Capt. TJ Stewart is one of the most successful tournament anglers on the west coast of Florida. Every tournament he fishes -- from tarpon to redfish to snook -- he has a chance to win.
Tournaments with a combination of fish are where he really excels, but there is one accomplishment he has yet to reach.
“One hundred inches; I want a slam with 100 inches,” Stewart said. “I’ve had 99 before but never 100.”
What Stewart is referring to is a three-fish slam of a redfish, snook and trout totaling 100 inches in length. The feat would require basically a lifetime catch in each category during a single tournament. During last weekend’s 21st Annual Yerrid Foundation/National Pediatric Cancer Foundation Grand Slam Fishing tournament, Stewart’s anglers would flirt with the feat thanks to a banner weekend.
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“The fishing’s been pretty good,” Steward said. “I’ve been fishing around rock piles for snapper and grouper quite a bit and up in the bay more than I normally would. The red tide pushed a lot of fish up that way.
“On day one we lost an absolute monster snook. Steve Yerrid had it halfway back to the boat and it threw the hook. It was so big it couldn’t jump out of the water, just came up and shook its head. It was away from the mangroves and everything there was nothing we could really do.”
After one day the team still had a phenomenal catch that included a 36.75-inch snook, a 33-inch redfish, and a 20.5-inch trout. Stewart said the lost snook was over 45 inches and one of the biggest he had ever seen hooked.
On the second day, the team ventured back to the same area up in the bay where more big fish would await.
“We were fishing big bait in the same hole and hooked into another monster,” Stewart said. “It was incredible!”
This time the giant linesider was not getting off. After a lengthy battle it was put on the measuring board and photographed. From nose to tail it measured a whopping 44.75 inches, possibly the biggest snook Stewart had ever landed in a tournament.
“Realistically, it’s the biggest I’ve got in a tournament,” Stewart said. “You hook into a monster every so often, but it’s rare to get them on the board and measured.”
With some fishing time remaining, Stewart looked to upgrade from the 20.5-inch trout. By the end of the day, he would have a slight upgrade of 21.5 inches. His team’s combination of three fish would come in at 99.25 inches, just shy of the 100-inch mark. It was good enough for the victory in the slam category, beating out more than 60 other guides and teams participating in the tournament.
“It did feel good, but honestly it’s not about the fishing,” Stewart said. “It’s about these kids, and this tournament is for them. I’m happy to be a part of it for that.”
The tournament generated $450,000 for pediatric cancer research through donations and sponsors. For more information and how to donate, visit nationalpcf.org.