Spring time has arrived in South Florida yet again (well, kind of) and a lot has changed from this time a short year ago. I have relocated the main office of the legendary Shark Command Central much further North, there are new faces, new blood, new energy, and new dis-ownings from the Team Rebel franchise. Everybody thinks when these things happen we will take a drop-off in productivity, but it always appears to make us "Stronger Than All" in the end. And early into this years season, this has proven true once again.
This has ben the longest winter we have experienced in our 25 years in Florida, granted not the coldest, but the longest. We have never witnesses this many successive systems move over our semi-tropical region in a six month period before, which made our hibernation, and wade and snook fishing shenanigans, last longer than we could have ever expected. And all that left us with was memories of combat etched into the lobes of our dormant, surf-less brains. However the time was approaching, April at last, and it was time to hang the waders and the First Light Snook Jigs up, and go after some tackle testing toothys on the ocean-side of the angling spectrum. But this year began different aside from the cold, we lost some people, and gained some people, but more importantly, we added some MUCH needed metal fortitude to the Team Rebel Machine wit the addition of Cody "Paper Shredder" Davis, and Adam "Robofisk" Fisk. Cody fished for shark for the first time last year and he did pretty well, and with our main offices' departure from the South land, he said him and Robofisk were going to "bring it strong" in my absence. So we started getting the gear together for them to take on this monumental task down in the land of the fist-pumpers. Cody and Adam frantically searched for reels, while I was given the task of building them a couple of rods worthy of grander stopping capabilities. And in just a few short days time (and some of the worst rod building luck I had ever experienced) The "Robofisk" and "Live long, Live Legendary" Rope gripped grander wrangling sticks were complete and ready for action, just in time for the kick-off party.
I will spare you the details of Adam and Codys maiden voyage out, because we already reported in on that expedition, which can be seen and read here, or by clicking on the picture of Robofisk below.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg, there was still a lot of fishing that needed to be done, and we are on the clock to meet our own expectations while running a Northern camp and a Southern camp. So without any hesitation, the frantic bait gathering frenzy was on again, proving to be more difficult this year than in other years past due to the volatile weather conditions and the wind changing directions on a daily basis. But Adam and Cody were taking it day by day, slowly acquiring bait and trying to penetrate the unusually rough Spring time surf, in search of some nice sharks.
It didn't take more than one or two trips before Adam and Cody were on the board again with this nice bull between 250-275 and the ball had officially started moving in the Team Rebel Southern outfit. However, we have been forced to unofficially dub this Phase of Domination; Live, the "yeah or horrible pictures" as you have already seen with the first hammer, and will continue to see as this moves forward...
As Cody and Adam were able to fish select days when the surf afforded them the opportunity to do so, way up North at the main office of SCC, my crew and I were not so fortunate, as bait is much harder to come by up this way, and the surf is much rougher than the 3-4ft we normally see way further south this time of year. So to kill time, we went and hassled a couple of corporations for some gear to keep pushing forward, and AFTCO stepped up in a big way and delivered to show their support of Team Rebel's operation.
We also were out on a never ending quest for bait, while waiting for the surf to open a small window that we could slip a kayak into for a few days. However a lot of our bait catching ended up yielding Snook, Snook, and some more Snook, along with a TROPHY, rogue 37 " bluefish that went into the freezer stockpile.
We now had bait, we had the motivation, but we didn't have the weather we needed to get out to where we wanted to go. We did a lot of scouting and honed in on the area we thought we would have the best chance to bust a few studs in the coming weeks, but the weathermans constantly horrendous forecast kept keeping us inland and trigger happy, until we finally saw it.......A 4 day window was about to open up with the correct wind needs to try to catch some lightning in a bottle, and we knew we had no option except to beast up and hit it hard and heavy. However the fish had other plans in mind for us and our rusty tactics.
We arrived for our maiden voyage of the year, and the new land in which we reside. We had high hopes, as we thought the conditions were prime, however the tide wasn't juuuuuust right......yet. But even with great conditions, the wind was still blowing 15-20 straight down the coast-line, making it extremely difficult to paddle out, in some still sloppy surf, the only good thing was that it wasn't breaking. We fished a 7 hour session on day 1, getting nothing but some nasty sunburn and our baits being toyed with by the never welcome Nurse sharks that roam the area, until I saw one of my lines go slack. I reeled tight, and was able to feel something on the other end, so I threw the reel into free spool and tried to let it take a little to eat, that was short lived, once I realized the fish was heading against the wind and with the current. I cranked like a madman trying to get tight on the fish, but after two minutes of cranking without catching up, it finally decided to stop teasing us and spit the hook. Needless to say we were heart broken, but it definitely confirmed our hunch, and it was now time to gear up for day two.
