Gold Cup Tournament

Official Rules

The following “GCTT Rules,” as amended June 2017, shall govern the 2017 Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament:


1.01 The Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament (the “Tournament”) is the longest continuously running tarpon fly tournament, and the purpose of these rules is to promote and foster the Tournament’s legacy of sportsmanship and fair competition among friends in pursuit of landing large tarpon on fly tackle.

1.02 The Tournament shall take place each year in Islamorada, Florida, beginning on the third Monday in June, and shall continue for five full fishing days through Friday. There will be a kick-off and registration banquet the Sunday evening before the first day of fishing and an awards and closing event after the last day of fishing.

1.03 The Tournament shall be governed by the fly fishing rules of the International Game Fish Association (“IGFA Rules”) and these GCTT Rules, as amended from time to time. In the rare instances when the GCTT Rules may conflict with the IGFA Rules, the GCTT Rules shall supersede the IGFA Rules. It is the responsibility of each Angler and Guide to know the IGFA Rules and the GCTT Rules.

1.04 The Tournament shall be conducted by various committees as set forth below and by the annual chairperson who shall be elected by the prior year’s Anglers. In the event the elected chairperson cannot serve, the chairperson shall be the prior year’s Grand Champion or First Runner-Up.


2.01 The Tournament is open to a limit of 25 Anglers by invitation only. Invitations will be issued to prospective Anglers based upon approval of an Invitation Committee. Anglers desiring an invitation may submit an application to the Invitation Committee. Anglers receiving an invitation must confirm participation by paying an entry fee deposit prior to December 1 preceding the Tournament. Final entry fee payment will be due by February 15. Unpaid Anglers risk losing a place in the Tournament.

2.02 The Invitation Committee should consider the following factors when selecting Anglers to receive an invitation: 1) Anglers who participated in the prior year’s Tournament, 2) past Grand Champions, 3) past participants based on number of years fished, and 4) new anglers based on waiting time.

2.03 Each Angler must fish with a Guide licensed by the United States Coast Guard. Guides cannot fish. Only the Angler and Guide are permitted aboard the skiff during the fishing day.

2.04 Guides may not guide for a member of their immediate family, defined as spouse, sibling, child, or parent.

2.05 An active Florida skiff Guide, defined as an individual having provided guiding services for hire within the prior six months, shall not be eligible to participate as an Angler.

2.06 The Tournament shall set an entry fee which shall include all banquets and other daily and evening activities for the Angler and Guide. Guests may be added to these activities for an additional fee set by the Tournament.

2.07 In the event of emergency or illness, an Angler or Guide may have a substitute.

2.08 The Angler is responsible for daily Guide fees.

2.09 The Anglers and Guides shall be randomly placed on five teams of equal size for purposes of starting times and team awards.

2.10 The Angler and his Guide must attend the pre-tournament kick-off banquet to confirm registration, receive Tournament information, and pick up measuring packets.


3.01 Only fly casting will be permitted, and only artificial lures may be used. Only one-handed rods and single action reels are eligible to be used. The rod may not be altered after a fish is hooked.

3.02 Tippet will be 16 lb. manufacturer’s stated test and will be furnished at no charge by the Tournament.

3.03 Leaders must contain not less than 15 inches of Tournament approved tippet material between the knots. A shock tippet may be of nonmetallic or metallic material, may not exceed 12 inches including the knots, and must be tied directly to the Tournament approved tippet.

3.04 A broken rod, above the reel seat, will not disqualify a caught or released fish.

3.05 A release gaff may be used and must be no more than two feet long with ropes or straps not to exceed 12 inches. Fish may be lip gaffed only.


4.01 Each day the fishing shall begin at a Fishing Headquarters selected by the Tournament, and all Anglers must sign-in prior to departing to fish.

4.02 All boats must depart from and return to Fishing Headquarters by water. Anglers and Guides may fish any areas accessible by boat from Fishing Headquarters.

4.03 Under the direction of an official starter, skiffs will leave in a “staggered start” fashion by teams. The first team shall leave at 5:45am, the second at 6:00am, and the remaining teams in two minute intervals thereafter. Starting times shall be rotated among the teams each day to assure that each team receives a different starting time each day, and that each team receives each starting time once during the Tournament.

4.04 Fishing may begin as soon as a skiff arrives at a fishing spot. Fishing may continue until 3:00pm at which time lines must be out of the water. A fish hooked prior to 3:00pm may be fought, caught, and released after 3:00pm. However, all boats must return to Fishing Headquarters by 5:00pm. Boats returning to Fishing Headquarters after 5:00pm may incur a penalty as set forth in Section VI.

4.05 The start on any day may be delayed by the Tournament in the event of imminent inclement or dangerous weather. In the event of severe weather (i.e. tropical storm), the Tournament committee may reduce the number of fishing days.

