Yellowfin Tournament Winner Show- Photog Blog-By Jason Stemple

Yellowfin Tournament Winner Show

You never know how someone will react when they get on a boat with people they’ve watched on TV for a good part of their life and then are quickly hooked to a species they’ve never caught before. But Riley, the winner of a fishing trip with Tom and Rich at the Yellowfin Owner’s Tournament, fared extremely well. When Riley won the trip, I’m sure he had no idea that we would be filming the day for an episode.

 nikon d800, 30mm, f/5.6, 1/4000 sec

nikon d800, 30mm, f/5.6, 1/4000 sec

We met Riley and his family at the dock at Hawk’s Cay and after some introductions, we left Riley’s family behind and loaded up into two Yellowfin 24s. Tom and Rich soon found out that Riley had never caught a tarpon before and that it was at the top of his list. Rich checked the tides and we rolled out quickly to catch the last hour of the rising tide at one of his favorite spots. After a quick stop to load up on pilchards, we were dropping anchor around the corner from a nearby bridge. We set up on the current seam and they starting throwing back a few freebie pilchards. Within seconds, there were fish busting the freebies and they started dropping back baits freelined and on corks.

 not much will turn down a freelined pilchard!nikon d300s, 200mm, f/5.0, 1/800 sec

not much will turn down a freelined pilchard!nikon d300s, 200mm, f/5.0, 1/800 sec

Riley hooked up quickly with a nice black grouper, then another before a big jack gave him a workout, as Rich was unhooking the jack, Tom called out that they had nervous bait and Riley ran back to grab the rod as a big flash of silver erupted out of the water 50 yards behind the boat. Riley fought the fish like a pro, bowing on every jump and even doing the anchorline dance when the tarpon did a lap around the boat trying to tangle him up. Then he led him over to Tom for the face grab. In barely more than an hour after leaving the dock, Riley had caught 2 black grouper, a big jack and his first tarpon.

 Riley's first black grouper. nikon d300s, 185mm, f/5.0, 1/1600 sec

Riley's first black grouper. nikon d300s, 185mm, f/5.0, 1/1600 sec

 maneuvering around the anchor line like a pro. nikon d300s, 120mm, f/4.0, 1/3200.  

maneuvering around the anchor line like a pro. nikon d300s, 120mm, f/4.0, 1/3200.  

 Riley's first tarpon boatside before release. nikon d300s, 85mm, f/5.0, 1/2500 sec

Riley's first tarpon boatside before release. nikon d300s, 85mm, f/5.0, 1/2500 sec

I always like watching someone get their first of a species, and I like shooting when it’s a smorgasbord fishery like around the Keys Bridges. You really don’t know what’s grabbing the next pilchard. Could be a number of different grouper or snapper species, snook, jacks, tarpon, sharks, and the list goes on. After Riley’s first tarpon the tide slacked off and along with it, the action. So we pulled up anchor and checked out a nearby bank for permit, but an approaching storm covered the sun and took away any hope of sightfishing for permit. As the tide turned around we headed across the channel to the other side of the bridge where we could set up opposite of what we had done earlier and repeat the scenario.

 looking for permit before the clouds closed in. nikon d800, 20mm, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec.

looking for permit before the clouds closed in. nikon d800, 20mm, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec.

 rich releasing a big bridge jack. nikon d300s, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/2500 sec.

rich releasing a big bridge jack. nikon d300s, 200mm, f/4.0, 1/2500 sec.

Again, they caught a variety of fish including mangrove snapper, red grouper, more jacks and Riley’s second tarpon. The highlight for me was a tarpon that they hooked right up against the bridge that jumped higher than any tarpon I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, it jumped 5 feet higher than I could have possibly anticipated and right out of view as I rattled off 5 or 6 frames during the jump. Tarpon are my favorite fish to catch and shoot, but jumping tarpon are also one of the hardest things to capture, especially the smaller and mid sized models like Riley’s. They are so unpredictable and fast that getting one good shot per fish is doing pretty good. I’ll talk more about shooting jumping tarpon in my next two posts as I recount the Bahia Honda Tarpon Shows.

 the one decent shot i got of this ballistic tarpon (not as clear as I would like, but fun anyway). nikon d300s, 130mm, f/4.0, 1/1000 sec.

the one decent shot i got of this ballistic tarpon (not as clear as I would like, but fun anyway). nikon d300s, 130mm, f/4.0, 1/1000 sec.

After Riley’s second tarpon and a few more jacks, the storm clouds closed in on us, so we called it a day and we made the quick run back to Hawk’s Cay before we got wet.

 had to run back to hawk's cay before this one got us. nikon d800, 21mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec.

had to run back to hawk's cay before this one got us. nikon d800, 21mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec.

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