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New Jersey's fishing and boating industry gets an exclusive glimpse inside a presidential fundraiser in Bedminster, NJ on June 11, 2017, with a special "shout out" from the President himself!
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  June 12, 2017
The Fisherman’s Jim Hutchinson awards Jeff Evans, Phil Natale, Stan Gola and the crew of C Witch their $5,000 prize on Saturday at the RFA Bass River Classic at Breeze’s Bar & Grill at Viking Yachting Center in New Gretna, NJ, one day before President Trump came to the Garden State and said, “My brother loved fishing…and he loved Viking by the way too.”

Regardless of your political persuasion, when’s the last time you remember the President of the United States talking about recreational fishing?

More specifically, as a New Jersey angler, do you recall if there was ever a moment that the Commander in Chief spoke directly to a group of New Jersey fishermen and boat builders from the Garden State? How about a personal “shout out” to Viking Yachts on the Bass River or the New Jersey based Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA)?

President Donald J. Trump came to New Jersey on Sunday to headline a fundraiser for the re-election of Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ 3rd District) at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

While the event was closed to the media, cellphone video posted from the event shows the President speaking to assembled guests - who sources say helped raise more than $800,000 for the MacArthur campaign - and asking where his fishermen were seated as he reaches into his suit pocket and fishes out a Fishermen for Trump bumper sticker created during the 2016 election by the RFA.

“Fishermen for Trump, I like that," the President said on Sunday at Bedminster while holding up the bumper sticker in front of the audience, flanked by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rep. MacArthur. “My brother loved fishing, loved fishing, and he loved Viking by the way too,” President Trump said while tucking the bumper sticker back into his jacket pocket.

For Jim Donofrio, executive director of the RFA, the president’s personal interaction with saltwater anglers and fishing industry representatives should give plenty of reason for optimism.

“I’ve had such an extraordinary response from this White House, it’s just amazing,” Donofrio said on Sunday after leaving the Bedminster event. “Just two weeks ago we were down in Washington meeting with Earl Comstock, director of policy and strategic planning at the Commerce Department, and I feel we finally have an administration that’s focused on the socioeconomic impact of recreational fishing, from fluke and sea bass all the way out to offshore tuna and billfish.”

Donofrio, who attended the event with other boating industry professionals from New Jersey including Bob Healey from Viking Yachts, called it an invigorating change of pace for DC politics.

“This administration gets it, and the fact that we’re having two-way discussion with the president and his staff about saltwater fishing is more than just refreshing,” he said.

The day before, the crew of C Witch with Capt. Jeff Evans, Phil Natale and Stan Gola earned $5,000 in the 5th Annual RFA Bass River Classic on Saturday with an 8.62-pound fluke caught on Barnegat Bay and weighed in at Breeze’s on the Bass River. The tournament, sponsored in part by The Fisherman Magazine, offers an array of youth prizes as well as varied calcuttas and is growing into one of the top early season fluke tournaments between Absecon and Barnegat inlets.

“The Bass River Classic is becoming one of the greatest social events in the Great Bay area,” Donofrio said. “We enjoy hosting the event with the Allen family at Breeze’s, where it’s really become a great family fishing event.”

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