4.06 The policy of the Tournament is that the first skiff to reach a spot is entitled to fish there. The Guides Committee strongly recommends strict observation of all recognized courtesies and sporting practices between skiffs. This includes giving way and sufficient room to other boats in an area that typically accommodates more than one skiff under normal fishing conditions. Understanding that the Florida Keys waters are fished by many skiffs each day, it is considered unsportsmanlike and a rules violation to have a spot “saved” by another boat.

4.07 Chumming or fishing in or near chummed areas is not allowed. In addition, there will be no fishing within 150 yards of known “pet fish” areas, such as Robbie’s Marina.

4.08 There will be no fishing or staking above the “pocket” of Buchanan Bank.

4.09 No assistance may be given to any Angler other than by his Guide who handles the boat, gaffs or grabs fish, and measures or releases fish.

4.10 No Angler or Guide may scout for fish using aircraft during the period from the beginning of fishing on the first day until the end of fishing on the last day.


5.01 The fishing boat shall be a traditional flats skiff design or at the discretion of the Rules Committee.

5.02 Each skiff shall be properly equipped with Coast Guard safety equipment. Guides are expected to operate skiffs in keeping with applicable boating laws and traditional fishing and boating norms for the areas fished.

5.03 All skiffs shall have running lights; any skiff without operative running lights shall not be allowed to leave Fishing Headquarters prior to 6:15am. Running lights must be kept on until 6:15am whether running or stationary.

5.04 No ladder or heightening device platform shall extend more than four feet above the gunwale of the skiff.

5.05 Electric motors are not allowed. The Rules Committee may waive this rule for valid medical reasons.


6.01 The Tournament Grand Champion shall be the Angler who accumulates the most points during the five days of fishing. In addition, the Tournament may also recognize point totals or fish caught by other finishers in individual or team awards.

6.02 For purposes of measuring and scoring, the Tournament shall issue to each Angler and Guide a measuring packet including: a four foot stick, a measuring tape, five zip-tie “straps,” a roll of sticky tape, and five Catch and Release forms. The Angler or Guide shall provide a digital camera.

6.03 Fish may be submitted for points as either a released fish (a “Release”) or as a weight fish (a “Weight Fish”). Anglers may submit no more than five Weight Fish for scoring during the Tournament. As described below, Releases and Weight Fish must be hooked, fought, and brought to hand or lip gaff to earn points. Fish shall be caught, and points shall be earned, in compliance with Federal, State and local fishing regulations for the waters fished.

6.04 There is no limit to the number of Releases allowed; however, an Angler’s total Release points allowed may not exceed that Angler’s total Weight Fish points. For team scoring, a team may count release points of an Angler without weight points, provided that the team’s aggregate release points do not exceed the team’s aggregate weight points.

6.05 After capturing a fish by lip gaff or hand, the Angler and Guide must decide whether to score the fish as a Release or a Weight Fish. In order to score as a Weight Fish, a fish must weigh 70 pounds or more, and prior to measurement, the Angler and Guide must estimate the weight of the fish in the water. It is considered unsportsmanlike for an Angler or Guide to partially lift a fish from the water to estimate weight.

6.06 If the Angler and Guide decide to score a caught fish as a Release, then Release points are earned by taking a digital image is of the fish clearly demonstrating that the Angler or Guide has complete control over the fish by hand or lip gaff. The image should show as much of the fish as possible. If necessary, the length should be verified with the four foot stick, as measured along the side (lateral line) from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. A Release is worth 300 points.

6.07 Alternatively, if they decide to score a caught fish as a Weight Fish, then the Angler and Guide must complete the following procedure as quickly as possible: 1) using the measuring tape, the length of the fish shall be measured along its side (lateral line) in inches from the tip of the lower jaw to the center of the fork of the tail with such length recorded on the Catch and Release form, 2) the girth shall be measured using a zip-tie “strap” which shall be placed around the widest part of the fish, perpendicular to the lateral line, and closed snugly, 3) the Angler or Guide must then take a digital image of the fish showing as much of the fish as possible with the strap on the fish, and 4) the strap should be slipped off and secured with the sticky tape. If for any reason, the Weight Fish scoring procedure is not completed, but a digital image of the caught fish is taken, then the Angler is still entitled to Release points under section 6.06 for successfully capturing the fish.

6.08 At the conclusion of each fishing day, the Angler and Guide must submit a signed Catch and Release form to the Tournament judges whether or not any fish have been caught. The Catch and Release form shall include times for catch and release of all fish, plus measurements of each Weight Fish released. Any Angler who has caught Weight Fish must turn in the sized and taped strap from those fish. Finally, any digital images for each fish caught must be shown the scorekeeper. These items must be turned in by 5:00 pm, or the Angler will be not be allowed any points from fish that day, or in the case of a form without points, a late Angler will be assessed a 100 point penalty. The Tournament judges may waive the 5:00pm rule for boat breakdowns or unusual circumstances.

