The Sunday Mail’s Features Editor Garikai Mazara sat down with Rod Bennet, the organising director of the Kariba Invitational Tiger Fishing Tournament, to talk about the hosting of the annual sport, tourism and leisure spectacle. Below are excerpts from that discussion.
Q. The Kariba Invitational Tiger Fishing Tournament is one of Zimbabwe’s prime tourism events. What are the challenges that you face in organising the tournament and what help would you want from other stakeholders, notably Government, in tackling these challenges?
A. Cost is the real issue and we believe the cause of the declining numbers we have been recording over the years. Parks and Wildlife have a gazetted fee structure which is not affordable.
Q. The issue of Parks fees is one of the challenges that has been raised with regards to the tournament. What are the current fees and how would you like the issue addressed?
A. The current fees are US$20 per person per day for the tournament and only US$5 for individuals fishing out of the tournament. So for a four-man team the cost is US$240. For any foreign teams participating it is very expensive considering the exchange rate. One reason why we never had any Zambian teams this year.
Q. To a layman, what would one need to participate in the tournament? The equipment, cost, mental attitude, etc?
A. One would need a couple of good fishing rods and tackle, a boat and a really strong attitude with a will to succeed in catching fish.
Q. The attendance figures have been going down, as in the number of teams, what could be the reasons and any possible solutions?
A. There is no doubt that the cost has had a great deal to do with the declining numbers. If Parks were to reduce their fees substantially I’m sure we will attract bigger numbers.
Q. What prizes were on offer this year?
A. The tournament is a traditional trophy tournament with bragging rights. However, we have had a vehicle on offer from one of our sponsors for the largest tiger fish caught during the tournament over 10kg. With the difficulty in getting new vehicles, I very much doubt we will get one next year.
Q. How has been the support of sponsors, would you ask for more sponsorship or you are happy with what is on the table?
A. Our sponsors are extremely supportive and get good exposure out of the tournament. We will not increase the numbers of sponsors as this will dilute their exposure.
Q. To any outsider, the tournament looks like a “whites-only” club, what measures have you put in place to make it all-inclusive?
A. Perception is unfortunately the order of the day and that attitude is very sad, indeed. The tournament attracts participants from across the board already and is 100 percent all inclusive.
We would welcome any newcomers to the tournament regardless of colour and it is open to everyone by open invitation.
Q. What are the downstream benefits of the tournament?
A. This is a Zimbabwean tiger fishing tournament, the largest participating sporting event on the calendar and attracts anglers from all over the region. The benefit goes to the country as a whole.
Q. What has been the global reach of the tournament, that is, from which countries have you previously drawn participants?
A. In the past we have had teams from Australia, New Zealand, England, USA and Europe. In most cases you will find people that have immigrated and return with friends to participate.
Q. Any comments or observations that you think might add value to the tournament?
A. I strongly feel that we do not get the support from the print media. If we had more coverage of the event we would certainly get more local participation resulting in a larger number of teams.
We are also working towards introducing a “catch-and-release” tournament similar to the Test of the Best, held every February, which has been a “catch-and-release” tournament since 2003.
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