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A Day Of Firsts

First fish, first hammerhead, and first tie for Madfin competitors

A Day Of Firsts
2012 Madfin Shark Tournament

BOKEELIA, Fla. -- Less than 30 minutes after wetting their lines during the final day of the three-day 2012 Madfin Shark Tournament, Capt. Bo Johnson of Team Tenacity went for an intentional swim. It was the first time a competitor decided to jump overboard to try to keep a shark from breaking off.

“Well, that’s a first for me,” said Johnson, who had jumped out of his boat alongside a rock jetty at Captiva Pass to try to untangle his line from the rocks. “I really wanted that fish. I want those bonus points.”

Johnson was hoping to score 250 bonus points for landing the first shark of the day to go along with the catch and successful hook removal points. With his boat positioned in close to shore to allow him to fish an eddy, the first hookup of the day headed straight out Captiva Pass and made a quick right turn, running his line into the rocks before his teammate and girlfriend Deidra Bridger could release the anchor and move the boat to open water.

“That felt like a nice fish. It was really talking out line. I’m not sure I’m going to jump into the water again just for a shark,” Johnson said.

Four hours later, Johnson went back into the water, this time while trying to hold onto a mid-sized bull shark so he could get the hook out.

“I had that shark by the tail and was kind of stretched out and leaning a little too far over the boat, and before I knew it, he snatched me right out. I don’t think I got real wet, I was right back out,” Johnson said.

That action took place about an hour and 15 minutes after Johnson and Bridger landed their first shark of the day, a 5-foot blacktip that ate a mullet head in an eddy near the mouth of Captiva Pass. The catch was good for 150 points, plus a 150-point bonus for successfully removing the hook.

Johnson and Bridger caught that bull shark, a 6-footer worth 300 points for the catch and another 300 points for the hook removal at 12:25 p.m., and then followed it up with a second bull shark and successful hook removal at 3:23 p.m.

“We got four jumps out of that fish. It jumped and spun like a spinner shark. I’ve never seen that from a bull shark before,” Johnson said. “We felt pretty good to have three sharks, but we really didn’t have that one big fish that would get us a lot of bonus points, and I was starting to get worried. Then we got the bite we were looking for.”

At 4 p.m., an hour before lines out, Team tenacity hooked a big shark in the pass that took them out to sea as the lines out call came over the radio. Madfin Shark Tournament rules allow anglers hooked up before lines out additional time, but the fish has to be caught and the anglers back at the dock within one hour of the lines out time.

That shark, a bull, was estimated at over 10 feet and more than 500 pounds. As the other competitors returned to the dock, they learned that Johnson was still out in the Gulf of Mexico hooked to a massive shark.

“We actually leadered the fish, so it was a caught fish 18 minutes into the fight, but we wanted those extra points for getting the hook out. That fish was green, and it was another hour and 10 minutes before we got the leader again. That time, the fish got into the mono leader I tie on to handle the fish besides the boat, and he ended up cutting it off,” Johnson said.


“It was still a great day,” said Bridger. “We caught four sharks, which is the best day we’ve had so far. We don’t know if we got the first fish, but I’m sure the other guys caught fish.”

That assessment was partially true as Team Redzone and Team Hoke, in third and fourth places respectively went catchless, while Team Viscious Strikes, in the lead going into the last day of the tournament with 1,950 points, also had a couple of firsts.

Abandoning their offshore bite, the team made a last-minute decision to fish inshore on Day Three, working the deeper holes of Charlotte Harbor in an area where teammate Capt. Rob Moore works as a fishing guide.

Action started slow with an undersized blacktip shark on each of the first two drifts, but then a 7 and half foot lemon shark was caught and the hook removed at 10:21, giving the team 300 points for the catch, 300 points for the hook removal, and an extra 250 bonus points for the first shark of the day.

“That was a good fish, one of the biggest caught so far, so we felt like we were in a good position,” Michele said. “An hour and a half later we got another bite and that was a good one too.”

The shark turned out to be a 7-foot hammerhead, the first and only of the competition. Hammerhead sharks score 600 points for the catch and another 600 points for a successful hook removal.

“In all the years I’ve been shark fishing, that was my first hammerhead,” said Moore, who was fishing his fourth Madfin Shark Tournament. “They’re just beautiful fish. It was very gentle once I got my hands on it.”

With two good fish before noon, Team Vicious pulled out all the stops, increasing the volume of chum they dispersed into the water and even using spinning rods to catch small jack crevalles for bait.

“We put a chum slick out there that should have attracted sharks from Guatamala, and not a damn thing came in,” Paul Michele said. “The morning was very exciting — a lot of action, so we’ll see how it pans out.”

Several of the teams were close to each other so they could see the camera crew in the helicopter flying over to other locations. They knew those teams were hooked to sharks, but not if they were caught or any information about their size and species. As all four teams gathered on the docks at the Bokeelia Tarpon Lodge, it was apparent that the outcome was between two teams: Team Tenacity and Team Vicious Strikes.

“I knew it was going to be tight, but the one thing that didn’t cross my mind was a hammerhead,” Johnson said. “That’s a lot of points. If you get a big one, you can take our four sharks and have a nice day.”

As Madfin Shark Tournament host Tommy Sanders read the results, removing the bottom two teams, Team Tenacity and Team Vicious Strikes were left gathered close to the metal shark sculptures going to the winning team.

“For the first time in a Madfin Shark Tournament event we have a tie,” Sanders announced. “In the spirit of the competition, we’ve decided that we’re going to hold a one-day fish-off at a later date to determine the winner.”

“It figures. It’s got to come down to us two,” Michele said. “It just has to. I said to Bo before the announcement it was going to come down to big fish. If you beat what I had, you’ll win it, but I never suspected a tie. Now we’ve got to wait and see where we’re fishing and when.”

Madfin Statistics
Final Day Standings Day One/Two Points Day Three Points Total Points
Team Vicious Strikes 1,950 Points Points 2,050 Points 4,000 Points
Team Tenacity 1,450 Points 2,550 Points 4,000 Points
Team Redzone 1,300 Points 0 Points 1,300 Points
Team Hoke 1,100 Points 0 Points 1,100 Points

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