (inaugural Johnny Morris Freshwater Award); and beloved fly fishing personality Joe Brooks (inaugural Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award).
“As we celebrate the vast achievements of our annual award recipients, we are reminded of the immense passion, dedication and innovation found within the recreational angling community. Despite their diverse accomplishments, these individuals all embody the same core values: a passion for fishing and a commitment to conserving game fish and their habitats for future generations,” said IGFA President Jason Schratwieser. “Congratulations to all of this year’s recipients and may their commitment to our sport continue to inspire and motivate us all.”
The 2023 annual award recipients were selected by the IGFA’s Recognition Committee. Additional information on this year’s award winners and the awards themselves are provided below.
Barry M. Fitzpatrick Conservation Award – Dr. Sean Tracey
The Barry M. Fitzpatrick Conservation Award was established in 1993 and honor those who have made significant and outstanding contributions towards fisheries conservation.
Dr. Sean Tracey’s life-long passion for the ocean and angling led him to a career in fisheries biology. From the extreme northern latitudes of Norway tagging bluefin tuna to engaging with the booming recreational swordfish fishery in the temperate waters near Australia, he has travelled around the world fishing for and working with a wide range of marine species. A passionate advocate for education, knowledge sharing, and citizen science, Sean founded the highly successful Tuna Champions program, one of the largest post-release survival projects in the world using state-of-the-art satellite tagging technology. Working closely with recreational anglers, this initiative to reduce unnecessary mortality in southern bluefin tuna through evidence-based fishing and handling practices has been instrumental in fostering the behavioral change within the recreational sector. A blueprint for improving stewardship in other fisheries, Tracey’s research has also gained traction in the competitive angling realm with tournament rule changes influenced by the latest data, and in the retail market, where conservation-approved gear is branded for SBT fishing. Dr. Tracey also serves as an IGFA representative, SAP member, and Oceania Regional Council Conservation member.
Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award – Bonnie Powell
The Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award was established by Mrs. Barbara Wolfe in memory of her late husband to honor both his love of sport fishing and passion for ethical behavior on the water.
For decades, Bonnie Powell has served as an enthusiastic advocate for recreational angling and the voice of light tackle competition as a tournament broadcaster. Her impressive fishing resume includes countless trips to top angling destinations around the world and two IGFA World Records. A consummate steward of the sport for nearly 40 years, she joined the International Women’s Fishing Association (IWFA) in the 1980s, serving as President from 1991 – 1993. In 1999, she was the recipient of the acclaimed Anne Kunkle Memorial Sportsmanship Award and in 2000 received the organization’s pinnacle honor by being inducted into the IWFA Hall of Fame. In 2016 she was also awarded the prestigious John Rybovich Award from the Billfish Foundation. As one of the most benefic promoters of her sport, Bonnie served as the voice of many premier competitions as a tournament broadcaster including The Masters Angling Tournament, The Ocean Reef Cup, the Stuart Sailfish Club’s Light Tackle Tournament, the Sailfish Club of Florida’s Gold Cup and the IGFA Light Tackle Open. Bonnie also served as the Executive Secretary for the International Light Tackle Tournament Association for many years and was instrumental in the execution of their annual tournament.
Bob Herder Light Tackle Award – Nick Smith
The Bob Herder Award acknowledges anglers for outstanding achievements in the field of light-tackle angling.
Nick Smith began fishing off the Palm Beaches of Florida in 1955 but became captivated by fly fishing for billfish in November 1999. Since that time, he has established himself as a frontrunner of the sport, having caught and released over 6,000 billfish on IGFA legal leaders and fly tackle. With an impressive resume of tournament wins, awards, and other angling accomplishments, his passion for billfishing has never waned. He is a six-time winner of the world’s oldest sailfish tournament, the famous Rea Trophy in the Silver Sailfish Derby, and a five-time winner of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club’s top sailfish release award, the Tracy Schneider Memorial Trophy. Smith’s impressive accomplishments extend beyond catch statistics and tournament wins, though they certainly demonstrate his mastery. He has helped pioneer numerous fishing techniques, tackle modifications and boat designs and exhibits increasing dedication to the sport with each passing year.
