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Sailfish Catch Wins Destin Fishing Rodeo SUP Division

Captain Lance Moss sent in quite the amazing story of great success while fishing in the SUP Division of the 2012 Destin Fishing Rodeo. Capt. Moss, along with his wife Kristin, run and own a surfing and fishing charter company, Surfari Charters International, in Nicaragua. Fishing in SUP tournaments all over Central America and the United States, the Destin Fishing Rodeo became of great interest to Capt. Moss when he learned of their SUP-only division. Not only that, first prize was a brand new paddleboard.

After watching fellow contestants haul in big kingfish and other large offshore catches, Capt. Moss knew he had to get creative and step up his game. This is when the idea hatched to fish for hungry sharks on the west jetty. The sharks gave Capt. Moss and his teammate a run for their money, and a serious rush of adrenaline for a day; with spinner sharks becoming airborne in their chum slick, circling their paddleboards. However, the shark fishing didn’t exactly pan out as planned, in the end, it was no toothy critter that put Capt. Moss in the winners seat. In fact, it was a fish with no chompers, rather, a long bill. A 65.8-pound sailfish took Capt. Moss and his teammate on a whopping 6-mile ride offshore of the inlet. Against all odds, they successfully landed the sailfish and transported it back to the weigh station. The sailfish set a SUP record for the Destin Fishing Rodeo and Capt. Moss was hooked up with a brand new paddleboard. Check out the video below for actual footage, along with the full story, directed by Capt. Moss. – C.C

“Five sharks circled directly below me in clear sight. I felt a surge of adrenaline but felt confident I was safe standing on a 12-foot paddleboard; then, I heard a huge splash 50 yards behind me. I turned and saw the hole left in the water but wrote it off as a porpoise jumping. Then I caught something in my peripheral vision that terrified me. Twisting in mid air 6 feet out of the water with his jaws open, a spinner shark around 50 pounds landed only ten feet from me almost splashing water on my board. I realized that the chum bags I had put out had worked too well. If one of these errant spinner sharks landed on the board or hit me, I could flip over spilling my cooler with chum blocks, fresh mullet, bonita slabs, and Boston mackerel right into the shark frenzy! I yelled at my good buddy, Harry Madison (who was hooked up with a shark 50 yards away) and told him that maybe we had gone a little too far in our quest to win the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Four days earlier I flew into Fort Walton Beach from Nicaragua. I have been living in Nicaragua with my wife Kristin for the past 10 years running our surfing and fishing charter company, Surfari Charters International. We come back to my hometown of Niceville every year to help my folks move to their winter home in Texas. I am always sure to link up with all my buddies and get in as much fishing as possible. This year, Harry Madison (who just got back from his first trip to Nicaragua the week before) told me I had to try stand up paddle fishing. Then I found out that the Destin Fishing Rodeo had a division for SUP’s and the biggest fish of any species would win a new SUP. I fish tournaments all over Central America and the US, so this was right up my alley. Our first mission out on the SUP’s would have us targeting some black drum I had located the day before on our boat. After my first two strokes on the SUP over the grass flats, I was hooked. I have fished from boats and kayaks, but there was something about standing up over the sheet glass conditions and gliding along. It just felt like I was levitating and could see everything! After a 3-mile paddle, we busted up a bunch of black drum. It was a huge challenge to prevent getting dragged into structure while fighting the fish. At days end, we weighed in a 17.5-pound black drum and were sitting in first place. The next day, I got to my chores and shortly after got a text from Harry, “Somebody is paddling in with a 25-pound king mackerel.” I immediately realized we were going to have to put together another mission for a bigger fish. Harry suggested targeting Kings, but I knew we had to go for something that would blow people’s minds, we had to target a big shark on the west jetty!

I have known Harry for years. When I was a grom (young surfer), he owned the surf shop in Fort Walton — Harry’s Surf Shop. We all looked up to him, and he was a hero to us. When I was 16 years old, he put me on his surf team, and at that time, that was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me. Last week after 10 years of coercing, I finally got him to Nicaragua and was able to repay him with the best week of waves he had ever had! Today, though, we would team up and target a sea monster and the glory of winning the Destin Fishing Rodeo! At about 10:00 a.m., we launched our 12 foot paddle boards from the beach just past the NCO Club. Paddling above the emerald green water with sheet glass conditions, I again felt the incredible levitating feeling that is unique to stand up paddling. Something deep in my senses told me that today was going to be special.

We set up shop a few hundred yards inside of the sea buoy. I immediately deployed one of three chum bags and casted out a shark rig on a balloon. Then I got to cutting pieces of Boston mackerel to enhance the chum line. I had an anchor set out with a a buoy attached and with the chum bag tied to it. Then I tied all of that to my board with a quick release knot in case a shark tried to eat the chum bag. It wasn’t long before Harry hooked up on a live bait and started yelling “shark!” Harry then said he had 4 or 5 bigger sharks circling him and yelled for me to get over to him to try and hook up the big one. I released from the anchor/buoy/chum bag and went over to investigate. When I got over to Harry, the big shark, probably around 100 pounds, swam right up to me. I threw the big bonita slab right in front of him, and he came in hot, then shied away from the steel leader. Then 4 other sharks came in to check it all out. After a few minutes, I realized that the sharks did not like the big steel leader. Harry released his shark, and then I told him I was going to paddle back over to the chum bag.

