This will be the year the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament threatened to go legit.
Gone was the small sand parking lot, the salty local bar, and the rag tag group of fisherman. In its place, there was the runway expanse of the West Dennis Beach parking lot, cars with license plates from all over the place, and a very clean, upstanding restaurant. Where Ted and Grant used to hand out tournament bags from the back of a truck, this year Ted dispensed them from the back of a UHaul — the same vehicle whose roof he stood upon to proclaim the rules and start the tournament.
At the awards ceremony, looking around at the 200 plus participants, the branded Simms truck, and the winners — of whom, there was at least one who had branded team shirts — I thought: Wasn’t this tournament started as a kind of joke?
To be clear, I mean that as a compliment. Whereas tournaments are usually about big fish, this is a schoolie tournament. The concept of the title is the largest of the smallest fish. When I first heard of that, I thought: Now this is my kind of tournament — one with a sense of humor.
Thankfully, that sense of humor was preserved. One of the prizes was given for the smallest schoolie. The prize? A pair of spinning reels. (Hats off to Cheeky for that one.) The social media prize? Went to a phot0 of an inflatable shark with a measuring tape and tournament sign next to it. The prizes this year were no joke, either: Costa, Simms, Fishpond, Sage — all threw in lots of nice gear. The top prizes totaled more than $1,500. Not bad for a few stripah’s.
This trajectory — from a small following to a serious, yet still tongue-in-cheek business — is the trajectory of Cheeky. They’ve built a great business. They have a loyal following. They believe in and support important issues like conservation. And they always have fun doing it.
We do too. My perennial partner and I are serious about having fun. We always go for the laugh and to scout new spots. This year, the weather on Cape Cod was perfect: not too much wind, some sun and some clouds. The tide was terrible, but we managed to catch the last of the drop and hook into a few fish. I lost the first fish of the day, undoubtedly the nicest, when my line wrapped around my reel. My partner had some reels troubles later in the day, which required a field re-assembly of his Tibor — something I had done in my stripping basket earlier that day. All in all, we caught maybe 6 stripers, fought a few more, with one in the 20″ class. Nothing in the 30″. I did catch two sea robbins, though — a first for me on the fly.
The Cheeky schoolie tourney is an annual must do for me and my partner. It’s always great to see friends, and to make new ones. So long as there are schoolies, and so long as the tournament keeps its sense of humor, we’ll be back.
Congrats, Ted, Grant and others on a great tournament.