Me and 50 cal arrive at the beach around non-time, just to see lightning crashing and rain dumping all around us. "SHIT! This isn't good" 50 cal grunted out while checking the radar on his fancy phone. The only rain anywhere up the coast except right where we were at, and it just kept building. So we just posted up listening to some Pantera in our VIP parking spot awaiting a break in the weather so we could get the show on the road again. Well, of course this took two hours until we finally had a window to get some baits out. But naturally, as soon as we got baits out, the storm built up again, and began to bludgeon our camp for a couple of more hours, while I took cover in the sand under a sideways umbrella to stay moderately dry in the sideways rain. Well while I was hunkered down, and 50 Cal was hiding somewhere else, my 14/0 let out a strong steady cry, and in the midst of the storm, a nice fish decided to inhale the bait. I sprung into action solo as 50 was making his way down the beach to assist, but when I threw the reel into gear and came tight, the circle hook did not catch, and the fish was gone. Another soul-crushing blow to our camp, on back to back days nonetheless, but we couldn't stop now, if we could paddle we had to fish, no other option. We re-rigged and re-deployed, and waited an hour into dark without incident, well that is if you count a 350lb nurse shark noteworthy or not, and we packed up with our tails between our legs and headed home to re-strategize once more.
Day 3 of four comes, and I was burnt and tired and did not want to fish. It was scorching outside, and 50 Cal was at work for the next 36 hours, so I made some half-assed and un-motivated phone calls to a few people to try to get someone to come with me and suffer all day in the sun. To my surprise our friend and wade-fishing phenom Jayson aka ".38 Special" said he is in. So now I was committed to going, and giving this a try again. As I sipped on my 64oz Mountain Dew Code red, with the soothing riffs of Corrosion of Conformitys "Albatross" serenading me through the speakers of my ice cold truck interior, something clicked inside my brain, and I said to myself "Did I bring the f*&^ing paddle?!" I had already driven about 18 of the 20 miles needed to get to my destination to deploy, when I pulled off on the side of the road, and of course, there wasn't a paddle. I called 38 in a frantic rage asking if he knew anybody who had a paddle we could use, but nobody was answering calls or were busy doing other things. "I'm screwed" is the first thing that went through my head, Time was ticking on the day and we were already super late. But something told me to drive to the spot anyways just to take a look, probably just to make me even angrier if it looked good when I arrived. But long behold! Upon my arrival, I went and crested the hill to view the ocean, and in the middle of the sea grapes, I see something yellow, it was my paddle! I left it there the day before and didn't even remember. It was laying there like god himself placed it there, like it had a celestial glow around it. I calle 38 and told him to keep coming, because it is on! While all this was happening, my dad called me, apparently he made a secret trip to the area to do some wade fishing and was asking what I was up to, and he just happened to be around the corner, so naturally I told him to come on down for a bit while he was taking a break. He arrived a few short minutes later, and crested the hill to where I was standing and we began talking for a moment, when he looked down and made an excellent observation. Big Break number two had just occurred, when he reached down and pulled up a rotten, fiberglass, ball ping hammer from the bushes...... You don't just find a hammer in a spot in which you are looking for hammerheads, and not catch hammerheads! That's against the law!
Jayson arrived moments later, and we set-up camp and proceeded deploying baits as fast as I could get them out. Too many things had already happened for this day not to be successful, I started feeling it as we patiently awaited the sound that all fisherman long for. About an hour passed and one of my 14/0s exploded! I picked it up instantly just to look up and see a huge black-tip shark way out there just biting through all my line and leader as the line went slack. "Yup, here we go" I thought to myself, the good luck was now starting be overshadowed by the bad once again. I sat down to tie up a new rig real fast, when my 2 day old umbrella decided to launch 60ft in the air and implode upon hitting the sand. We were now back to full bad luck, and I was getting pissed, and scorched now. My dad decided to depart, he thought Trout fishing was going to be much more entertaining, leaving myself and Jayson there to stick it out till the end of the day.
