The 5th Annual Permit Tournament at the Palometa Club took place March 31 – April 7, 2017. Once again it was tons of fun and a huge success in fundraising for the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and the schoolchildren of Punta Allen, Mexico. But unlike the last few years when Mike Gifford and David Leake took home top honors, we have a new championship team!

Before getting to the results, we want to thank our sponsors. The Palometa Club once again teamed up with Hatch Outdoors and Patagonia Clothing Company as the lead sponsors for the annual event to benefit the Jon Ain Fund at the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust as well as the schoolchildren of Punta Allen, Mexico. The event again raised more than $5,000 in charitable proceeds from the entry fees and individual donations!

Many thanks to our sponsors for helping us promote the event as well as provide thousands of dollars worth of prizes and giveaways for the participants and guides. Sponsors included Hatch Outdoors, Patagonia, Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co., Temple Fork Outfitters, Paul Puckett Art, Sage Fly Fishing, YETI Coolers, Flood Tide Co., Umpqua, SmartShield Sunscreens, Fishpond, R.L. Winston Rods, and Country Pleasures Fly Shop in Calgary, Alberta. The swag bags and prizes for both anglers and guides were completely over the top this year. Everyone walked away with tons of fishing goodies – including another incredible tourney T-shirt by Paul Puckett.

The field consisted of seven two-man angler teams and seven two-man guide teams. Anglers rotated among guide teams throughout the course of the week. We had a biggest fish category (single angler award) as well as a team category based on a points-per-inch scoring system (not unlike the famed March Merkin Tournament in Key West). The field was made up of many repeat Club faithful, past champions and new Club members. Like last year, we couldn’t have dreamed up a more compatible and fun group of participants originating from Texas, California, Nebraska, Calgary, and South Carolina.


Mike Gifford & Darren Soice

Bill Shaughnessy & Ken Morando

Will Stephens & Tanner Catalani

Justin Miller & Schuyler Marshall

Phillip Halliday & Lee Jordan

Brian Wilson & Ken Wilson

Mike Pearson & Kevin Stewart

Also in attendance was Christian Ihrybauer of 4BC Productions, who documented the trip and tournament through incredible video and images.

The tournament conditions were generally tough, with marginal weather that kept many fish off the flats. Even so, the competition was exciting, with each team having a chance to win all the way to the final buzzer. The final margin of victory was a mere 16 points (4 inches)!!!  In the end, the big fish of the tournament made the difference on the leaderboard, and helped Will Stephens and Tanner Catalani edge three-peat past champion Mike Gifford and his new partner Darren Soice for the win. Darren carried the team this year, preventing Mike from going home embarrassed. Honorable mention also goes out to Brian and Ken Wilson, who landed a fish just after time ran out that would have seriously shaken up the leaderboard. On the guide side, Jorge and Jonathan accounted for the big fish of the tournament yet again, but this year they also took home their first overall guide title. Gerardo (a two-time champion) and Yfet came in a close second.

The Palometa Club’s new corn toss set continued the competition into the evenings with some fierce contests and incredible shots, especially after several pitchers of Kaye’s margaritas disappeared. The corn toss, combined with great camaraderie, great meals, and of course great margs, made the evenings as enjoyable as the days.

The casting competition was even more competitive than the fishing and resulted in a new winner. All of the Palometa Club guides brought their A-game this year, and just a few feet separated the winners from those going back to the practice field. Christian took home the title (and a new Sage X rod) with a cast of 106 feet into the wind! Charly didn’t let shoulder problems slow him down this year, sending one over 100 feet to take second. Two anglers (Justin and Schuyler) participated; let’s just leave it at that. Charly’s daughter Yalena took home the first women’s casting title — likely the first of many for this up-and-coming female fly fishing star.

The awards ceremony was as fun as ever despite being dominated by the big fish and overall champions — Will Stephens, Jorge and Jonathan. Thanks to our sponsors, the prizewinners took home several Hatch 7+ Finatic reels as well as Winston, Sage, and Temple Fork rods, and a mountain of other prizes. Will and Tanner will be sporting incredible Champion permit belt buckles by City Boy Forge.


Biggest Permit Category
Angler: Will Stephens
Guide Team: Jorge & Jonathan

Most Points Team Category Champions
Angler Team: Will Stephens & Tanner Catalani
Guide Team:  Jorge & Jonathan
Most Points Category Runner Ups
Angler Team: Darren Soice & Mike Gifford
Guide Team: Gerardo & Yfet

Casting Competition 
1st Place:  Christian             Runner Up:  Charly


The idea for a tournament on Ascension Bay originated in part thanks to inspiration from the recently deceased, Dr. Jon Ain. Among dozens of other credentials, Jon was a board member at the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, founder and director of the March Merkin Tournament in Key West, and perhaps the greatest permit angler of our time. With more than 300 fly-caught permit on his resume, Jon was most notably the greatest advocate of permit and their habitat. He raised tens of thousands of dollars for BTT, and helped launch today’s Project Permit program with BTT, whose mission is the guide permit research and conservation. Jon was also a lover of Ascension Bay, Punta Allen, and the people and fish who live there. Following his death to cancer in 2013, it made sense to create a charitable benefit associated with the tournament in his honor. Since the first tournament in 2013, the Palometa Club Permit Tourney has raised more than $25,000 to date for the Jon Ain Fund!


A sincere shout-out must go to Dick and Kaye Cameron for hosting this circus each and every year. It’s a stressful and costly endeavor to house and entertain such a large crew with so many moving parts. They always pull it together gracefully to create a fun and festive atmosphere for all. Rosie, Fina and Maribele produce culinary fireworks with every meal and always have huge smiles on their faces. Our ever-reliable driver, Manny, perseveres up and down the road to and from Punta Allen almost daily delivering clients to and fro safely and timely. Carlos and other behind the scenes house staff bust their butts day in day out, and Club Mascot, Digger, keeps the Iguanas at bay. Finally, the guide staff at the Palometa Club personifies professionalism and experience on the water. Their passion for permit fishing shines through with every push of the pole and limitless dedication to present opportunities for us all – no matter the challenges. The Camerons, the guides, and the staff at the Palometa Club need a glass raised in their honor more often, and we cannot thank them all for doing what they do to make this tournament and the whole season a wonderful experience for all.


Most of the 2017 crew has already signed up for the 6th Annual Permit Tourney, but there will be a few spots open for new teams to sign up for next year. As always, the tourney winners are invited back to defend their title at the 6th Annual Tourney in 2018! Meantime, enjoy more images below!