Lifetime Award Winners for TBF

2024 TBF Lifetime Achievement Awards

 The John Rybovich Lifetime Achievement Award

This award honors a former TBF board member and pioneer in billfish conservation who founded the Sailfish Conservation Club, the Masters Angling Tournament, the Tournament of Champions, and the Gold Cup. With his brothers, Emil and Tommy, this awardee helped to develop the first offshore sportfishing boat equipped with a tower, outriggers, fighting chair, transom door and big engines, which would set standard for sportfishing boats and design for years to come.

Lifetime Award Winners for TBF

This year’s winner of the John Rybovich Lifetime Achievement Award is Captain “Chip” Shafer! Chip grew up in Statesville, North Carolina and attended Duke for two years before transferring to active duty US Marine Corps. He was eventually deployed to Vietnam, where he said he learned the importance of teamwork and the need to take care of one another. During his work on the boat Edna, he befriended Capt. Paul Haddock and soon discovered his avocation for offshore life. After earning his captain’s license in 1972, Chip worked as a mate on the Gulf Weed. Soon after, he started working for Charter Captain Emory Dillon, who helped him realize the fortune of being a charter captain and doing what they loved every day. During that time Chip worked hard for every customer and learned the importance of what being a fisherman truly is. Since then, he’s never missed a chance to be on the water and has never lost sight of why being a responsible captain is so important for our oceans.

In 1974, he began running the Temptress, but that ended in 1991 when he built his own boat, a 53-foot Sullivan that he fished between North Carolina, Ft. Pierce and Mexico. For the past 22 years, Chip has run 3 Bayliss boats, all named Ole Reliable and owned by Nick Smith, with the newest being 72 feet long. Together with Smith, the two have caught more billfish on fly than anyone else and perhaps more than anyone ever will. 

A lot can be attributed to Chip’s long and successful career. One of his first mates, John Bayliss, said Shafer’s intelligence and a heightened sense of observation gave him a competitive advantage. Others attribute his success to his analytical mind and willingness to try new techniques. From the angling community, Shafer has earned the highest respect and his many awards only back that up, a few of which include Stuart Sailfish Club Light tackle Tournament winner numerous times, the White Marlin Open, and the IGFA Tommy Gifford Award as the sport’s legendary captain. Whatever it may be, Chip has rightfully earned the chance to collect this prestigious award, and we at TBF offer the sincerest of congratulations to him and all he’s accomplished thus far.

The Winthrop P Rockefeller Lifetime Achievement Award 

The Rockefeller Lifetime Achievement Award honors a TBF founder, a well-known angler, philanthropist, and former owner of Allied Marine in Miami. Due to the lack of stock assessments at the time, Rockefeller sought scientific advice to identify the most pressing billfish research needs.That need dictated TBF’s first research commitment, which would be followed by many others.

Today, we honor an individual who exemplifies these same tireless and persevering qualities. The winner of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Lifetime Achievement Award is Sam Peters. Sam is the current President of Release Marine and Marine Tables in Savannah, Georgia. Sam grew up in the Savannah area where his family had a millwork and door manufacturing business in the 1970s, specializing in historical reproductions. Funny enough, it was his grandmother who convinced Sam’s dad to get him involved in fishing. He obviously adapted quickly, catching his first sailfish at 6 years old. 

From there, he and his family fished in small boats, but before long, the family business started building a small custom fiberglass boat with a Deep-V hull, called the Release 26. In 1974, Sam’s Dad, John Peters included the word Release in his business name to reflect his commitment to conservation. While fishing the Release 26, it was soon realized there were gaps between what offshore accessories were available between larger and smaller vessels. Simply put, offshore fighting chairs and other associated accessories were not available for their small, 26-foot boat. The Rybovich chair, which was built in the 1950s, was simply too large. One thing led to another, and by 1977, Release built its first specialized fighting chairs for smaller boats. 

Sam attributes his success to loyalty, both from him and his passionate employees. Some of his staff have been with Release for more than 20 years. That passion, combined with innovation, creativity and an amazing work environment have led to his, and Release Marine’s success.

Sam continues to believe conservation is essential, especially for billfish. Today, Release Marine supports the work of The Billfish Foundation and that of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Billfish Research Center. Release also provides sponsorship for more than 20 high-end billfish tournaments, all of whom have deep ties to conservation efforts around the world. TBF could not be more honored to award Sam with this award and wish him nothing but continued success.

To join us in celebrating their achievements, or for more information on TBF’s Annual Gala on Friday, November, 1st, 2024, click here!