The competitors at the Treasure Cay Billfish Tournament in Abaco, Bahamas, had no idea the 13-year-old blue marlin technician had just signed up.
The day of the captain’s meeting, in early June, Team Galati fished one day after a poor performance at a Bahamas Billfish Championship, just for fun. They brought a pair of 600-plus-pound blue marlin to the boat.
They’d found an area five miles off the beaches where the bottom drops from 50 feet to 8,000. This spot seemed to be a part of a tarpon migratory route. Plus, there were tons of tuna milling around. And they were gulping Team Galati’s lures and skirted ballyhoos.
Team Galati drove 15 miles and entered Treasure Cay against some of the best blue marlin anglers in the world. But half of the crew went home following the BBC, leaving Chris Galati Sr., Chris Galati Jr. and two mates.
“You wonder in a big money tournament like that,” said Capt. Galati, “ ‘Do you want a 13-year-old in the chair?’ ”
With Mike Stein a the wire man, and Darryll Anders as first mate who took the video, Galati Jr. was named the angler.
Galati Jr., at 80 pounds, got in the chair and whooped some big blue marlin — and the world’s best. He was named the top angler, and Team Galati was named the top boat and top release team in the sanctioned event between the World Billfish Series and IGFA. In doing so, they won invitations to compete in the World Billfish Series Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and the IGFA Rolex World Championship in Costa Rica.
Good work, junior.
To be sure, this wasn’t some 13-year-old kid who drops the rod and storms to a PlayStation. On Galati family vacations offshore, Galati Jr. rigs bait, readies tackle before a trip, fishes tournaments, hops in the tower and spots weed lines, frigate birds or lures that aren’t swimming correctly.
It took Galati Jr. four years to catch his first blue marlin. That was one year ago.
Galati Jr. was ready, and the flat line was in the water. Galati Jr. watched the line run out as a blue marlin, around 500 pounds, walloped the bait. The fish dived some 500 feet down. Galati Jr, against a fish over six times his weight, pumped a fish to the boat in four minutes. He caught another around 600 pounds that put on a nice air show. They added another smaller tarpon to make it three in one day.
“It’s the most amazing thing to fish and see that powerful of a fish that takes off and gives me goose bumps,” Galati Jr. said. “It’s scary.”
So how does an 80-pounder do it? Technique.
Strapped in the fighting chair, he uses his entire body to lean forward and wind the line tight, or lean back and pump the fish to the surface. When the fish runs and Capt. Galati runs the boat toward the blue marlin, Galati just reels.
“He’s extremely strong with very good stamina,” Galati Sr. said. “Any kind of fishing has so much technique involved. I’ve fished offensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Bucs who were 6-7, 320 pounds, and one amberjack and they’re done. Done for the day.”
Galati Sr. owns Galati Yachts on Anna Maria Island. His boat is in slip one. In slip two is the Hooker, with Ken Cummins and top women’s angler Kelly Cummins, who took second place.
Two slips, side by side, the best from the Treasure Cay Tournament.
A week after the tournament, Chris Jr. was showing friends YouTube footage of himself being interviewd by a television reporter.
“I surprised myself, too, catching that many fish in one day,” Chris Jr. said. “My dad put me on the fish and I caught them.”
Nick Walter, Herald outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.