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Third Time's A Charm


There’s nothing like hooking and landing a monster fish, and I have had my share of great catches over the years both with and without a television camera peering over my shoulder. Now, everyone has heard about goliath grouper. Their shear size, relentless power, and most of all their tenacity, place these beasts in a league all their own. This is why I jumped at the opportunity when a young guide called me and said, “Henry, do you want to do a big-fish show, a really, really big-fish show?” 
He told me he had been experimenting with monster goliath grouper for quite some time and that he put together the gear to handle them. The nice thing too, Captain Ben mentioned, the fish were right in my own backyard of Boca Grande Pass. We scheduled our big-fish excursion and I proceeded to get the entire rundown on the type of equipment we would be using. I told Captain Ben that I had similar gear which I would prepare for this special day.

As always when filming a television show we have two boats, one for the camera crew and one for the guest captain and myself. Captain Ben said it wasn’t imperative that we start too early, the tide needed to be just-right and he wanted to catch some large bait (jack and ladyfish).

The day came with beautiful skies and perfect weather. When we joined boats to discuss the game plan, Captain Ben went through the drill which seemed quite a feat for only a two-man crew.

The idea was to hook a five-pound jack in its back and with the addition of a large weight, get the bait to the bottom as quickly as possible. We were fishing heavy 200lb. test monofilament leader with 250lb. test PowerPro. The most important factor here was a locked-down drag. Zero drag out of the reel, nothing! Now the scary thing is that you make the drop in shallow-depths of approximately 15-feet where a monster goliath could inhale the bait at any moment, so you need to send the offering down in a hurry and quickly push the lever drag to full-strike. As soon as you feel a thump, hold on and yell, “Fish On!”

Now you better be prepared as the boat operator, in this case, Captain Ben would reverse the boat to help persuade the gargantuan away from its lair.

First Try

The bait’s on the bottom…one thousand one…one thousand WHAM! FISH ON!
“You got ‘em Hank.” Ben screamed, “HOLD ON – HOLD ON!”

Wow, what a heavyweight! The rod doubled-over and as I held on with all my might, within seconds the line parted. What the $#%@ Ben? I exclaimed. He responded, “You want to try my rig,” which consisted of an old Penn Senator loaded with what appeared to be cord mounted on a broom-stick of a rod. “No thanks,” I said.

Second Try

This time I doubled my 250 lb. test braid into a Bimini twist and added another four-feet of 200 lb. test mono so we had some stretch, as my braid running line offered zero give. I told my cameraman to board our boat so he could film some quality close-ups of the drop and hook-set. I plunked another five-pound jack into the water, free-spooled it to the bottom, and locked the lever drag. Just as I pushed the lever forward, WHAM! He was on again, maybe the same one or another one, but definitely another monster.

With Captain Ben in full control of the boat, we were winning the battle. I could feel it; this fish was going to be mine. Just as the rod powered down with a heavy pull, Captain Ben hollered, “REEL…REEL…REEL…Don’t let him get in the hole!”

I cranked down with two-turns of the handle and pulled with all of my might! I was thinking to myself, this is going to make for great TV when suddenly, SNAP! The line broke, the rod came jerking back and smashed me right in the forehead. I lost my balance and with a quick bobble, fell right into the drink with microphone, rod, gear and all. As my head bobbed on the surface with no sight of my cap or sunglasses, Captain Ben offered me a helping hand. All the while, I could see my cameraman filming away with a big smile on his face. So much for ego.

Third Try

Now I am mad, real mad and for some reason, we’ve gathered a crowd of four boats trying to figure out what we’re up to. With one microphone out of commission, I asked for the shirt off my cameraman’s back as mine was now laid out to dry. Captain Ben said, “Hey Henry, do you want to try my rig?”

“Yes,” I said in a humble voice. The cord on the old reel was thick; even pulling off a foot or two was a chore as it barely fit through the guides. We positioned the bow of the boat and with lively bait in hand; I remarked how this felt like déjà-vu.

“Alright Henry,” Ben exclaimed. Down went my bait…one thousand one…one thousand WHAM! “FISH ON!” I shouted.

Same deal, this goliath gave all that it had with powerful body-slams at the bottom of the structure. Not a breath was taken as I struggled and exerted all the power I had. I held on and so did the fish for what seemed like forever. The monster goliath grouper came to the surface for the first time in three attempts. After a five-minute tug-o-war – man against fish – I finally won! What a giant, what a catch! With bruised ribs, a throbbing headache and a deflated ego, I earned respect from a young guide that acknowledged me as the most persistent angler he has ever fished with. I was still dripping wet from head to toe and for some reason, the fish appeared to be grinning from gill-plate to gill-plate.

Henry Waszczuk is the host of the award-winning Fishing the Flats and Fins & Skins Classic Adventures television series. Henry has produced and hosted over 1,000 TV shows and is entering his 24th season on air. 
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