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Call It a Tie

September 21, 2007
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| |FIGHT NIGHT: DiBenedetto argues into the dark with a big Miami Beach tarpon.|

Recently, as dusk slipped into dark off north miami beach, i found myself getting whipped by a big tarpon aboard Captain Gavet Tuttle’s boat. I must admit, my girlfriend Jenny hooked and fought the fish (it hit a free-drifted live shrimp) for 45 minutes before she decided not to argue with it anymore. I took the rod thinking that I could finish the fish off in no longer than 15 minutes. I had just landed a 90-pounder in short order and planned to do the same here. Or so I thought.

That tarpon picked up with me—and the 20-pound tackle—right where it had left off with Jenny. It lolled on the bottom, ran doggedly, jumped like a ballerina on ecstasy and rolled for air as if it wasn’t even hooked. I used all my tricks. I worked the rod from side to side to keep the tarpon off balance and agitated; I applied as much pressure as I dared by thumbing the spool, hoping to turn its head. I tried everything I knew, save for channeling the ghosts of fishermen past for a little divine intervention.

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But an hour later, I was still locked in combat. Tuttle was unfazed. When not working the boat to my advantage, he chatted with Jenny (who was now quite delighted with her decision to hand over the rod) and fielded phone calls from other guides inquiring about the action. I wondered aloud if I was doing anything wrong.

“Looks like you’re doing everything you’re supposed to,” Tuttle replied.

A few minutes later his cell phone rang again. “Man,” he said before answering. “This is a four-phone-call fish.”

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With my arms shaking and knees wobbling, the tarpon finally showed some signs of tiring. Tuttle brought out a spotlight and shined it on the water. About five feet down we saw silver. “She’s about ready,” Tuttle said. The tarpon was a bona fide hog, pushing 170 pounds easy. Now it was Tuttle’s turn.

I swung the fish toward him, and he got hold of its jaw. Jenny and I hooted and hollered with delight. The tarpon wasn’t as happy. It thrashed back and forth in the water, thumping Tuttle’s body on the deck each time it swung its head. But Tuttle held on and freed the hook. As he hung over the side of the boat reviving the fish, Tuttle talked quietly to it. I’m not sure what he was saying, but I hope at some point he said thanks.

David Dibenedetto
Editor[email protected]

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