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2023 Islamorada Backcountry Tournament


The 2023 Islamorada Backcountry Tournament is now in the history books with our President Denise Friehofer going home with the Gold! Did you know that IWFA started fishing tournaments in the keys in 1957 where the early members fished for both bonefish and tarpon.  A huge proponent of the many transformations this tournament underwent was due to Glenda Kelley.  Sadly, we recently lost Glenda and this year’s tournament was commemorated in her honor.  On the second day of this year’s event, each angler was given a rose to spread their petals across the beautiful backcountry in memory of Glenda and two other members we lost this past year.  Glenda Kelley, Nora Schofield and Susan Coleman received a touching tribute as anglers said their goodbyes to these fishing legends.

This year’s tournament was a real nail biter! High point angler day one was newcomer, Pam Ciesliga. Veteran member Connie O’Day pulled out some big points as high point angler day two– but it was the consistent performance of our actual military veteran, Amy Lockhart, who was becoming the one to beat!  Going into day three, it was going to be a tight finish with the local guides pulling out all the stops for their anglers. It looked like Amy was headed to a win with her 5 bonefish day fishing with guide Richard Black. But when the final score was tallied, Denise Freihofer came from 10th place to win the event catching and releasing an exciting  5 slam fishing day with young and upcoming guide Jack Givens. Amy Lockhart finished second and Kathy Gillen moved up to win third place with a three slam day. It was a great finish!

The highlight of this year’s tournament were the 5 new anglers who fished the event. Four of the new anglers fished the fly division and made this year’s tournament divisions almost equal in size  Lots of new friendships and some great fishing made this another event NOT to miss!  

IWFA Islamorada Backcountry Tournament 2023 Award Winners

FIRST FISH – Sponsored by Columbia Pam Ciesliga

LAST FISH - Sponsored by Columbia Fran McKelvey

MOST SLAMS – Sponsored by Blue Fin Denise Freihofer

NEWCOMER AWARD – Sponsored by Seaside Glass Pam Ciesliga

DAILY HIGH POINT ANGLER Sponsored by Pilar Rum, Seaside Glassworks, & Aloha Bag
High Point Angler – Day 1: Pam Ciesliga
High Point Angler – Day 2: Connie O’Day
High Point Angler – Day 3: Denise Freihofer


1st Place TeamElizabeth Johnson, Jing Torn, Jenn Parker, Amy Lockhart, Jen Goodell

2nd Place TeamSusan McCart, Cheryl Culberson, Denise Freihofer, Kathy Gillen

3rd Place TeamSusan Smithwick, Kim Clement, Betsy Bullard, Poppy Brownlee

TOP GUIDES – Sponsored by Pilar Rum - Fly Division 
1st Place Fly GuideSteve Thomas
2nd Place Fly GuideConnor Flamm & Jake Leon
3rd Place Fly GuideMike Alfano

TOP GUIDES   - Sponsored by Bluefin & Alutechnos - Spin Division
1st Place Spin GuideJack Given
2nd Place Spin GuideRichard Black
3rd Place Spin GuideFrankie Ortiz

Sponsored by Nautilus, Florida Keys Outfitters, Fishe Wear & Sand Cloud - Fly Division


1st Place Fly Angler – Jing Torn

2nd Place Fly Angler – Jenn Parker

3rd Place Fly AnglerKim Clement


Sponsored by YETI - Spin Division


1st Place Spin AnglerDenise Freihofer

2nd Place Spin AnglerAmy Lockhart

3rd Place Spin AnglerKathy Gillen


GRAND CHAMPION – Gold Disc – Denise Freihofer