Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Reel Charity

Friday’s ‘Bucs on the Bay’ fishing tournament, sponsored by Red Lobster Restaurants, produced one surprise victor but many expected winners

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Is it possible that expert fisherman Joe Marciano (top, with fellow crew member) was upset in Friday's Bucs on the Bay tournament?

It wasn't quite the 'Miracle on Ice.'

Come to think of it, this wasn't a match for the 1990 Cincinnati Reds or '85 Villanova, either. It was, however, a sizeable upset.

In conjunction with Pewter Partner Red Lobster Restaurants, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the inaugural 'Bucs on the Bay' fishing tournament Friday, and the trophy winner was not the expected man. Given his extensive fishing background and his less than bashful predictions on the eve of the tournament, Special Teams Coach Joe Marciano was considered the prohibitive favorite of the first Bucs on the Bay.

Marciano was Mike Tyson. Linebacker Shelton Quarles played Buster Douglas.

Quarles and his crew walked away with the top prize on Friday, having reeled in a dozen fish totaling 198 inches. The scaly victims – who were all tossed back, of course – were mostly snook and catfish. Elsewhere, Marciano's crew was intent on winning it all with one snag. They settled over a large school of tarpon but couldn't get a bite thanks to Friday's rolling waters.

Like Tyson against Douglas, it was over almost before it started for Marciano. With a peculiar storm battering the ships intermittently throughout the morning, the conditions were far from ideal for hauling in a trophy fish like a tarpon. The crews that headed south towards St. Petersburg and set their sights a bit lower eventually prevailed.

"With the weather today, it made sense to go for the smaller fish and try to catch more numbers," said tight end Todd Yoder, who snagged the prize for the largest single fish caught, a 24-inch snook. "We had three big snook that we got pictures of and some others that got away."

That mean no dramatic, hour-long wars but a series of smaller battles against the still feisty snook. "They fight really good," said Yoder, who has previously fished in several freshwater tournaments. "They hit hard and take off running on you. It was a good time."

And a good cause. Through the sponsorship efforts of Red Lobster Restaurants and the corporate generosity with the competing teams, Bucs on the Bay raised approximately $50,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay and the Glazer Family Foundation. Forty children from the Boys and Girls Clubs attended the event in the morning and mingled with the Buccaneer players and coaches on hands. After helping the competing boats shove off, the young spectators were taken on a cruise around the bay on a replica pirate ship.

"We are trying to make a major statement in the Tampa community that we are a part of the community and we're giving back to the people," said Ken Mills of Red Lobster Restaurants. "We're looking for causes that we can align with, and that can align with the Buccaneers to benefit the Greater Tampa Bay community."

Mills helped the visiting children onto the pirate ship but didn't accompany them, as he was preparing for his own launch on a tournament boat. The touring kids came back to the dock after a brief ride; Mills wasn't as lucky.

Like the rest of the participants, to varying degrees, Mills suffered through a series of showers as a rambling storm buffeted the bay throughout the late morning and afternoon. The various fishing boats, most of which held a Buccaneer representative spread out around the bay but none were completely spared of the storm's punishment. Among the players and coaches braving the elements on Friday were Quarles and fellow linebackers Alshermond Singleton, Jeff Gooch and Jude Waddy, plus kicker Martin Gramatica, tight end Todd Yoder, fullback Charles Kirby, safety Eric Vance, Tight Ends Coach Ricky Thomas and Marciano.

The storm cloud appeared to obey the peculiar meteorological physics of Friday the 13th, which this was, circling the bay and periodically hitting the boats from different angles. Eventually, it settled in over the whole body of water and mercilessly pounded those crews that chose not to run back for cover. Gramatica's crew, for instance, pulled in roughly an hour later than the rest, having explored much of the bay. Soaked from head to toe, Gramatica also quickly learned that he had been topped by Quarles' crew in the final count. However, Gramatica did win the day's prize for most fish caught by an individual. Singleton's group won the award for most fish caught by an entire boat.

Thus many of the crews went away rewarded, and all were in high spirits despite the rain.

"We couldn't be happier," said Mills. "The Boys & Girls Club is an organization that Red Lobster supports, particularly in Central Florida. We're only too happy to support the Buccaneers with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa."

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