Tred Barta says he is motivated to aid competitive angling in the Cayman Islands.
The fishing celebrity – who is a noted angler, writer, philanthropist and television personality – was in Cayman earlier this week as a guest of the Cayman Islands Angling Club. Barta, 62, lives in Islamorada, Florida, and was here diving, fishing and composing articles for media outlets like Big Game Fishing Journal and Sports Illustrated.
Barta says he wants fishing tournaments here to be more well-known.
“I like the Caymans very much but more importantly, I like Frank Thompson [the angling club president],” Barta said. “I like the people, I like the fishing club. Your island seems to be very paraplegic-friendly, I haven’t seen anyone else in a wheelchair beside myself. Every time I need help, someone is there to help and it’s beautiful people, a beautiful island, a wealthy island. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are really wonders of the world, and the fishing here can be great.
“If I’m invited back, and if I don’t offend too many people,” he joked, “I would really like to promote the fishing club, the events. I’d like to help the Caymans turn this around, but I got to meet with the governor, the wealthy guy that did the marina the other day, the bankers, the Department of Tourism. If people can make those people accessible to someone in a wheelchair who has nothing to grind and who is one of the most successful men and writers in our sport, I can help them. That’s the message, and I think the message is healthy.”
Barta has been to Cayman in the past while tackling various projects. He recently shot 20 episodes for “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta” show on NBC Sports and has been on the channel 10 years. Barta is also halfway through his second book, which is slated to be completed by the end of the year.
What makes his story interesting is that he has done it all in spite of his disability. More than five years ago, Barta contracted a rare blood cancer which left him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from his chest down for the rest of his life. Barta said he hopes to inspire others with his life’s work.
“Five years ago  I contracted a severe blood cancer called Waldenstrom’s – which is very, very rare. To make it real short, I was in the hospital for four months, three times they gave me a week to live, to get myself organized. Now I’m five-and-a-half years [later]. I just had a 26-foot Andros Sportfisherman built, with twin 150-Evinrudes. I now can clip myself into the console and drive the boat.
“I’ve written the back page of Sport Fishing magazine for 32 years and I’ve been a writer for 45 years, never missing an issue for five magazines. I set a number of International Game Fishing Association records. You become famous in two ways. You’re in the right place at the right time. Where I was, I caught more bigeye tuna than any man alive during my time. I outlived all the other people who drank themselves to death, so what I’m saying is a lot of people who could be in my position have passed away. So here I am.
“I don’t want to make it sound like I’m an elitist, I’m a working man. I’ve dedicated my life to helping other people. They gave me one week to live with my cancer, three times, and 90 percent of what I do is to inspire people like myself and others to be great. I don’t believe in mediocrity.”
Barta’s arrival comes as the local fishing scene is winding down. The angling club is putting on the year’s final competition, the Cayman First Insurance All Tackle fishing tournament, on Nov. 22-23.
Angling club president Franklin Thompson says Barta’s visit will help Cayman for years to come.
“Tred can assist us through his articles with our goal of informing the world that the Cayman Islands is a world-class sport fishing destination,” Thompson said. “Tred has been writing for outdoor magazines for over 30 years and has a dedicated following. Our aim is to attract his readers to our island to experience our great sport fishing.”