Cedar Key, Florida, was abuzz – literally – with the sound of airboats on Saturday, May 5. It was the site of the 14th Annual GTO Performance Airboats Fishing Tournament sponsored by Sensenich Propellers. With a good turnout, great weather and an estimated total payout of $15,000, all anglers had prime opportunities to catch redfish and trout throughout the day. Judging by the amount of fish at the weigh-in it was a great day. David Deen caught the largest redfish at 6.74lbs, but there were many fish caught by many anglers. Speckled Trout were as abundant as the Reds and good combination weights were achieved. After fishing all day, the beach at the city park was overrun with airboats just before the weigh-in at four-o-clock, with all the contestants vying to get their fish weighed and get some food provided by the sponsors. There were so many boats that the beach filled up, as did the adjacent seawall. It was quite an unusual sight to see so many airboats on a Florida beach.
Although it is unusual to see airboats out on saltwater bays, Cedar Key and its surrounding waters are ideal for the use of these vessels. With large protected bodies of water and plenty of marshland these boats can get to fishing holes that are otherwise inaccessible by any other means. Many of the airboats were equipped with the latest fishing gear you would expect to find on any well-appointed bay boat. The range of airboats was wide, with basic boats all the way up to full-blown custom rigs. Power poles and trolling motors along with high-end GPS/chartplotters were deployed. This unique type of saltwater fishing has proven successful and popular in central and northwestern Florida. Many boats, such as those made by the sponsor GTO, are made to withstand the rigors of salt water and list options suited to this kind of fishing. Stealth is not a key feature while the engine is running, but these boats can go almost anywhere and are not restricted by tides the way conventional boats are. They provide a unique way to fish a unique area in a unique tournament.