I paddled out another bait so that we had two in the water again, and began the waiting game once, more, and umbrella-less this time. We sat in silence for about 45minutes, when it finally happened, my deep bait ignited, and I could tell it was something decent. I left the rod in the spike while I was letting the fish on the other end devour the bait and the 20/0 circle hook before I engaged and cranked like a madman, the only difference on this day from the previous day, as that this time I connected, and this fish was LIVID. Jayson grabbed onto the rod in the spike while I readied the harness for battle, and when the time came to lift the rod up, it took both of us to do it, This fish was taking line, and fast on pretty damn heavy drag. Jayson has never really done this before, so this was al la learning experience, getting thrown right into gunfire on a front line. This wasn't a black-tip or nurse shark, this was a full blown big fish assault, I didn't know what was ahead of us, as I hadn't been in a harness in almost a year myself, but this was no time to doubt, this was a time to get the job done Team Rebel style. I decided I was going to man up and stop letting this fish take line , I was over it already, time to drop the hammer on this thing and see where it takes us. I told Jayson to clip the safety rope on, and I cranked down to terminate. This fish almost ripped me right off my feet, and had the rod bent to a degree that I have not personaly seen since our granders a few years back. A five minute EPIC stalemate ensued, and I was starting to think this was a stud of a fish, and then it abruptly turned and started the kamikaze run toward shore. I tried to catch-up to the fish but I couldn't, however Jayson snapped a few shots while I was playing catch-up, unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of the epic stand-off. About 50yds from the beach the tell-tale sickle-fin rose from the electric green surf, and now it was time to figure out how to land it. I was DESTROYED and dehydrated already and out of gas from trying o play catch-up, but we needed pictures, and since hammers are so touchy and Jayson didn't have any experience dealing with sharks in the surf, I figured I had to try to rope it too to ensure a safe release of the shark. This wasn't going to be good.....
The shark was close, and I finally got a look at the size of this terror, ad needless to say, this was the first time in many moons I was shocked, the fish was no where near as big as the fight suggested it was, right around the 10ft mark, healthy, solid female, and looked like a "textbook" hammerhead. Nevertheless I rushed the surf with no energy left in me to rope this pissed off hammerhead, and it wasn't going well. I was so slow and weak that it almost bit me twice (which is extremely rare for that to happen to us). I couldn't;t even pull the shark into position for a good picture, and the fact that it was losing its mind did not make anything easier. My mind was clouded, but the first thing I did was reach for the leader to cut it. However, when I pulled tight on the leader, there was no resistance. "What the hell!?" went through my mind, and when I looked down I saw the hook just laying on the sand, the Hammer threw down so hard that it actually bent out the 20/0 mustad circle, and it fell out just after I had made my pathetic attempt at roping it! I could hardly stand-up to take pictures and we could no get any really good shots of this mean girl, but she swam away with the heart that she fought with. One day, that shark will be one of the tarpon eaters and reel spoolers that people tell story's about.
I was dead, dry heaving and wanting to puke, as Jayson pretty much helped drag me back to my chair on the beach as I tried to recuperate and rehydrate. Jayson was floored by the entire experience as was I. He said we should pack up and leave on a positive note, but I didn't even have the energy to pack-up, and there was still one rod out short that I definitely didn't want to reel in. I told Jayson we will pack up in 45 minutes or so once I feel a bit better, but I also told him I had a feeling something else was going to happen, and that if I had it in me I would paddle the other rod back too, however that did not happen. Jayson would say something every ten minutes or so about leaving, but I took the lucky hammer and placed it on the sand-spike of the rod still out. I was still preaching "something else is going to happen" 30 minutes went by and we were still waiting when Jayson lit a cigarette and said "By the time I'm done smoking this cigarette, I hope im going to hear you say "Lets go home now".
I kept peering over to my left at the rod with the bait still deployed with the rotten hammer perched against it, and glaring over at Jayson, watching the paper of his cigarette slowly disappear into the burning ring that was descending down toward the filter of the cigarette, while the ash trail slowly grew larger; as I sipped on what littler water I had left. It felt like an eternity in the heat, watching him smoke that last cigarette to just above the filter, when Jayson began saying "Alright, what..." and he was abruptly cut off by the sound of the 14/0 taking off! "Were ate again" I yelled over toward Jayson, "I told you something was going to happen". I didnt even have my harness on, nor had I literally even moved since the end of the first battle which had ended less than 45minutes prior to the new pick-up. I sat at the spike free spooling the bait, and this mystery fish was taking line much faster before I threw the reel into the gear and started cranking tight. Connection! We were tight again! And this was was taking a hell of a lot more line but at a slower pace. I told Jayson "Oh, shit. This fish is bigger than the last one". Jay grabbed onto the rod as the fish made its initial run, and I readied myself in the harness. He picked the rod up out of the spike and helped me tie in, and now the second battle of the hour was on, with a bigger fish, and I still hadn't recovered from the first one. I can honestly say this now, it is the first time in my life (seriously) I did NOT want to fight a fish. I never thought I would ever say it, but, there's a first time for everything I suppose.
I dug in next to the watchful eye of Jayson, dreading traveling the long road ahead of us, as line continually kept coming off the spool. For about forty-five minutes it was a dog fight, it took line, I gained, but I did not get the privilege to crank in a single inch of slack line the entire fight, this one was dead set on NOT coming to sure without winching it to us.
