The Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament has always been billed as “the Suncoast’s premier amateur fishing tournament.”

That will change in 2019.

For 35 years, the feature that made the Crosthwait stand out from other tournaments was that only amateur anglers were allowed to compete. Anyone making a portion of their living as a charter captain or from commercial fishing was not eligible. The playing field was intended to be fair for those who spent less time on the water.

This week the long running tournament announced it will no longer be amateur only.

“We have modified our corporate charter and our mission to allow and include professional guides and fishermen to compete on an even basis with all other anglers,” board member Wade Thompson said in a news release. “There will be no exclusion to participation based on possession of a captain’s license, being a mate or guide, making any amount of money from the sale of finfish of any kind, or being a professional angler of any sort. If you want to fish, you can fish the tournament. The decision hasn’t been made lightly, and the effects will be dramatic.”

On Facebook, where the decision was announced, anglers from both sides of the fence let their opinions be known.

I know many guides who have not been eligible to compete in years and would love to compete once again. Many are part time or have acquired captain’s licenses with no intention of making a full time living off fishing.