The chum bag was probably 200 yards away when I started paddling towards it. There was a huge slick down current and lots of fish were breaking the surface. When I got 50 yards from the bag, I could see 5 sharks directly underneath me and lots of other “sharky” activity close by. At the chum bag, two sharks were fighting each other to chew on it. This is when the first splash startled me and shortly thereafter I confirmed my fears when the spinner shark landed in the water really close to me. Wow. What had we gotten ourselves into? I really considered pulling the plug right then, but the adrenaline of the situation had me zinging, and I really wanted to win the Rodeo. Also, the next day, we were leaving to Venice, Louisiana, to go fishing, and this was the last shot. I knew we would get a big one, but I had no idea what would happen next.

Harry worked his way back over to me and the chum bag, and we both were seeing tons of sharks. I could not get one to bite the heavy shark rig, so I casted out a live Elwhy on a mackerel rig to see if maybe that would do the trick. Harry and I paddled around the chum bag, slow trolling our baits. A minute later, my mackerel rod doubled over and the old Mitchell 302 with manual bail started singing. I reached behind me and grabbed the rod out of the rod holder built on the cooler and set the hook. I yelled “shark on!” and Harry looked over and started hooting! Then we got the show of our fishing lives. A huge sailfish broke the surface 20 yards away and started putting on a show. A passing center console boat saw the whole thing, and both guys on the boat rubbernecked with jaws dropped to the ground! Could it be? A billfish this close in? Sailfish are rare in Destin, but inside the sea buoy, unheard of! I knew we had to get this fish, or nobody would ever believe us!

On the first run, the sailfish ran straight for the deep, jumping non stop for over 200 yards. I stood up on the board and was clipping along at around 4 to 6 knots! It was incredible, I was riding a board behind a sailfish! Harry started paddling me down and could hardly keep up with the racing sailfish. It was immediately evident that we had a battle on our hands. The sailfish swam in one direction, out to sea. I tried not to look behind me, knowing that we were getting farther offshore by the second. An hour into the battle, a center console boat pulled up to us and asked us if we were alright. Harry gave him the rundown: “Lance is hooked up with a sailfish and can have no assistance from another vessel because he is in the Rodeo. He must land it on his own then paddle back to the weigh in.” Harry then elaborated, “If you could watch over us, though, that would be awesome. It looks like we are going to end up pretty far offshore.” The boat owner, Jimmy Owens, from North Alabama, would be our guardian angel on this mission! I couldn’t help but wonder if one of those sharks would take a shot at this sailfish when I got him close enough to gaff him. It was nice knowing that if the “$h!t hit the fan” that Jimmy would get me to the hospital!

The battle kept dragging on. I got him up to the 25 foot wind on leader at least 40 times, but then he would dive down and keep pushing out to sea. I knew right away that he must be foul hooked. Sailfish hooked in the mouth generally give up within 30 minutes. The small “stinger” hook on the mackerel rig, must be barely holding on. The last thing we wanted was to lose this fish after fighting it for this long. Harry made some phone calls to find out the minimum size for a sailfish harvest, and we realized the fish would make the mark. Generally, sailfish are released to live and fight another day. In Nicaragua we release all billfish and have released thousands over the years. I would have been stoked to let this one swim off, but I knew the meat would not be wasted and that it might win us the Rodeo. Not to mention that it would be caught on a stand-up paddleboard! That definitely has not been done many times before!

Two and a half hours into the fight and about six miles offshore, the Sailfish started swimming in circles. I felt that I was about to break him. After about six circles and having him inches from the board several times, I readied one of two custom flying gaffs I made the night before. Finally, I got him up to the starboard side of the board and reached for the gaff with my left hand. I leaned out and struck the Sailfish in the top of the back and pulled him on the side of the board. As soon as I stuck the fish, the stinger hooked popped out of the fishes back. It was nearly straightened out and was barely holding on. I doubt it would have lasted another 10 minutes. Then I grabbed my second gaff for good measure and buried it in his back as well! I couldn’t believe I had subdued the fish. Harry looked at me and we both yelled “SUBU!” which stands for “Show Up and Blow Up,” a battle cry we adopted a few years back! It was an amazing feeling, but then I looked at the dropping sun. I now had to get this beast back to the scales before 7:00 p.m., and we were a long way from home!

Jimmy Owens steamed along behind us while we paddled our butts off. Luckily we had a following sea, but man, we were a long way out! After about 2-plus hours of paddling, we got to the sea buoy. Once again, sharks started popping up everywhere. Then the spinners set us up with an unpredictable gauntlet of flying teeth to paddle through. All I wanted was a cold beer at AJ’s! We broke inside the jetties and the tide was dropping and giving us a 4 knot current to paddle against! Charter boats kept coming by and upon seeing the fish on my board, gave us hoots of congratulations. I was wearing out, but I just keep pushing and digging for more strength, knowing that my friends and family would be waiting at the scales!

I have rounded Noriega point in Destin thousands of times working on charter boats as a young man, but this time was different! We had done the impossible. Harry and I just kept yelling SUBU and stroked for the scales! The weighmaster had been notified that we were on our way in and hundreds of people were waiting for our arrival. We felt like we just pulled into victory lane at the Daytona 500! People were snapping pictures, throwing high fives, and asking all kinds of questions. My wife showed up and gave me a kiss and handed me a cold Busch beer! I couldn’t have been more proud of Harry and I. The fish weighed in at 65.8 pounds, a new rodeo record! The crowd roared and cheered. I had goose bumps. It was a fisherman/surfers dream come true!

The catch ended up winning the month long Destin Fishing Rodeo and currently stands as the paddleboard record. I couldn’t be more stoked on the whole experience! Right now I am planning my next adventure. All I can say is that it involves huge fish and paddleboards in Central America. I will keep all of you posted! Until then, SUBU and tight lines!”

  • Sail Fish

    Sailfish unheard of inside the sea bouy? Dont think so, there were dozens of sails caught from the piers this year, not to mention many many more from kayaks just off the beach