FIELD NOTES

Lisa L/The Fish­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence team stuns the fleet with an amaz­ing per­for­mance

Marlin - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS - —by Capt. Mike Puller, as told to Capt. Jen Copeland

Af­ter a third-place fin­ish in the Sail­fish 400, with a team of ju­nior an­glers all un­der the age of 13 years old, Capt. Mike Puller is still in dis­be­lief. Here is his first­hand ac­count of a day that is sure to go down in sail­fish­ing tour­na­ment his­tory.

I never thought some­thing I started 15 years ago, the Fish­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence, could turn into some­thing so suc­cess­ful. The kids on this team — Jonathan Brana, Se­bas­tian Igle­sias, Kevin La­madrid and Car­los Sal­adri­gas — are some of the best I’ve had in the pro­gram, and they showed me a lot of qual­i­ties that some adults won’t ever get, things like pa­tience, per­se­ver­ance and hu­mil­ity.

On the first day of the Sail­fish 400, it was al­most noon and we hadn’t seen a sail­fish. At 11:52 a.m., we re­leased the first one. With that fish un­der our belt, we were able to start shak­ing off the nerves. Forty min­utes later, we re­leased an­other sin­gle. Af­ter an hour of noth­ing, we hooked a triple. The kids were shuf­fling around, and every­one was wound up tighter than a rub­ber band. Then, all of a sud­den, it hap­pened. One of the kids was fight­ing his fish, just chat­ter­ing away, when one of my mates looked at him and said, “Hey, just stop talk­ing and fight your fish.” It was like for a split sec­ond he for­got we were tour­na­ment fish­ing.

We were one or two fish from the top of the leader­board, and ev­ery­thing was mov­ing faster. The kids were fo­cus­ing on their baits a lit­tle qui­eter, with great big smiles. And then, we hooked a six-banger. We ended up los­ing two of the six fish, but the kids were fo­cused and lis­ten­ing to us, and they were di­rect­ing traf­fic like

pros: over, un­der, lift your tip, don’t touch the rig­ger line. We re­leased one, then an­other, then an­other. We were down to the last fish, which went deep un­der the boat, but it fi­nally came to­gether and we re­leased the fourth of the quad.

Af­ter the spread was back out, I looked down at the kids and said, “Hey, you guys just took the lead!” They were open­mouthed and stunned. They didn’t cheer, they didn’t high-five each other. It was like they were dream­ing — any minute now, their mom was go­ing to wake them up to tell them it was time for school. I’ll never for­get the look on their faces. It was like they re­al­ized in that very mo­ment: We can do this.

It proved to me the truth in that old cliché that I’ve be­lieved in all my life: If you work hard, you can ac­com­plish any­thing. And right there, in that very mo­ment, they learned it. They can do any­thing in their lives, be­cause they had done it here.

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