Matt Bridgewater, CEO of GEMLUX, Honored with NMMA’s 2023 Alan J. Freedman Award

Today, the NMMA honored Matt Bridgewater, CEO of GEMLUX, with the 2023 Alan J. Freedman Memorial Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals who’ve made outstanding contributions to the marine accessories industry through leadership, creativity and personal motivation. The award was presented during the Industry Breakfast at the Discover Boating® Miami International Boat Show®.

Matt’s love for the water started young with bass fishing then grew to include skiing, tubing, and even bridge-hopping. When a friend invited him to go offshore fishing as a teenager he was forever changed—the ocean became his home.

He enrolled at Eckerd College, and joined an all-volunteer Maritime Search and Rescue Team, EC-SAR, on his first day. There, he worked directly with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sheriff’s Department, and many other government agencies to master navigation, dive rescue, firefighting, vessel operation and repair.

Bridewater knew boating was his true passion and in 1994 he joined his father, Erle Bridgewater, at GEMLUX as sales manager.

His first major innovation project was designing a new latch to replace the plastic laches that dominated the industry. Making a stainless-steel latch was three times the price but 10 times better. From then he moved to rod holders, cleats, and up to outriggers.

Bridgewater has been committed to improving systems through function, comfort, making water flow better, and an overall enhanced fishing experience for the consumer. Family-owned and operated since 1980, GEMLUX is known for its innovative marine hardware.

Since his first day on the job, he has worked tirelessly to improve the boating experience for the end user and boat builders. He has fished competitively for over 30 years, and at each event, talked with the captains, crew, boat owners, and boatbuilders about improvements for the industry. When problems were identified, he found a way to solve them. Bridgewater and GEMLUX team are proud to have developed a multitude of innovative and award-winning products that make boating better, earning dozens of patents in the United States and around the world.

“Matt’s innovative ideas, positive attitude, and never-ending desire to improve boating has made him a leader in the industry and benefits everyone who steps on a boat,” said Lauren Alleva, director of marketing, GEMLUX. “He is happiest when on his boat surrounded by friends and family and believes the most successful people in this industry are those who truly live and breathe the boating lifestyle and, most importantly, encourages everyone to take a kid fishing.”

Bridgewater is an active member of the NMMA, a Board Member of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, and a founding member and past President of the Marine Leadership Alliance. He also works diligently with industry leaders in Washington D.C.

For more information about NMMA’s Alan J. Freedman Award and to nominate a deserving leader for 2024, please visit