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International Game Fish Association announces prestigious 2024 Annual Awards Recipients

by IGFA 11 Feb 18:56 UTC
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) © IGFA

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA), a global nonprofit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices today announced the 2024 recipients of its prestigious Annual Awards. Comprised of six categories, each award honors a unique component of sport fishing including conservation, heavy tackle angling, light tackle angling, sportsmanship, freshwater angling, and fly fishing.

This year's award winners include distinguished aquatic conservation professor Dr. Steven J. Cooke (Barry M. Fitzpatrick Conservation Award); revered angling advocate and educator, Tim Simpson (Chester H. Wolfe Sportsmanship Award); analytic light tackle luminary Arthur "Art" Weston (Bob Herder Light Tackle Award); offshore trailblazer Anthony Hsieh (Gil Keech Heavy Tackle Award); alligator gar expert and conservationist Captain Kirk Kirkland (Johnny Morris Freshwater Award); and multifaceted athlete, angler, and advocate Andy Mill (Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award).

"Each year, the IGFA Annual Awards celebrate the extraordinary achievements of anglers who embody the spirit of conservation, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport of fishing. The 2024 recipients represent the pinnacle of excellence in their respective fields, from groundbreaking contributions in fisheries conservation to enduring impacts in their respective disciplines," said IGFA President, Jason Schratwieser. "Their unwavering commitment to responsible, ethical angling practices and tireless efforts to promote the sport inspires us all. Congratulations to this remarkable group of individuals on their well-deserved recognition."

The 2024 Annual Award recipients were selected by the IGFA's Recognition Committee. Additional information on this year's award winners and the awards themselves are provided below.

Barry M. Fitzpatrick Conservation Award - Dr. Steven J. Cooke

The Barry M. Fitzpatrick Conservation Award was established in 1993 and honors those who have made significant and outstanding contributions towards fisheries conservation.

Dr. Steven J. Cooke, a professor of applied fish ecology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, stands as a luminary figure in aquatic conservation. With an unwavering dedication to advancing the science and management of recreational fisheries, Dr. Cooke's research leadership has profoundly impacted policies and practices worldwide. Boasting a remarkable portfolio of over 1,000 peer-reviewed papers, with a significant focus on recreational fisheries, Dr. Cooke's work spans diverse aquatic ecosystems, from inland lakes to the open seas. His interdisciplinary approach has led to pioneering contributions, including catch-and-release guidelines for numerous fish species and innovative strategies for fisheries management. Dr. Cooke's illustrious career has earned him prestigious honors such as the LeCren Medal and the Ricker Award, alongside esteemed appointments as Fellow of the American Fisheries Society and International Fellow of the Explorers Club. Notably, his service extends beyond academia, as evidenced by his leadership roles in organizations like the Sea Lamprey Research Board and KeepFishWet.org. In recognition of his tireless efforts to support healthy recreational fisheries worldwide, the IGFA proudly presents Dr. Steven J. Cooke with the 2024 IGFA Barry Fitzpatrick Conservation Award.

Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award - Tim Simpson

The Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award was established by Mrs. Barbara Wolfe in memory of her late husband to honor both his love of sport fishing and passion for ethical behavior on the water.

Tim Simpson, revered in the angling world, boasts a career spanning two decades as an esteemed IGFA Representative and dedicated member of the Game Fish Association of Australia (GFAA). Rooted in a lifelong passion for fishing, Simpson helmed Australia's largest fishing tackle stores for twenty years before leading BlueWater Magazine, the premier offshore fishing publication globally. Throughout his tenure, Simpson ensured IGFA's prominent presence, advocating for the organization within the angling community. Co-author of The Book of Lures and a seven-time IGFA world record holder, Simpson's expertise in angling techniques is unmatched. His influence extends beyond publications, with roles as a tournament judge, advisor to angling associations, and a pivotal tenure on The Billfish Foundation's board. An enduring educator, Simpson's commitment to sharing angling knowledge spans over four decades, with appearances on national and international TV fishing shows and contributions to Australia's HiTide radio fishing show for over two decades. The 2024 IGFA Chester H. Wolfe Sportsmanship Award honors Simpson's unwavering dedication to promoting the sport and advocating for ethical angling practices, marking his indelible impact on the global angling community.

Bob Herder Light Tackle Award - Arthur "Art" Weston

The Bob Herder Award acknowledges anglers for outstanding achievements in the field of light-tackle angling.

