Gullett mullet tourney on the plate

When Ben Gullett died in 2008, his son Ricky Gullett thought long and hard about a way to honor his father. The elder Gullett had been a loved and respected fisherman and was one of the area’s best at throwing handmade cast nets over schools of mullet. Many church and civic groups counted on Ben Gullett to supply their fish for get-togethers however large or small.

After tossing it around, Ricky Gullett decided there was no better way to keep his father’s name alive than by putting together a mullet tournament.

On Oct. 15, numerous two-person teams will gather for a captain’s meeting at the Anna Maria Island Power Squadron, 1200 71st St. N.W., Bradenton, to start a 24-hour hunt in hopes of winning the third annual Ben Gullett Mullet Invitational.

“I knew whatever we did it had to be on the water, and with my dad being involved so heavily in the mullet business and all the friends that also mullet fished, it seemed like a good idea,’’ Ricky Gullett said.

“While most folks are familiar with fishing hook-and-line and hook-and-release tournaments, the mullet contest is a whole different concept.

“We’ve had a lot fun running it the last two years and have gotten good feedback,’’ Gullett said. “The idea of making it a mullet tournament and being only able to use cast nets makes it pretty unique. The tournament waters are from Tampa to Venice and we take only the six biggest fish. That’s pretty much it.

“Of course, unlike other fishing tournaments, we clean and cook the catch brought in. We don’t want to waste anything.’’

The tournament has two divisions: an adult group and youth division. Entry fee for an adult team is $150, while the youth teams compete for $75. The entry fee includes a captain’s bucket with two T-shirts and two dinner tickets.

The two-person teams will net and bring their six largest mullet — iced down and ready to clean — to the dock to be weighed. The mandatory captain’s meeting is from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15. The weigh-in takes place from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and it’s followed by a mullet banquet. And the Gulletts do the cooking.

Last year’s and the 2008 winners were Dwight Andress and Rod Griffin, and in the youth division last year, Joey Gullett and Dillon Hartman.

The first two tournaments were held at Star Fish Co. in Cortez, but due to scheduling conflicts the location was moved to the AMI Power Squadron this year. Gullett isn’t sure where next year’s location will be, but said Karen Bell, owner of Star Fish Co., expressed a desire to have the tournament return to Cortez in 2011.

All the entry fee money is paid out in prizes and money earned from the sale of dinner tickets to folks who don’t fish, but come to take part in the end-of-tournament feast is given to the charities. One of this year’s recipients is the Jerry Hill Memorial Kids Tournament.

“It’s important to give back to the young people in the community and Jerry’s tournament is well run and respected,’’ Gullett said. “A lot of kids over the years have been introduced to fishing by the tournament and my dad would be proud that in some way his name has helped that a little bit.’’

“Hopefully we will have a big turnout and even if you or someone you know isn’t fishing, come purchase dinner and help us raise money to give to the area youth programs.’’

To sign up or get more information call Chick Parker at 941-792-8314, or Ricky Gullett at 941-462-5567.

Mark J. Cook is an outdoor writer for the Tampa Tribune and columnist for In the Field magazine. He writes about local events, people and places.

Casting for mullet

What: Third annual Ben Gullet Mullet Invitational to benefit youth outdoor activities.

When: Oct. 15-16.

Mandatory captain’s meeting 6:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 15.

Weigh-in 4-5 p.m., Saturday Oct. 16.

Mullet dinner 4-7 p.m. $10 (for those who did not enter the tournament) includes choice of smoked or fried mullet, grits, slaw, dessert and tea.

Where: Anna Maria Power Squadron on Old Palma Sola Bay, 1200 71st St. N.W., Bradenton

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