Robert H. “Bob” Byrd
Robert H. “Bob” Byrd, known for his engaging smile and mischievous sense of humor, was respected by those who fished with whom and those competitors who fished against him. He began his offshore fishing career in 1963 fishing the East Breaks from Port Aransas. Bob was a true pioneer and among the fist to competitively billfish with lures rather than natural bait in the early 70’s. Then in the early 80’s he started a stubborn tradition on his live bait techniques. He was one of the most successful tournament fishermen anywhere having won every major Texas bill fishing tournament at least once. He was the only member of the original 13 boat owners who started the POCO BUENO Offshore Tournament out of Port O’Connor, Texas to fish 25 consecutive years. He and his team set a record for three first place wins in this prestigious tournament, as well as many other places throughout those 25 years. In 1977 along with three other Texans he won the Kona Hawaiian Billfish Tournament (KHBT) with a 662 lb. blue marlin. In 1979 with a 667 lb. blue marlin, he captured the TIFT at South Padre Island. In 1992 he led the Cajun Playboy team to victory in Bridge Harbors Watermelon Open, a tournament he founded, with a 706 lb. blue marlin. Four months later and after a very brief illness he succumbed to cancer and passed at the young age of 59. He was not only a master at sport fishing off the Gulf Coast, in the Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, but a true pioneer of many of the techniques used in offshore fishing today by sport enthusiasts. He was a huge inspiration to many an offshore fisherman through his knowledge and respect for the sport.
Jack Elliot, born in 1937, was a native Galvestonian. He grew up fishing the Jetties and Bays around Galveston. After college he worked as an insurance agent, eventually owning his own agency. After selling his agency, he worked for the City of Galveston as the Civil Defense Director and Risk Manager. He started marlin fishing in 1967 aboard his good friend, Johnny Walker’s “Red Label” and fished from Prot Aransas to Port Isabel. Soon after, he bought a home in Port Aransas and in 1970 he bought a 31’ Bertram Bahia Mar with a tower. The boat was the “Honey Do” and had twin 545 Gale Banks Mer-Cruisers. (That boat would fly!). He worked closely with his Port Aransas buddies and helped create the famous POCO BUENO Tournament in Port O’Connor. He was also Chairman of the Texas Saltwater Fishing Hall of Fame Tournament in Galveston as well. He caught the 3rd Short Billed Spearfish ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. He won 1st place in the New Orleans Invitational in 1973 with a 539 lb. blue marlin which was the largest caught in the Gulf since 1968. He won 1st place again in 1975 with a 3693 lb. blue and won 2nd place in 1976. In 1977, the New Orleans tournament directors changed the date of this tournament to the same dates as POCO BUENO – maybe to keep Texans from coming. In 1976 he caught the largest marlin in the history of POCO BUENO at that time a 467 lb. blue…but he was knocked out of first place by his good friend Bob Byrd – fishing on the “Blue Streak” who caught 2 blues – one 246 lb. and one 274 lb. Jack won many silver trays and cups up and down the Texas and Louisiana Coasts. He fished in Mexico, Hawaii, St. Thomas, Panama, the Bahamas, basically anywhere he could. He was also the Texas State Chairman for Ducks Unlimited and went on to be the National Trustee for D.U. He was instrumental in creating the Texas Conservation Duck Stamp. He was also an avid deer hunter – spending countless weekends in south Texas and traveling to Colorado numerous times. He never passed up a chance to take a kid fishing – its probably his fault that many kids grew up to pick this sport for a career. He also had a temper and wasn’t afraid to set things straight, and if you ever tried to arm wrestle him, you wouldn’t want to do it again!
Richard D. Hawn
Richard D. Hawn, was born October 21, 1921 in David City, Nebraska. At age 6 he was stricken with polio. Once he recovered, his entire right side was compromised and lost all use of his right arm. This fact never deterred him from anything he put his mind to. He worked at his family’s first lumber mill in Mexico. He also worked in their oil fields throughout South Texas. Following his mother’s passion, he began fishing around age thirty. The equipment he used back in the 60’s were Finnor reels, specifically, the tycoon rods. Because back then reels were made only for right-handed people, he had to use these reels backward and upside down because of his disability. In 1963, Dean Hawn fished on his yacht, the “Wolverine,” a 1950’s Wheeler made from all mahogany equipped with GM gas engines. Captain Burton Curry was driving the boat when dad caught the state record blue marlin on his make-shift reel. After many years of fishing this way, he met the owner of Finnor reels and convinced him to create the first ever reels for left-handed people. Following suit, Penn began making left-handed reels the next year or two. Dad loved fishing. He started taking me at age eight. I have been fishing for 46 years and hopefully for many more. This award means so much to Dean’s descendants. We appreciate that he is still remembered and will be inducted into the Texas Saltwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
Louis “Totsy” Belcher
Louis “Totsy” Belcher, 65, started out as a private boat captain at age 15 in Port Aransas, steering the offshore vessels of wealthy marlin anglers. From there, he worked as a machinist for E.L. Caldwell, operating Caldwell’s fishing boat on weekends. He gave up this day job 10 years alter and began tournament fishing for billfish, traveling the world on various big boats. This lasted off and on for 25 years, intermittent with stints as a commercial fisherman for flounder, trout, and redfish, back when netting the latter two was legal. Then about 10 years ago, Belcher settled down in his hometown and began his fourth career as a bay-fishing guide, “I had caught 137 blue marlin when I stopped,” Belcher said. “And I loved it. But I just got tired of the traveling. I wanted to be home with my kids.” When Belcher began his bay-fishing career, he was one of about seven or eight guides who worked out of Port Aransas. Dozens have come and gone since. Most can’t compare with Belcher.