Initially, the brothers were set to share their entertainment background and unique, hands-on experience with sharks, as part of an educational presentation for festival goers. By this time, as a result of a packed field of competitors and massive media coverage, the tournament (in its third year) and inaugural festival, being held in Fort Myers Beach, were attracting mainstream attention and wide-spread popularity.
Then, just 11 days before the event, Jack Donlon was invited to meet with public officials of Lee County and Fort Myers Beach to discuss certain aspects of the tournament format. Although, he had made key changes for 2010, and already had in place specific rules designed to limit the number of sharks competitively harvested, Donlon, with close support from the Paxtons, decided it was as good a time as any for conversion to a 100% catch & release format for 2009. The three took part in a press conference that day at City Hall to make the announcement, which included news of an even more exciting tournament with bigger prizes and special categories for sharks caught, tagged and released.
Inspired by what was a sold-out tournament and huge festival attendance, Donlon and the Paxtons have formed a development committee to create what will be, ‘The Next Generation Tournament Shark Fishing Model’.
Strategic alliances in this ambitious effort include:
Mote Marine Laboratory and the Director of its Center for Shark Research – Robert E. Hueter, Ph.D
Lee County Commissioner – Ray Judah
Director of Shark-Free Marinas – Luke Tipple
Talks are also under way with international corporations and individuals interested in sponsoring an innovative effort like this. Donlon says that, ‘Specific details will be announced in the coming weeks, but I can tell you, it’s been completely re-branded as: “The Ultimate Shark Challenge”.
The new tournament will be a series of three invitational competitions with the last anglers standing going head-to-head in a Grand Championship showdown. The finale will be surrounded by the highly anticipated return of the two-day ‘Shark Fest’, which is a family-friendly, educational and entertaining event for all ages’.
Already plans are underway for a major television broadcast which promises to deliver an adrenaline-fueled mix of extreme angling, cutting-edge documentation, research and wildlife management efforts. The show will be co-anchored by the Shark Brothers and Marine Biologist, Luke Tipple who says, ‘In these days of technological connectivity we will, for the first time, be able to put spectators right into the action, above and below the water. Our viewers will experience the sheer power and raw beauty of these animals, while seeing scientists and anglers working in concert to protect and understand their world’.
The tournament’s organizers confidently claim, ‘For the first time, what we like to call, ‘A Love em & Leave ‘em’ shark tournament will be transformed into a true spectator sport. Our goal is to give participants and viewers the most interactive, entertaining and educational shark-infested, multi-media spectacle found anywhere on the planet’. This is not your grandfather’s fishing contest, but something completely new that will establish the leading edge of a responsible future for tournament catch & release shark fishing.
By breaking some long-held traditions, and embracing the future with an innovative commitment to the environment, ‘The Ultimate Shark Challenge’ will be a ground breaking wildlife interaction experience for all ages that will leave audiences cheering for man and beast, alike.