Ellis Honored With Coveted IGFA Award
A veteran Florida Keys fishing guide, who developed a series of angling tournaments that has raised millions of dollars for the fight against cystic fibrosis, has been honored by the International Game Fish Association.
Founder of the Redbone tournament series, Captain Gary Ellis received the Tommy Gifford Award at the 2014 IGFA Hall of Fame banquet. The award recognizes honorees in IFGA’s fraternity of Legendary Captains & Crew.
According to the IGFA website, primary criteria for nominees include leadership in their trade, having earned respect of their peers and having made meaningful contributions to recreational angling over an extended period of time.
The Redbone was born in the late 1980s, after Islamorada residents Gary and Susan Ellis’s daughter Nicole was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system.
Gary Ellis wanted to create a charity program and was encouraged by Major League Baseball hall-of-famer Ted Williams to build a CF fundraising event around what he knew best – fishing.
In 1988, the Ellis couple began the Redbone (named for the target species redfish and bonefish), a local celebrity-filled backcountry tournament, in Islamorada. During their first effort, they raised $16,000 for CF.
Now, 27 years later, that first tournament has evolved into 25 annual angling competitions, staged around the U.S. and Bahamas, that have raised almost $20 million for cystic fibrosis research and treatment.
Gifford, who died in 1970, is considered by sportfishing experts as one of the world’s most innovative bluewater anglers and among the greatest charterboat skippers. He served as guide and consultant to some of the most famous names in saltwater angling including Ernest Hemingway, Michael Lerner, Charlie Lehman and Van Campen Heilner.