We finally spot the fish out about 200yds on top, dorsal and tail rose up in motion. Another Hammer..... Ok, time to try to get serious about this one and land it. A hammer always equals the utmost urgency for a release, making life just a bit more stressful each time. The fish kept moving from extreme South, to extreme North, and each time I had to summon up what little I had in the tank to turn the girl back toward us.
Close to the end of the fight, my reel began to make a grinding noise, and Jayson asked "what the hel is that noise". Ha, well to make life even better, the spool on my 14/0 had just spread. Nothing we could do now except just try to reel through it, as the spool was grinding against the gear bridge and left hand side plate. The amount of pressure and stretch from the line from trying to winch the fish to the beach forcefully had made the spool expand.....Great news...But too late now, a dorsal began rising slowly from the surf....
I handed the rod over to Jayson, and got it together to try to repeat this process one more time, and just as I had suspected, it wasn't going well. I didn't even have the energy to beach this healthy girl, which was right about 12ft and 450-500lb range. I was officially shot, I couldn't do anything, but Jayson just kept snapping away.....
The pics were going to be bad, I already knew that, the shark kept falling over, and trying to bite me, which it came close to doing a mere second or two after the picture was snapped.
But none of that mattered, time was crucial, and I needed to get my one final burst for the day (for the 9th time) and send this pretty lady on her way! After what seemed like forever I was able to push her out, and watch her fin cut against the breakers and head back offshore, slowly sinking further and further into the blue water.
I told Jayson " I think we can go home now" in a laughing manner, and we packed up as quick as we could to get the hell out of dodge and re group, but not before we paid homage to "THE" lucky hammer, which will now be entrenched as a cornerstone in Team Rebel lore for the foreseeable future.
As I parted ways with Jayson, I called Cody to tell him what had just happened, needless to say he got cranked up, and he was already heading surf side with Robofisk. "Awesome" I thought, lets see if we cant push the envelope a bit further. I went home in the WORST pain of my life, no joke, and started to disect my now broken 14/0, while Cody called me and told me they just put a nice bull on the beach Down South! "Hell Yeah!" Team Rebel on the board with three nice fish today, can;t beat that off with a stick!
I woke up with intentions to fish on day 4, however those dreams of hammers came to a grinding hault when I realized I literally could not get out of bed and every single thing hurt. And the worst part was knowing that there are fish there, and the weather was forecasted to get brutal again the next day. I literally was out of commission, I have done a lot through a lot of pain before in my life, not this time, I couldn't, so I said screw it, ill heal up and just wait for the next window in a few days... Unfortunately, It has now been over 3 weeks, and I have STILL not been able to paddle a bait out there! Who knows what could have happened..... But on this afternoon Cody told Adam he was going to bail for some seriously un-metal reasons, like Snook fishing or something pathetic like that. Anyways Robofisk decided to get his Robo girlfriend and head out solo, with one bait and one rod. He deployed a bait almost to the hub of his spool like a madman. Well it only took about 15minutes and Robofisk was bowed up!
Thank god it wasnt something bigger, we would have been in serious trouble! But his efforts and hail mary drop rewarded him with this Healthy male bull, around the 8ft mark.
Well the end of Phase-1 was nearing, and I was land-locked still, trying to just put bait in freezers and work while the surf kept me at bay. Cody and Fisk were able to sneak out a couple of time before the surf got to rugged for them to penetrate down South, and before they ran out of bait.
Cody told me the night before on the phone, that he wasn't "feeling it" after he had just completed the trip. But he specifically told me " I'm feeling tomorrow, something nice" and he re-iterated this the next day on the phone, but he elaborated even further. " Gonna get a Tiger tonight, on Adams rods." I just laughed and said "Come on man, you keep saying random shit like that, doubt it will happen, you are in a Tiger-less land (which is true)". Well to make a long story short, I get a call from Cody around 9 at night with him just yelling "What Did I say! what did I say!". Well apparently Adam ( just like Cody said) had caught a Tiger (just like Cody said), and it was slightly over 9ft!
Bad-ass way to start our shark year after a 12-month retirement, but we are not stopping, we lost some nice fish, and were not able to fish, etc. And we have a lot more we want to accomplish here soon, but for now, we will call PHASE 1 of DOMINATION; LIVE a success! But we need to set the bar higher than ever this year on all fronts. A lot of naysayers out there, need to be educated on how to conduct yourself, and fish in a respectful manner, a thing that has seem to died over the years, not just shark fishing to pad your egos. Stay tuned, Team Rebel will be back after these brief messages from our sponsors!