He Said, He Said
Two anglers go head-to-head at the Bertram-Hatteras Shootout and offer the final tally as they see it.
Triumph of the Geezer“Yeah, yeah,” I was thinkin’ to myself as my young colleague Capt. Patrick Sciacca emphasized yet again the number of dolphin he and his teammates onboard the Hatteras GT60 had caught earlier that day.
For some reason, I no longer remember the actual count Sciacca was touting at the time, despite the fact that he must have hammered the figure home about 50 million times. But it doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot anyway, since none of his fantastic little fishies made a serious impact on the scoreboard. The way things turned out, winning the 30th Annual Bertram-Hatteras Shootout, held at the Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas last spring, was way more about white marlin and blue marlin than it was about dolphin.
But did I say young? Well, let’s make that relatively young. I mean, Patrick is, by my guess, pushin’ 40 (I’m too nice a guy to come right out and ask him exactly how old he is, so I can’t give you truly accurate data here), a vintage that makes him at least youngish by comparison with a guy like me who’s gonna be fully eligible for Social Security soon. And, like many relatively young guys these days, he’s got some serious maturity issues, each and every one attributable to a total and incomprehensible lack of fond appreciation for the infinitely deep, awe-inspiring, almost-oceanic wisdom of us old geezers. Just one example: “How many fish did you guys catch today?” Patrick asked (with considerable presumption, I thought) on the last evening of our two-day stint onboard separate, competing, company-fielded vessels.
At the moment, I was dutifully helping Mark and Matt Shunk, our two mates from Jupiter, Florida, tie up Bertram’s bodacious 63-foot Screamin Eagle before we all headed for the giant tent, where the evening’s aprs-tournament festivities were already crankin’ up. Patrick knew full well how many fish we’d caught. Zero! He was simply trying to rub it in. “Wanna see pictures?” he asked, proffering a cellphone.
Ah, Patrick! You relatively young guys are so brash, so cheeky. You fail to see the karmic implications of, say, catching a few dolphin on one particular boat on one particular day, bragging about it, and then in the end, having to watch the opposing team—which would be the Bertram team, otherwise known as my team—win the overall Shootout: 1,500 to 1,100 points.
And, just as an aside, your kind doesn’t fully grasp the true essentials of life as well. You know, like the deep philosophical significance of the conversations that occur onboard a tournament battlewagon as she trolls the blue Atlantic, hour after hour, with the sun beating down, the VHF grimly broadcasting the hookups of other battlewagons elsewhere (elsewhere, always elsewhere), and nary a single, freakin’ bite! Just one example: “Whaaahh,” yelped angler Alton Herndon, president of Bertram Yachts, who’d momentarily snagged his shirt on a lure while coming down the Screamin Eagle’s flying-bridge ladder just prior to “lines-in” on my last day aboard.
“Only one we hooked today…looks like a 200-pounder,” observed angler Sean Fenniman, Allied Marine broker, to Rob McDougal, president of Allied Marine. Both Fenniman and McDougal sat on the Eagle’s mezzanine lounge grinning widely at Herndon. “Haven’t seen 200 pounds since I played Little League baseball,” Alton fired back. “Just bein’ diplomatic, Alton,” Sean said, thereby precipitating and a veritable uproar or laughter in the Eagle’s cockpit.
And Now for some TruthI have a lot of respect for my old buddy Capt. Bill Pike. When I started in the marine industry more than a decade ago (before he started having dinner at 4 p.m.), Bill was a great mentor to me. And for that, I thank him. He even displays some skill with a fly rod on a no-wind day with a suicidal bonefish. But his version of this tournament’s story holds as much water as a castnet.
I admit that in the grand scheme of things, my hard-fishing and skilled Hatteras team came in a close second in the overall standings, but our effort was first-rate. And Bill, at least we found some fish. I believe you posted a tournament goose egg.
On the first day of competition, what Bill failed to mention was that my Hatteras GT60 lost the first critical hour or so of fishing due to a minor mechanical issue. (We figured Bill’s team could use the head start.) Thankfully, we made it to the grounds by mid-morning and dropped lines. As our team, led by top-notch captains Jeff Donahue and Kevin Gaylord, trolled over the blue Bahamian waters, we asked if anyone in the fleet had seen a fish, and the response from all boats was a resounding “Nothing.”
Fishing was slow. I’ve been angling offshore for 30 years, and these days happen, but I had faith in our crew, which also included MarineMax’s Gretchen Jenkins, PMY’s Joe Illes, and Hatteras’ Karl Kemppainen. A lot of experienced anglers were at the ready in the cockpit of this rigged and good-to-go battlewagon. It was also loaded with full-contact laughter, too, as the ribbing was nonstop, most of which was aimed at poor Capt. Donahue. (Sorry, Jeff.)
By midday only one spearfish, which was caught by the Bertram Great White Too (not Bill’s boat), was on the leaderboard. Joe asked if I wanted a sandwich. Breaking out the cold cuts on the galley countertop, I laid out my whole wheat bread and was ready to get crazy with the mustard when I looked out the saloon window. “Joe, white marlin!” I exclaimed. We were hooked up. Bill and his Bertram were going down, and the geezer’s earlier claim that he put the Bill in billfish would soon be proven false. There’s no way a 30-pound spearfish was taking us to the cleaners.
By the time I got to the cockpit six seconds later, we had jumped the fish off. Our only billfish bite for the day. We did manage to bag some nice dolphin, but there were only a few billfish bites on day one and that damn oversize ballyhoo-lookin’ spearfish took first. I admit it hurt, but at least we were ahead of Bill’s boat in fish seen and hooked up. And we were ahead in speed as Donahue raced our GT60 passed Bill’s Bertram on the way to the docks (I believe I have some great shots of this).
Day two dawned full of hope. Donahue found some promising-looking water and an epic weed line away from the fleet. Our team pounded the pavement. The same boat with the spearfish released a blue marlin early. We were now down by two and were dogged all day by large dolphin. At one point, after Capt. Gaylord had just put out a fresh spread of ballyhoo, a school of hard-charging 15-pounders came leaping across at our baits. Gaylord threw his hands up in the air and bellowed like he was falling off a cliff. “Noooo!” All the rods doubled over and were completely covered up.
Our fishbox was filled, but we admittedly hadn’t done anything to help the Hatteras cause. Back at the dock, I noticed the Screamin Eagle was still extremely clean. (Not sure why they needed to wash it.) And Bill, if you still want to see what a fish looks like I got those pictures for you.
I have to tip my ‘riggers to team Bertram for a job well done, and in turn, to my old buddy Bill for being part of the big win (even if he was really on the bench). Truth be told, the Bertram-Hatteras Shootout offers an immeasurable amount of fun and friendly fishing competition. And the nights can be as interesting as the days, especially with themed parties like disco night. (Bill, you don’t want to see those pictures.)
If you’re interested in participating in some old-fashioned competitive fishing fun in the Bahamas in early May, stop by www.fishtheshootout.com for details.
This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.