Best of the Best
STEWART N. CAMPBELL
During his illustrious fishing career Stewart Campbell set 14 world records for Atlantic blue marlin, plus other records for spearfish, white marlin, and bigeye tuna. But he may be best remembered as the angler who was pulled overboard by a grander-size blue marlin, a moment captured in the film Cockpit Chaos. Somehow Campbell’s leader line became wrapped around the rod tip during his battle with the potentially record-setting fish. The marlin surged, and when the line came tight, he was pulled right out of the chair and over the transom. Campbell recovered and was back fishing the next day.
Another of Campbell’s amazing accomplishments took place in 1995 off Hatteras, North Carolina, when he, as angler, and a crew that included Capt. Peter B.Wright (also on this list), caught and released 73 giant bluefin tuna in a single day’s fishing. Campbell never left the fighting chair.
Pioneering angler Tim Choate was hooked on fishing from boyhood. Following a very brief career as a lawyer, his wanderlust took him to where the big fish roamed, including five seasons on the Great Barrier Reef. In 1982, he and Capt. Peter B. Wright boated the largest black marlin of the season. It weighed more than 1,200 pounds.
In the 1980’s, when Venezuela was not a well-known hot spot, Choate helped put it on the map. He was part of the Hank and Gretchen Manley team that caught the first double super grand slam: a sailfish, blue marlin, white marlin, and swordfish. Choate was also present during the Manleys’ quest to catch 1,000 billfish in a calendar year. They finished the 1983 season with 1,108.
Choate eventually built a small charter fleet in Costa Rica, before moving on to help explore Guatemala’s big-game fishery with his famous Fins & Feathers Resort. He has also developed charter-fishing operations in Brazil and the Galapagos Islands.
A strong conservationist, Choate helped create, and was the first director of, The Billfish Foundation. He has also worked with political leaders in Central and South America to protect billfish and encourage catch-and-release fishing.
CAPT. RON HAMLIN
Capt. Ron Hamlin is one of the most respected names in big-game fishing. Earlier this year, he logged his 25,000th billfish release, an unprecedented feat. He has been one of the The Billfish Foundation’s top tagging captains in the Pacific for ten years running, and currently fishes out of Guatemala, although he’s helped launch billfish hot spots like Venezuela, Cozumel, and St. Thomas.
Hamlin’s release statistics are all the more impressive because many days his anglers fly-fish, so the numbers don’t build up as fast as with conventional tackle. He was also one of the first captains to develop and refine the bait-and-switch method of billfishing.
In the 1990’s Hamlin was disturbed by the fact that although he had tagged thousands of billfish, none of the tags had been recovered. So he pledged to use only circle hooks in order to reduce injuries. Many thought his catch rate would drop but if anything, it increased. Soon, most of the boats in Guatemala had converted to circle hooks, and today the majority of billfish anglers worldwide use them. This may be Hamlin’s greatest legacy.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.