KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — Two-time Super Bowl–winning coach Jimmy Johnson combines two of his favorite sports, football and fishing, during his namesake Jimmy Johnson Fishing Championship Week, March 7-10 in the Florida Keys.
Notable National Football League players and celebrities are expected to attend the charity Celebrity Pro Am event, which will take place during the week along with the National Billfish Championship, the signature tournament set to award a whopping $1.5 million guaranteed purse.
In partnership with the Hollywood, Florida, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, organizers consider the payout both the largest guaranteed purse winnings in sport-fishing history and the largest purse in Florida tournament history.
Some of the sport’s toughest billfish competitors are attracted to the “Quest for the Ring” National Billfish Championship, a two-day team event that targets sailfish and other billfish species along with fun fish species. The championship tournament features both a catch-and-release division and weighted division.
The Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill bar, restaurant and cabana complex at mile marker 104 bayside in Key Largo serves as tournament headquarters.
Characterized by action-packed parties and fishing, the Jimmy Johnson Fishing Championship Week begins Wednesday, March 7, with an overall captains meeting and kick-off event for all participating teams.
Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Pro-Am participants pair up with a celebrity to compete in the charitable fun fish event. Each celebrity fishes for their charity of choice. At day’s end, celebrations are held at Ocean Reef Club.
In the main event, the two-day Billfish Championship scheduled Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, over 90 boats are expected to compete for the guaranteed $1.5 million purse. A general entry in the catch-and-release division pays out $400,000 and a second, weighted division (heaviest fish overall) is to pay out $250,000 over first- through fourth-place teams.
The Billfish Championship’s first-place team is to receive $160,000 and all anglers on the winning boat receive authentic, custom-designed Jimmy Johnson’s NBC Championship rings. Second- though fifth-place teams also are awarded cash prizes.
A charity auction, dinner and awards ceremony with Jimmy's Backyard BBQ at The Big Chill concludes the event Saturday night for participants in all three tournaments.
Boat entry information and the full schedule of events can be found at jjfishweek.com.
Anglers who want to participate in the event but do not own a boat, or prefer to travel to the tournament without one, can book a professional charterboat operator in the Upper Keys.
The prestigious weekend of fishing events supports the Community Initiatives Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to supporting various fundraising programs throughout South Florida that include Tranquil Shores Foundation.
Tournament information and registration: jjfishweek.com
Florida Keys fishing information: fla-keys.com/fishing