6.09 The official weight of a Weight Fish shall be calculated by the Tournament scorekeeper using a length and girth formula. The Tournament shall use the formula determined by the Anglers to be as accurate as possible for calculating the weight of a fish. Each year, the formula to be used will be distributed and explained to the Angler and Guides at the kick-off banquet. Weight Fish points are equal to calculated weight to the nearest 10th in pounds times 10.

6.10 Under no circumstances are fish to be killed and brought to the dock unless the Angler and Guide believe the fish to be a prospective world record. Any fish bought to the dock for record purposes shall, for tournament purposes, be scored as a Weight Fish using the Tournament measurements and formula, not the actual weight.

6.11 Any potential Weight Fish measured and scored less than 70 pounds shall not be awarded any release or weight points, and that fish shall be counted towards the Angler’s five Weight Fish limit.

6.12 A scoring example: an Angler catches two releases on the first day. He has no points, but two releases (600 points) for his team (assuming a team member caught a Weight Fish). On the second day, he catches two more Releases and a Weight Fish that calculates to 72.1 lbs.; therefore, his weight points are 721. He now has 1,442 total points; his four releases total 1,200 points, but he only receives release points equal to 721 – his weight points. His team however receives his full 1,921 points (assuming the team has sufficient weight points). On the third day, he catches and measures his second Weight Fish, estimated by the Angler and Guide to be over 70 pounds, but which scores 69 pounds; he receives no points for this fish and loses the strap. Having scored two Weight Fish, he may score only three more Weight Fish.


7.01 The Tournament shall be conducted by the chairperson and a volunteer committee of Anglers and various sub-committees as set from time to time.

7.02 The standing committees shall be: the Rules Committee composed of active Anglers; the Guides Committee, composed of active Guides; the Invitation Committee, composed of Anglers with the most tenure in the Tournament; and the Arbitration Committee, composed of distinguished former Anglers and Guides who no longer participate in the Tournament.

7.03 The Tournament may hire professional administrators to assist with operations, bookkeeping, marketing and public relations, logistics, and other duties. In addition, the Tournament shall secure judges to oversee daily sign-in, start and return times, Weight Fish scoring, total point calculations, and scorekeeping.

7.04 There shall be a Kick-Off event at 5:30pm on the Sunday evening prior to the tournament. As a part of the Kick-Off, there shall be a Captains Meeting at 6:00pm when the GCTT Rules and the weigh formula shall be reviewed and explained. Both Angler and Guide must attend the Captains Meeting or the team shall be assessed a 150 point penalty. In the event of emergency or other unforeseen conflict, the Rules Committee may waive the penalty if one team member in unable to attend the Captains Meeting.

7.05 There shall be an annual Anglers’ meeting after fishing on the Wednesday of the Tournament week to conduct any business of the Tournament. All Anglers are invited to attend and are entitled to vote on matters that come before the group. The Anglers shall elect a chairperson for the coming year. In addition, the Anglers will appoint a Rules Committee to review the rules for the next year’s tournament, and an Invitation Committee for the following year. Anglers at this meeting may propose changes to the GCTT Rules and/or the weight calculation formula, and this annual meeting is the only time the GCTT Rules or weight calculation formula may be amended or changed. Any GCTT Rule or the weight calculation formula will only be changed after affirmative vote of 2/3 or more of the Anglers in attendance at the meeting. Suggestions and comments on tournament operations or the rules are encouraged.

7.06 The Guides Committee is responsible for organizing meetings of the Guides to clarify rules interpretations, discuss starting and boating procedures, emphasize sporting practices, and other matters as are required.

7.07 All grievances concerning the rules shall be in writing, signed, and submitted to the judges by 5:00pm on the day of the alleged infraction; oral or anonymous grievances, or those filed after 5:00pm, will not be considered. The matter in dispute shall be referred to the Rules Committee who shall determine the proper treatment of the issue. If the decision of the Rules Committee is not accepted by either party to a dispute, the matter will be referred to the Arbitration Committee whose judgment shall be final and binding on all parties. All decisions by the committees shall be final and irreversible as of 5:00pm on the last day of fishing.

7.08 Any infraction of the rules will result in the Angler losing all points for that day of fishing.


8.01 The Tournament operates on the honor system, and as such, relies on the integrity of its participants to guard its reputation as the premier fly fishing tournament in salt water. Any Angler or Guide found to have knowingly or willfully violated this, or another tournament’s, rules may not be issued an invitation.

8.02 The intent of these GCTT Rules is to create an understandable and fair environment where the Angler and Guide’s expertise in locating, hooking, landing, and releasing large tarpon on fly is rewarded, and to preserve those angling skills and Weight Fish judgment as similarly as possible, and in keeping with, the tournament’s legacy as kill tournament.