I n early October, we were reminded how lucky we are to work with people and organizations that contribute to the betterment of the world. Attending the 34th annual Awards Banquet for the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA)’s State of Texas Angler Rodeo (S.T.A.R.) Tournament, we witnessed the awesome impact that this months-long, coast-wide event has on families and, ultimately, on the very future of fishing.
As a Scholarship Sponsor of the S.T.A.R. tournament since 1997, we have contributed almost $400,000 toward college scholarships for kids who have won in the STAR Teens Inshore Division. We’re certainly proud of that, but we are more proud that our modest support has been part of the larger impact this pioneering conservation organization has made on sea life, habitat and sportfishing, first in Texas and then along the entire U.S. coast.
Founded in 1977 by the late Walter Fondren as the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, GCCA waded right into the thick of a surging conservation battle, leading the charge against commercial fishing interests that threatened the survival of redfish as a viable sport fish along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Victorious in the Redfish War, GCCA kept moving forward as a leading voice for all saltwater species and coastal anglers. In the early 1990s, chapters formed in New England and mid-Atlantic regions, and “Gulf” and the “G” were dropped from CCA’s official name. Now, CCA is a national force in conservation, with chapters in 17 states spanning the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific Northwest.
A major factor in promoting this massive growth in scope and funding power was the novel concept that became the S.T.A.R. tournament. Tournament Director Bill Kinney has built S.T.A.R. into one of the largest fishing tournaments—and one of the most interesting amateur sporting events—in the world. He hasn’t done it alone. Operations Director Gina Rice and Customer Service Manager Peggy McMillan, along with a host of CCA staff and volunteers, have also been integral to S.T.A.R.’s 34-year success story.
The concept is simple, and boldly ambitious: for the whole summer, anglers fish the entire 384-mile Texas Coast, competing in a number of divisions for more than a million dollars in prizes, including trucks, boats—and best of all—a total of nine scholarships of $50,000 and $25,000. As a result of these powerhouse incentives, participation has grown to 50,000 anglers a year—including thousands of kids. And that’s just Texas. CCA S.T.A.R. tournaments have been established in other regions now, and because entry also requires membership in CCA, this popular event has been a driving force in the explosive growth in membership nationwide.
If you fish saltwater and are not fishing the S.T.A.R. tournament, you’re missing the chance to win some major league prizes—and maybe put a kid through college. If you fish saltwater and are not a member of CCA, you’re missing the opportunity to give back to a resource that has given us all more than we can ever repay.