Arthur "Art" Weston's passion for fishing blossomed during his formative years in Illinois, USA, where he honed his skills alongside his family. As his angling horizons expanded, so did his adventures, leading him to exotic locales and diverse fish species. Art's journey intersected with the IGFA in 2017 during a memorable fishing expedition in Uruguay with IGFA Representative Patrick Brown, where he clinched his inaugural IGFA World Record for golden dorado, igniting a fervent dedication to record-breaking pursuits. Since then, Art has etched his name in angling history, securing an impressive 18 IGFA Line Class World Records, including a remarkable seven on 1-kg (2-lb) test, and five IGFA Tippet Class World Records. Notably, Art garnered widespread acclaim in 2023 with his record-setting capture of a 128.37-kilogram (283-pound) alligator gar on 3-kg (6-lb) test, achieving the extraordinary "50:1" ratio, a feat unparalleled in freshwater fishing. Through his YouTube channel, Art shares insights into light tackle angling techniques, showcasing his mastery of line strength and knot integrity. With a string of historic catches underscoring his prowess, Art Weston stands as a beacon in the realm of light tackle angling, deserving of the 2024 IGFA Bob Herder Light Tackle Award in recognition of his remarkable achievements and contributions to the sport.

Gil Keech Heavy Tackle Award - Anthony Hsieh

The Gil Keech Award acknowledges anglers for outstanding achievements in the field of heavy-tackle angling.

Anthony Hsieh's journey in fishing began in his early years in southern California, USA, where he frequented the piers before transitioning to work on various long-range boats, refining his skills. At 19, he acquired his first boat, setting the stage for decades of offshore fishing adventures aboard a fleet of vessels christened "Bad Company." Under his stewardship, this offshore fishing empire flourished, boasting a fleet of sportfishing boats led by IGFA Tommy Gifford Award recipient Captain Steve Lassley that set records for tournament winnings. Embarking on a "World Tour" in 2022, Anthony and Bad Company have traversed multiple destinations, including Madeira, the Azores, and the Great Barrier Reef, while hosting seminars and producing educational videos on billfishing tactics and conservation. Anthony's remarkable journey also encompasses his role as an entrepreneur, building successful fintech companies and founding War Heroes On Water, a charity fishing tournament benefiting combat-wounded veterans. A skilled angler, captain, and visionary leader, Anthony's commitment to sharing his passion for fishing transcends mere sport, offering enthusiasts a chance to partake in unforgettable fishing expeditions and life-changing experiences aboard Team Bad Company. For these monumental achievements and unwavering dedication to the sport of fishing, Anthony is honored as the recipient of the prestigious 2024 Gil Keech Heavy Tackle Award.

Johnny Morris Freshwater Angling Award - Captain Kirk Kirkland

The IGFA Johnny Morris Freshwater Angling Award was established in 2023 and acknowledges anglers who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the world of freshwater angling.

Captain Kirk Kirkland's lifelong journey in fishing commenced beside his father near Houston, Texas, USA, where his family's seafood markets fueled his fascination with alligator gar. In 1995, a chance encounter with a Dutch angler sparked the inception of Kirk's fishing guide business when they effortlessly landed four colossal alligator gar. Recognizing the global interest in this formidable species, Kirk officially launched his guide service in 1996, catering to anglers from around the world. His collaboration with television shows in 2005 catapulted him into the spotlight, leading to 73 TV appearances and numerous features in magazines and news articles. Leveraging his media presence and deep-seated knowledge of the alligator gar fishery, Kirk became a staunch advocate for conservation regulations. In 2007, a pivotal partnership with IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame Inductee Dr. Marty Arostegui propelled Kirk into the realm of fly fishing for gar, resulting in over 100 IGFA World Records, including numerous accolades for alligator gar alone. Notably, Kirk's expertise guided his client Art Weston to the IGFA All-Tackle World Record in 2023 with a remarkable 283-pound catch. In recognition of his transformative contributions to freshwater angling and global promotion of gar fishing, the IGFA proudly bestows the 2024 IGFA Johnny Morris Freshwater Angling Award upon Captain Kirk Kirkland.

Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award - Andy Mill

The IGFA Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award was established in 2023 and acknowledges anglers who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the world of fly fishing.

Andy Mill's diverse career spans athletics, broadcasting, and angling, each marked by notable achievements. As a two-time Olympian and four-time World Championships skier, his valor at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics earned him the "Olympic Skiing Award." Inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1993, Mill transitioned into a 20-year broadcasting career, covering esteemed events like the Olympics. However, it is in fishing where Mill finds profound fulfillment, paralleling the dedication he brought to skiing and broadcasting. Renowned for his success in fly-fishing tournaments, he has clinched numerous prestigious titles, including five Gold Cups and six Golden Flies. Beyond competition, Mill educates and advocates for the sport through media platforms like the Sportsman's Journal with Andy Mill and his acclaimed book, A Passion for Tarpon. Co-founder of the Mill House Podcast, he shares angling insights with a wider audience. Honored with inductions into The City of Aspen Hall of Fame and awards such as the Curt Gowdy Media Award, Mill's contributions to fly fishing are commemorated with the 2024 IGFA Joe Brooks Fly Fishing Award, acknowledging his enduring impact.

To learn more about the IGFA Annual Awards or make a nomination, go to www.igfa.org/annual-awards.

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