Fears that the 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza staged earlier this year could be the last thanks to a loss of sponsorship have been laid to rest by the competition organisers.
"We got pretty close to conceding defeat, but a number of local businesses have come to the rescue, thanks especially to John Robinson, manager of Summit Forests," John Stewart said.
"We apologise for the delay in announcing that the contest will take place next year (Tuesday March 10 to Saturday 14), but we had to be sure that we had the money before we made that promise," he added.
"We found out in April that Captain Morgan would not be able to support us next year, and without a new sponsor we would have had no option but to cancel."
With no real prospect of finding a major sponsor, the organisers finally made a public appeal via the 'Northland Age,' with the backing of Mayor John Carter, who campaigned vigorously to promote the event as a 'must proceed' for the Far North, and Japanese-owned Summit Forests, which owns the weigh-in/headquarters site at Waipapakauri Ramp, responded.
"Forest manager John Robinson has always supported the event, but this time he's gone all out to save it," Mr Stewart said.
"With the support of Summit Forests management and some of the company's business partners, he has come up with sufficient money to secure next year's tournament."
It was only a one-year deal at this stage, but he was hopeful that a longer-term arrangement would be reached.
A large part of the backing had come from Far North Roading (Glen Subritzky and Brady Wild) and King Avocado (Ian Broadhurst), but Mr Stewart emphasised that that should not detract from the competition's "extremely loyal" group of smaller local sponsors, who together made staging the five-day competition possible.
Contestants would be asked to make a contribution to the competition's survival too, however. Mr Stewart said the organisers had decided, with some reluctance, to increase the entry fee.
"It is many years since the last increase, and costs have risen significantly over that time, including the increase in GST to 15 per cent in 2010, to the point where we can no longer absorb them," he said.
"Next year's early bird ticket price will rise 10 per cent, to $275, while the late ticket price will rise to $300.
"We are now looking to cement the future of the Bonanza, and ask for support from past competitors to come back in 2015, and to bring new competitors with them. This is definitely a numbers game, and 1000 fishermen would secure the competition's future."
Last year's competition attracted 720 contestants, the same as in 2013 and about 100 up on 2012, but traditionally the field has ranged from around 700 to 800.
"Another 200 or 300 contestants next year would make a huge difference," Mr Stewart said.
"Local businesses that would like to support us but can't afford to become a sponsor might shout one of their employees a ticket. Every little bit really does help."
(See page 13 for a list of the current sponsors).
The 2015 field would once again be limited to 1000.
Mr Stewart has never fished the competition, probably doubting his stamina, but Dave Collard turned out 15 times.
"All I won was a throw away camera, so I thought stuff it, I'll focus on giving prizes to people who are better fishermen, or luckier, than me," he said.
"And there will be some spectacular prizes again in 2015."