First Responders Fishing Tournament

Barbara A. Schwartz

Houston may have been flooding, but that didn’t stop the fish from biting.

Contestants participating in the first annual First Responders Fishing Tournament braved rough seas, high winds, and chilly conditions on May 27th.

After a morning casting their lines, the first responders met at the Bay Area Community Center in Seabrook, Texas, for the 3 p.m. weigh in, a spirited lunch, and tournament festivities.

Open to active and retired law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, military, and Coast Guard first responders, the tournament’s goal was to provide a fun day of fishing and fish tales, to give those putting their lives on the line a reason to take a day off for much needed recreation, and for those who have paid the price of having their boots on the ground in the trenches a chance to relax with others who share the passion of fishing.

Houston Police Sgt. Epi Garza and recently retired Pasadena Officer Steve Brown created the tournament to give back to the first responders who put so much on the “line.” Steve hosted the Pasadena PD tournament for many years.

As a nonprofit undertaking, all the tournament proceeds are applied back into the tournament.

“Our goal,” Steve Brown explained, “is for the first responders to go home with more than they paid.”

Every participant received a bag that included a t-shirt, tickets for the lunch meal and door prizes, sponsor goodies, and a Texans Cheerleaders Calendar.

Tournament sponsors included: Houston Police Officers’ Union, Texas Police Trust, Baumann Propellers, Haynie Boats/Chris Marine, Hookspit Fishing Gear, Lonestar Veterans, Inspectorate, Allen Helfman, and Melissa Schechter ReMAX.

Lt. Scott Stewart of the Houston Police Major Offenders Unit considered the tournament a great time and a great way of getting officers together.

Sgt. John Thies of Houston Police Clear Lake Patrol enjoyed the tournament and was one of the few who hooked a fish.

Nassau Bay Police Chief Joe Cashiola fished off of Pelican Island and brought in a flounder.

Fishing in West and East Galveston Bay and San Luis pass produced the most catches. Unfortunately, many of the first responders fishing in other areas weren’t as lucky; and found themselves sitting on the dock due to the weather conditions and rough seas. One hundred boats participated in the tournament.

Door prizes included rods, reels, tackle boxes and fishing knives.

Items donated for raffle prizes included:

A Jose Altuve Baseball Bat, Pete Rose autographed baseball, Earl Campbell autographed football and Oilers jersey, and a Clowney autographed Texans jersey all donated by Allen Helfman; an American Rodsmiths Predator Rod and Concept Reel and Trout Master Lite and Concept C Reel donated by the tournament; a Yeti Cooler donated by the Texas Police Trust; Texas Tail Vodka Basket and Custom Rod donated by Tail Vodka; AR-15 Bushmaster donated by Houston Police Officers’ Union and Tim Butler; Port Mansfield fishing trip for two including two nights at the Mansfield Club and two days of guided fishing, plus food and drinks donated by Mansfield Club; and an Advocare basket donated by Denise Martinez.

Mark your calendars for next year’s tournament scheduled for May 25, 2016. For more information go to: or the first responders saltwater fishing tournament facebook page.

2015 tournament winners and their divisions are listed below:

Team Division

Requirements: Team of four. At least one first responder on the team. The teams compete against other teams and can use live bait or artificial.


1st Place Team

Bryan McNeel

Mark Bennett

Brian Bennett

Brandon Gralheer


2nd Place Team

Richard Jasso

Ray Garza

Rena Garza

JJ Puentes


3rd Place Team

Sean Wilcheck

Rob Anderson

Ronald Powledge

David Tamayo


Open Division

Requirements: Anyone can participate. Artificial lures only and the anglers compete against each other.

1st Place Open Division

Mike Hein

2nd Place Open Division

Harry Arthur

Third Place Open Division

Theo Presswood


1st Place Speckled Trout

Julio Lopez-Juan

2nd Place Speckled Trout

Ricky Wood

3rd Place Speckled Trout

Jason Cooper


1st Place Redfish

Rob Anderson

2nd Place Redfish

Sean Wilcheck

3rd Place Redfish

John Thies


1st Place Flounder

Kenny Johnson

2nd Place Flounder

Joey Cashiola

3rd Place Flounder

Ronnie Johnson