Gil Keech Heavy Tackle Award – Andy Moyes
The Gil Keech Award acknowledges anglers for outstanding achievements in the field of heavy-tackle angling.
Andy Moyes is a well-known angler and captain touring the world in search of the ocean’s largest predators, yet his foremost impact on big game angling is as a lure maker. Regardless of where anglers are targeting marlin in the world, many top boats are pulling Moyes’ lures and teasers. In 1983, Andy Moyes began making lures as a teenager in his garage, long before he saw his first blue marlin. Since then, Moyes Big Game Lures has become one of the most established and well-respected lure companies in the industry. Moyes’ lures have scored handfuls of marlin over the coveted 1,000-pound mark, including the IGFA Women’s 60-kg (130-lb) Line Class World Record, a 1,305-pound fish caught by Jada Holt. In addition to the number of “grander” marlin Moyes’ lures have produced, numerous prominent tournaments have been won using Moyes Big Game Lures. A prominent captain and angler in his own right, Moyes has traveled the world in pursuit of the ocean’s top game fishes building an impressive track record of catches, including bluefin tuna and blue marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds. Andy Moyes has not only developed an impressive resume as a big game angler but has made an indelible impact on the big game trolling world through the production of his renowned custom trolling lures and teasers.
Johnny Morris Freshwater Angling Award – Johnny Morris
The IGFA Johnny Morris Freshwater Angling Award acknowledges anglers who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the world of freshwater angling.
Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, got his start in 1972 by selling fishing tackle out of eight square feet of space in the back of his father’s Brown Derby liquor store. Since then, he has earned a reputation as one of the most visionary and influential retailers of the last 50 years. Morris grew up hunting and fishing in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri with his mom and dad and at age 21, fell in love with the emerging sport of bass fishing. After spending five years on the professional tournament circuit and meeting anglers from all over the country, he recognized a need for an outdoor retailer that catered to the booming world of freshwater angling and Bass Pro Shops was born. In 1974, the company’s first mail-order catalog was published in response to growing demand from anglers across the country who wanted access to the broad selection and competitive prices that could only be found inside the Springfield, Missouri liquor and bait shop. Soon thereafter, Bass Pro Shops became a household name and today 200 retail locations offer destination experiences that draw millions of visitors annually. A conservationist at heart, his work to conserve wildlife and habitat for future generations has resulted in numerous prestigious awards including the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award in 1990, the Audubon Medal in 2019, and induction into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in 2005.
Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award – Joe Brooks (1901 – 1972)
The IGFA Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award acknowledges anglers who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the world of fly fishing.
Joe Brooks is remembered as one of America’s best all-around anglers and one who did as much to popularize fly-fishing during his time as any single person in the world. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Brooks passed up a chance to be a major league baseball pitcher and went to work in his family’s insurance company. But in 1945, Brooks left Baltimore to pursue his true passion – fly fishing. Shortly, he discovered that the next best thing to fishing was writing about it. His reputation as a savvy angler and solid writer grew, and soon brought opportunities to do features for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and other major publications. Eventually, Brooks became the fishing editor for Outdoor Life, a post he held for many years. Brooks’ ascendancy as an angler and writer coincided with the rise of television. He made several TV films, but the most successful and well-known are those he did for The American Sportsman. In addition, he authored numerous books, including his final and most enduring work, Trout Fishing. His books are some of the most instructive ever published on the subject of saltwater fly-fishing. Brooks was known for his wit, his gentlemanly nature, and his devotion to sportsmanship and conservation. But even more, he was known as a master angler, setting several IGFA World Records. Joe Brooks was inducted into the inaugural IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame Class in 1998.
To learn more about the IGFA Annual Awards or make a nomination, go to www.igfa.org/annual-awards.
About the International Game Fish Association
Established in 1939, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) is a global nonprofit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices. With members in more than 100 countries, the IGFA is the world’s leading authority on sport fishing and maintains the global database of game fish world records and angling rules. Through education, research, advocacy, and angler recognition, the IGFA strives to ensure the future of fishing and sustainable fisheries around the world. To learn more or become a member, visit www.igfa.org.