Rock the Choptank by Terry Callahan

The Rock the Choptank Fishing Tournament was begun in 2014 with an idea written on a bar napkin. “A friend of mine, Chris Powell, said I should put on a fishing tournament on the Choptank River. I had put on events in the past. At first, I refused but it was a good idea to bring awareness to our great fishery and give back some money to local charities,” says Brett Dean, Tournament Co-Director along with Chris Powell. “Biggest challenge was putting all the pieces together to make it a sustainable tournament. Still, to this day, most of the people that help put it on are still with us today including sponsors.”
The tournament is held the third weekend in October when fishing is typically at its best here on the Choptank River. All registration is done before the tournament by coming to one of the captains meetings or registering online. Registration closes at the end of the last captains meeting, which is October 16. The first year Brett and Chris had hoped for 50 boats and ended up with 78. That year there were 251 anglers. Last year there were 150 boats and 632 anglers.
Originally the tournament weigh-in was held at the Cambridge Yacht Club. Later it was moved to Long Wharf Park to work with the City of Cambridge. The first prize rockfish was 33 inches and since then each year’s winner has averaged about the same.
Participants come from all over the Mid-Atlantic – Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is no limit as to how many people can participate per boat. Each angler pays a $65 entry fee which covers the tournament entry, a tournament t-shirt and food during the event. Participants are only allowed to fish in the Choptank River. Lines are in at 7 a.m. and lines are out at 2:30 p.m. Weigh-in starts at 2 p.m., rain or shine, and participants must be in line by 3:30 to determine prizes.
“We have 53 ways to win money; it’s the most of any rockfish tournament. First year (2014) we paid out a little over $12,000. Last year we paid out over $64,000 in cash and prizes. Keep in mind we also donated to 18 different local charities and families last year,” says Brett.
Over the past six years the tournament has donated to 46 different charities. “Every year is different and is based on the amount of participants we have in our tournament. Last year we donated to 18 different local charities totaling around $10,000. The tournament is a registered non-profit, so proceeds are used for the cost of running the tournament, things like the large payouts, T-shirt / food for each registered angler (the biggest expense), insurance, tents, scales, DJ, raffle items, supplies and staff. The non-profit also retains some money in the bank for next year’s tournament and mid-year donation requests.
In determining which organizations receive donations, Brett says they listen to their participants for the most part and ask for suggestions on social media. Most of the donations go to local organizations. Some examples of how donations have been used include helping the families of children battling illnesses, always important with helping them with medical costs or paying bills. Others involve giving meals or gifts to people in need.
“Last year we gave to the following – Wyatt Ewing Family, Crouse Family, Cambridge Little League, Tri-City Little League, Believe in Angels, Carvers Crew, Amy’s Army, Haven Ministries, Meals ‘Til Monday, Wreaths across America, Salvation Army, Dorchester Santa Drive, Talbot Hospice, Fish for a Cure, Public Safety Professionals of Talbot County, Young Life, Artic Foundation, and Vienna Elementary.”
When the tournament was started, the hopes for it were to have fun, to be an event that people looked forward to every year and, most importantly, to give back to the local community. Reflecting on the way the tournament has grown and developed, Brett says, “[It] Still amazes me how it has grown from a bar napkin idea to one of the largest tournaments around. It has taken a lot of work by a lot of people; I couldn’t have done it without them, especially Co-Director Chris Powell. The biggest THANK YOU must go out to all of our participants because without them none of this would be possible.”
People can get more information and/or sign up to participate via the Facebook page – Rock the Choptank, on the website – or in person at one of the captains meetings
Additionally, Brett Dean can be contacted at 213 Sunburst Hwy, Cambridge, MD 21613 or 410-463-1822.

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