Rob Hudson gained a deep appreciation of Boca Grande from his uncommon grandfather, who built one of the first homes on Damifino.
His grandfather, Frank Anthony Llaneza, passed away March 18, 2010. A pioneer in the cigar industry, he helped revolutionize it by bringing Cuban seed tobacco to Central America after the Cuban embargo.
Besides family and cigars, Llaneza's other passions involved fishing in Boca Grande and the Tortugus. He passed his love of casting a line and Boca Grande along to his grandson.
"I don't think we'll ever sell that property on Boca Grande," Hudson said. "It's part of who we are."
Here's Hudson on how he maintains close ties with his favorite island paradise, fishing and his own tournament, the Gil Memorial Classic.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it be easier to hold the Gil Memorial Classic closer to your home in Tampa?
Rob Hudson at a glance
Birthdate: April 2, 1980
Occupation: financial analyst for Guardian Life insurance Co.
Family: engaged with 1-year-old
Education: "I started at Jesuit High School in Tampa, I owe a lot of my success to how strong the network is in Tampa of Jesuit graduates." University of South Florida bachelor's degree in economics.
Discovered Boca Grande: Grandfather's influence
What: Seventh annual Gil Memorial Classic
When: Oct. 12-14
Captain's meeting: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct, 12 at Boca Grande Marina, will include dinner, beer, drinks, raffle and silent auction. Lines in right after the meeting.
Where: Around Gasparilla Island
Why: Barrier Island Parks Society benefit
Contact: Organizer Rob Hudson (813) 288-5165
ANSWER: It would probably be easier. But it gives us a reason to go to Boca Grande, which is always good for us. The fishing in Charlotte Harbor is unparalleled in the world. If I had to fish in one place the rest of my life, I'd pick Boca Grande.
Q: How did you learn to fish?
A: I grew up fishing down in Boca Grande with my grandfather. He built one of the first homes in 1958 on Damifino. He'd been going down there since the 1930s. He met a guy named Suge Futch, whose family has long ties on Boca Grande, and they served in the U.S. Coast Guard together and spent a lot of time together there.
Growing up, if I wasn't playing baseball, then I was down there fishing off Boca Grande. I actually know the water down there much better than I do Tampa Bay. We've been so spoiled with my grandfather being into fishing and he provided the right equipment. We were really lucky. We just won the Boca Grande Invitational a second year in arrow and finished sixth out of 90 boats in Flats Master series in Punta Gorda.
Q: Is the Gil Memorial still a Barrier Island Parks Society benefit?
A: Yes, sir. We wanted to keep the money on the island. The first two years we gave to the American Cancer Society but we only raise a few thousand dollars each year, which is a drop in the bucket for them. We didn't even get a thank you letter from them. BIPS makes more sense for us. We'll use BIPS forever. This year the money we raise will make new cabinets for BIPS.
Q: Last year was a wild one for you and your family. How is the 1-year-old doing after being born nine weeks prematurely?
A: He's good. Twenty-one months now and running around like a wild man. Soon enough, we'll have him on the water. I can't wait.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I work with Guardian Life Insurance Co. We work to find a financial balance for our clients. We develop financial strategies that work in all economies.
Q; What do you think of this recovery?
A: It's a slow recovery. We're not going to see a huge jump back. But I think a slow recovery is more sustainable and might be preferable.
Q: What do you enjoy doing besides fishing?
A: Spending time with son, No.1. I'm also a big baseball fan and football, too. When I have a free minute, though, I'm on the water.
Q: After six years, has the Gil Memorial served its purpose of remembering lost friends and family members?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. With the way things are it's become a great annual event. When this happened (loss of tourney namesake Juan Gil) most of us were much younger. We don't have the time we used to. The fact we can get together for one weekend and remember these people and get away from the stress of Tampa, it's great. Fishing was a passion for Juan (Gil). It's impressive with this economy we're able to bring 20 to 25 teams each year.
Q: What makes the Gil Memorial different from any other fishing tourney?
A: I think that's a good question. It's more of a family atmosphere. We have special prizes for the women so we have a lot of women who fish in our tournament, We fish in a lot of tournaments (with mostly men) but ours probably 25 percent of the field are ladies. We also do a good job involving the captains down there in Boca Grande and have a good time. We have a better captain's party than most.