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Veterans join teams for annual Grouper Grapple

August 21, 2019
By JORDAN HESTER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The popular 7th Annual Grouper Grapple was held over the weekend, with much fanfare.

"The Grouper Grapple is a non-profit that we, Fishtale Marina, team up with, along with Reunite the Fight, another not-for-profit, to help veterans meet up with other vets, either from their previous units or with others that need the same brotherhood they can't find in the regular working world," Mallory Smith, marketing and events coordinator for Fishtale Marina, said.

The goal of the Grapple is to get sponsored teams of six anglers, mostly comprised of veterans, who are invited to spend the weekend on Fort Myers Beach and to compete in a fishing tournament centered on who catches the biggest grouper.

Article Photos

Chris Exley, John Bergman, Tom Milazzo, Will Martin, Jeff Thomas, Matt Cummins, Scott Gato, Darius, Matt Campbell, Mike Rash, Chris Coheley (some not featured in picture)


"It gives our vets a way to enjoy regular experiences without having a lot of eyes on them. Most of the time they want to have regular, no nonsense fun as much as anyone would. This gives them an opportunity to do a little traveling, do a little fishing, and enjoy the brotherhood they have with other vets," Sean Simmonds, director for Reunite The Fight in North Carolina, said.

A dozen veterans were brought down for this one, where they were mixed into six-man teams of sponsors and captains with the goal out out-fishing the other teams, with meals and tours around the Beach spaced out in chunks over the weekend.

The spirit of the event is to bring veterans together for something fun, yet calm and relaxing, to reignite a simple spark of life into what may seem like very ordinary things, especially after a tour of service.

"I remember I participated in the first event, and I've been a sponsor and helped out every year since," Simmonds said. "It's the worst kept secret we have -- as soon as it's over, I've got a dozen guys finding out about it and wanting to sign up for next year.

"It can really change the life of a vet, though, it did for me for sure. It's comforting to know we might just save one life, much less make a couple dozen more smile a little easier," Simmonds said.

The top teams for the tournament were (heaviest three grouper weighed):

1st Place: Snake In The Grass, 66.50 pounds

2nd Place: Reel Easy, 59.20 pounds

3rd Place: Savage, 53.80 pounds

The junior angler tournament was also held on Saturday, with a half dozen entrants.

Another beneficiary of the tournament was the Jeff Sommer Memorial Fund. The former coach and athletic director at Estero High School is a beloved figure for a lot of people in the area. He passed away unexpectedly in May 2015.



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