The popular Montauk Grand Slam charity fishing tournament, put on by the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton and the Montauk Friends of Erin, will once again be held this weekend at Uihlein’s Marina in Montauk.
The two-day charity event has commercial, recreational and party fishing boats competing to reel in and weigh in the largest bluefish, porgy, sea bass, and fluke.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but I really have enjoyed hosting it,” said Henry Uihlein, who has overseen the tournament for 21 years and is involved with both the Kiwanis Club and the Friends of Erin. “This is not my tournament, I just host it,” he said. “In fact, it was Joe Bloecker of Montauk who came up with the original idea for a fishing tournament. I’m glad that it’s still going strong.”
A party and celebration at the end of the day on Sunday afternoon cap off a very nice weekend on the water. Smiles are everywhere, no matter who wins.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, the tournament will crown Capt. Frank Braddick as the Fishing Legend of the Year. That’s Captain Braddick, the longtime skipper of the charter boat Hurry Up, which is berthed at the Star Island Marina.
It’s a well-deserved honor for the 87-year-old captain, who continues to take guests out for a day on the water.
While long recognized as a great fisherman, Braddick is probably known best for coordinating the annual Montauk Blessing of the Fleet for the past 38 years. It’s a labor of love for the seasoned skipper. The ceremony, which has been held every June for nearly 70 years, draws boats of all sizes and can be seen from just about anywhere in the harbor.
“It really is a lot of work to be honest, but it’s well worth the effort,” he said recently. “It truly is a solemn and special event and I’m so glad the tradition has continued for so long.” Braddick, who has three children, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, added that “Even my grandchild David has played taps the last few years from my boat when we drop the flowers and wreaths into the water. It’s all a very moving experience.”
In the off-season, starting in January, Braddick spends countless hours preparing for the blessing, including filling out applications and paperwork for various permits with the Coast Guard, securing a boat for clergy and the families honoring those who died over the previous 12 months, preparing advertising and promotional fliers, securing wreaths, and other miscellaneous details too numerous to mention.
“The paperwork is a pain and there is a lot of bureaucracy involved,” he said. He took over the duties nearly four decades ago from Capt. Doug McCabe, who skippered the charter boat Frances Anne. “But I still love to do it. It’s a very special event and it’s so important that we continue with this Montauk tradition by honoring those who lost loved ones.”
“I’m so grateful that the committee selected Frank to be the legend of the year,” said Uihlein. “Frank has been in Montauk since the 1970s and is so well respected.”
“Frank is very deserving of this honor,” said Capt. Richard Etzel, who is head of the Montauk Boatmen and Captains Association. “Just all of the work he has done organizing the Blessing of the Fleet says a lot. He takes great pride in it and does an excellent job.”
“It’s really nice to see Frank being recognized,” said Capt. Michael Vegessi of the Lazybones, a Montauk party boat. “He’s not only a legend here in Montauk, but his name is known up and down the coast. Sunday should be a very special day for him and his family.”
“No one deserves this honor here in the harbor more than Frank,” said Capt. Joe McBride, who has known Braddick for 47 years. “Not only is he one of the finest fishermen around, he’s been an incredible asset for Montauk. . . . His commitment to the Blessing of the Fleet has been amazing,” added McBride. “I’ve been to other blessings over the years, and nobody does a better job than Frank. He truly does it all.”
“I was surprised to be honest when I heard the news, but I’m very humbled and flattered by it,” Braddick said last week from the stern deck of his 43-foot charter boat. “I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”
Congratulations and thank you, Frank!
In addition to prizes for adults, 10 kids under the age of 13 will also have a chance to win a new rod and reel and tackle box as part of the Wayne Clinch Memorial Kids Catch program, along with an opportunity to win an inflatable boat with a Mercury motor. Additional details can be found at mtkmercurygrandslam.com.
Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].