BRADENTON -- A frenzy ignited at Bradenton's Tarpon Pointe Marina about 2:30 p.m. Sunday when Capt. B.J. Creadon of Team No Escape and star fisherman, Chuck Vanness, came ashore with a 208-pound swordfish.
The deepwater catch highlighted the 17th Annual DeSoto Fishing Tournament held Friday through Sunday at Tarpon Pointe Marina. It took Vanness two hours and eight minutes fishing in 800 feet of water to land the swordfish using 50-pound tackle.
"We were fishing with squid 157 miles off shore," Sarasota's Creadon said.
It was a biggie but nowhere near the state record 612-pounder caught near Key Largo, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.
Vanness plans to mount the fish, his mates said.
"Beautiful fish," said Auto Nation Ford owner Troy Brown, an avid fisherman who recently pulled in a shark that nearly bit his arm before being thrown back in.
The swordfish was so big DeSoto volunteers Chris Atkinson and Daina Patterson had to open a trap door in the weighing station to get it on the scale.
Even with this beast in their corner, however, Team No Escape didn't score enough points to defeat Team Haulin Grass, which racked up 465 points. (See complete tourney coverage in sports).
The winning team caught a white marlin worth 175 points and also caught a 27-pound wahoo, 27-pound grouper, 21-pound dolphin fish and other wahoo and grouper.
Team Haulin Grass drove its boat 142 miles offshore but fished within a mile of that location all weekend to bring in its catch.
"We're actually used to catching bigger grouper in the deepwater but it depends on how the currents are running," said Team Haulin Grass Capt. Brian Turner.
Fans came to see big swordfish, marlin and grouper but the everyday anglers who fished the inshore division landed their share of glory, including Hope Williams with Team Backwater Bandits.
"I got to spend time with everyone," Williams said when asked what she liked best about the event, one of the big Hernando DeSoto Society fundraisers of the year.
Williams fished with Jonathan Beckham, Brad Pfaff and her husband, Mike Williams.
"We stayed in the Tampa Bay area and even went for dinner at the River Grill for blue cheese burgers and grouper bites," Williams said.
Hard-working mates at the event included: DeSoto Queen Haley Geraldson, Princess Megan Briggs, official fish handler Daina Patterson, official weigher Chris Atkinson and Hernando himself, Butch Powell.
All money raised goes back to Manatee County, said Powell, event chairman.
When the 17 offshore boats came in for weighing the crowd swelled to a maximum of about 200 at the marina east of Manatee Memorial Hospital.