Everyone has heard their share of fish tales from anglers, those exaggerated claims of fish they’ve caught, fish that got away and the one they totally caught but didn’t get a photo of to show you. It’s part of the rite of passage when putting together an event for fishers, and there’s been plenty of tales told at the Sunshine Ace Hardware location in Bonita Springs, Florida, over the years.
The store, one of seven in the Sunshine Ace Hardware family gathered around the Naples region, has conducted its “Reel in the Sunshine” fishing expo for three years, with this year’s event taking place on Feb. 10. The expo features seminars from renowned fishers and boat captains, deals for customers, product demos from vendors and giveaways for the crowd, which reached about 1,000 this year, says chief merchandising officer Scott Hamblen.
“It’s really a lot of fun for the fishing community to have expert seminars but also just to gather. We have people who sit for eight hours with a notebook and learn from the captains. There’s a lot of camaraderie, where conversations turn to, ‘Where are you fishing? What are you catching?’” Hamblen says.
The annual event also serves as a fundraiser for two charities close to the fishing community’s heart. Sunshine Ace Hardware has worked with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for years, and the association sponsors trips to Outward Bound programs for people with muscular dystrophy. Outward Bound conducts expeditions and programs designed to educate through adventure.
The second charity is the Gene Doyle Fishing Tournament, an event that raises funds for the Gene Doyle Memorial Foundation. The foundation, named after a Naples-area graduate fond of fishing and adventure who was killed in a car accident, awards scholarships to other area high school graduates looking for growth in the outdoors and fishing.