It was late Spring in 2015 and Benny Sanchez was looking at his fishing calendar for a tournament that he and his partner could enter. He noted with some dismay that there were no competitive events scheduled during a large part of the middle of the summer.
He decided to do something about that.
And, Tito’s was born.
Benny noted that there was a big gap between late May and early August with no scheduled events. He put the word out to his friends and fellow anglers on Facebook that he would hold an impromptu event out of Campo’s Marina in Shell Beach. It was to be a “fun” event and he didn’t really expect more than a handful of anglers to show up. The day of the event he was quite surprised to find that 26 boats had registered to compete! And, although he didn’t have an arrangement with them, and they didn’t really sponsor that first event, Benny named the event after his primary sponsor – Tito’s. He even had the Tito’s girls come out that day.
Interestingly, Benny says he also learned a valuable lesson that day – “You can’t compete in your own tournament!” He and his partner got stuck three times that day and by the time he got back to the dock there were anglers waiting for him to get the weigh in going.
Benny realized that there was a need for additional redfish competitions, but he wanted to produce a different kind of event. He wanted to create an event that was fun and family friendly. He wanted to build an event that the entire family could come out and enjoy. An event where the competition was important but having a really good time with camaraderie, food, family, and fun was the focal point.
The next year, 2016, he held an event at Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix and 43 boats registered to compete. Despite horrendously stormy weather and a start time delayed until noon, almost all the competitors stayed and played. He knew then that his instincts had been right and that he had found a niche. In November that year LASS was going away and Facebook lit up with “what will we do now” comments. Many anglers asked Benny to step in and do more events. Although he had not approached Tito’s yet Benny’s reply was, “Tito’s will do it”. He was immediately flooded with questions about the “Tito’s Series” even though it didn’t exist yet. At this point, it is an understatement to say that Benny was a little nervous.
The following week he sat with Tito’s management and presented the idea. They called him back and said they were intrigued by the idea. They came to an arrangement and agreed that the concept of the events would be family and fun oriented. To this end they came up with shirts, swag, beer sponsors, food sponsors, and competition grilling to foster the family, food, and fun part. Their promotion to these sponsors? – “Come along with us and have some fun”.
As Benny was planning for the inaugural 2017 year an angler called and suggested Coco Marina as a location for an event. Thus, the first event of the Series was set for that venue on April 01, 2017. Benny had a lot riding on this first event and he really wanted it to be a success. He really wanted to hit a home run for all the sponsors of the event but mostly for Tito’s because they had believed in him. And, as Benny noted, “As a company, they do everything right”. Benny was “extremely nervous”. He was really, really, hoping that he would get 50 boats to sign up.
Ninety-Five boats registered for the event!
The Coco Marina event was a huge success. Mike at Coco’s worked incredibly hard to make sure everything went smoothly. He arranged for tables, chairs, setup, takedown, and innumerable other tasks so necessary for an event to work right. But perhaps the most amazing thing Benny saw, the most telling occurrence, was that over thirty people stayed over until midnight after the event to help with the takedown and cleanup.
“It was truly a family atmosphere”, Benny said.
There was a camaraderie and a fellowship that he had never experienced at any other event. After all was done, he sat there fatigued beyond words but with a huge smile on his face. He had done it. It had worked. And, it was far better and much more satisfying than he could have ever imagined.
So, was 2017 a success? You bet it was! The next several events had well over 100 boats registered and competing in each event. By the end of that year, and five events later, 184 different two-man teams had participated in a Tito’s event! When asked about the drive behind the success of the first year Benny’s modest reply was, “I didn’t really do anything. I just had an idea”.
By the end of that year Benny felt that he truly had his finger on the pulse of the anglers. He talked to anyone that would listen. He listened to everyone, asked questions of the veterans, and then distilled all that information into useful components to keep improving the events.
All of which brings us to 2018 and the creation of America's Redfish Cup.
One of the things that he heard often was that many anglers wanted to fish a higher entry fee event. He contemplated this idea and consulted anglers that had been competing for many years. Armed with angler demand for a product, information from veterans, and a desire to keep building, Benny created the Tito’s Top Shelf event for 2018. This event will have an entry fee of $1500 and a payback that is unparalleled in the industry. With a full field of 75 boats and a payout to the Top Ten finishers, the winner will receive a check for $25,000 with tenth place receiving $3000.
For more information and registration visit the website at //www.americasredfishcup.com
We wanted learn a little more about the Tito’s Series so we had a Q & A session with Benny Sanchez:
RC: What lessons did you learn early on that have helped you achieve success with the Tito’s Series?
BS: “My dad was in the military and he always quoted the 6P rule to me - “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. I learned that I needed the right people to staff the event and the right reason to do an event. It needs to be about the anglers and the charity (Wish to Fish). I learned not to do things for me personally but to do things for the right reason. Most importantly I learned to separate being a ‘friend’ from being a ‘manager’. I had to learn to put my foot down and make a management decision when needed without considering the personal relationship involved.”
RC: Who or what influenced you the most to create a series of this kind of event?
BS: “It was the collective group of anglers out there who wanted to have an event that was competitive AND fun. They wanted an event that would be “theirs” and would relate more to family, friends, and fun. And it worked out. More families and people show up at every event just to be a part of something they feel has a more personal and less business-like atmosphere.”
RC: Who would you like to thank for helping you along the way?
BS: “Mostly, I would say that it would be the many anglers that have shared their thoughts about how events went and what I could do to be better. It was a collective really. But I do owe a special thanks to Barnie White, Gritter Griffin, and Chris Kennedy for helping me to become a better tournament director. Their years of experience both in management and as competitors has been a great resource for me.”
RC: Do you have a pet peeve?
BS: “People that don’t read the rules or listen to them during the Captain’s Meeting then come and ask me questions about things that are clearly written and explained.”
RC: Any final thoughts?
BS: “I get to meet all the great names in this sport and I have found that they are all approachable and helpful. I also get to meet all the new people that are joining the ranks. One part of the group has many wins and high finishes while the other part of the group has never won. But they all keep coming back for the fun part because it really is “their event”. My goal is to have as many participants as possible and to have as much fun as possible. The objective is not to put limits on people rather it is to include people. I want these events to be something people choose to do not something they have to do.”
The long and short of it is that the Tito’s events are here to stay and they are the most fun-filled, exciting, approachable events in the redfish competition world. Check out the tournament schedule right here on the Redfish Connection and join in the fun.