Inspiration lies everywhere, especially when you surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher. That’s precisely what a group of local anglers did when they created the Creole Classic Fishing Tournament.
Thibodaux native Kevin Bonvillian, the 2022-2023 Creole Classic Fishing Tournament Board Chairman/President, was approached four years ago by a friend, Ryan Perque. The two were in a fraternity together while attending Nicholls, and knowing the work they used to enjoy doing, Ryan reached out to Kevin thinking it would be a perfect fit for him to join the tournament. “It’s a group of individuals that not only want to have fun but also want to give back to the community at the same time. This is a great avenue for that,” Kevin explained.
The tournament began in 1984 in Leeville, Louisiana when a group of anglers decided they wanted a contest not only to fish in, but to also give back to the community in ways that would make tremendous differences. The tournament was later moved to Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle where it’s still held today. Not only do they put on the tournament, but they also host Creole Fest which includes a cook-off, live music, and live and silent auctions. All proceeds go to a nonprofit recipient who is selected annually through an application process.
The tournament’s board of directors invites nonprofit organizations serving Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle to apply to be a recipient. The application process is opened up annually so that nonprofit organizations can apply for funding. Kevin said they not only look for applicants that need the funds but also for organizations that will come out to the gathering and get involved. They aim to get four to six nonprofit organizations a year that they partner with, “We like them to be a part of it,” Kevin explained.
Rewinding back to 2021, Hurricane Ida ravaged the bayous, especially the Grand Isle community. Kevin explained that the Board met in January 2022 to make an immediate decision about this year’s tournament. They decided that instead of canceling the event, they would do it differently because Grand Isle needed monetary help more than ever. The 2022 tournament was held in Thibodaux. He explained that not only did they realize that donations were gravely needed since the storm, but it’s only successful if there is participation, and they were worried about the turnout along with the facilities, “We decided to move it North to an area that was less affected and try to put on a good show where we would have a good response from the public,” Kevin said, “Ultimately that’s why we do this; to try and raise as many funds as possible…We were just worried about the state of the Island and if we were able to put on something that can really raise enough funds so that we can have a big contribution.” The group made the right choice because the participation was phenomenal and they broke a record when it comes to donating funds to the community.
The 2022 tournament had five recipients with a sixth one being voted in by the Board, “We knew Grand Isle needed help,” Kevin said. “We went through a budget process and realized we had some money left over. We wanted to make a donation as soon as possible to Grand Isle.” The tournament was able to give over $50,000 in contributions based on the 2022 fishing tournament. The recipients were The Jackie Bartels’ Kids Conservation Fest ($14,700), Bless Your Heart Foundation ($6,325), The Virtual Academy of Lafourche-VAL Robotics (9,450), Friends of Bayou Lafourche ($6,400), Friends of Beyond the Bell ($5,900), and the group presented a check to Grand Isle in July in the amount of $10,000.
Kevin admitted that the work put into the tournament is hard and stressful, but it’s all worth the effort, “When you give that check, that’s what fuels you for the next year. It’s like right when you’re down and out…you give those checks, and it gives you the energy for next year to really push through.” He said other than the check presentations, his favorite memories about being a part of the group are simply being out with friends, having a good time, and all while giving back to the community. One of his favorite moments was the 2022 tournament, “This was a good record-breaking year for us. I was able to make the presentations this year, and you see the faces of those receiving the checks…We had some good numbers this year and we were all really proud of what we were able to put out there.”
The group was able to secure a date for the 2023 tournament which will be the weekend after Father’s Day, June 22 through the 24, and the gathering will return to Grand Isle! When it comes to the future, it’s bright for this group. Kevin explained they want to be more than just a fishing tournament, “Maybe make it a year-long thing…we’re working on projects that we can donate money or time to get involved with other nonprofits that are putting on events and we’ve always wanted to do something involving the youth,” he said. Not all details are final yet, but they may be doing something in the new year that involves getting the youth involved with fishing.
Getting involved with this group is more important than ever, “We ask the public to look us up and keep up with us, “ Kevin encouraged, “We hope to see you in Grand Isle! Hopefully, we can continue these records we keep breaking!”
Follow the group on Facebook at
@creoleclassicfishing and visit the website at
www.creoleclassic.com for more information.