When Paul Christie and team Jumbo Shrimp pulled up to the dock at Marina Jack’s on Aug. 10 for the Sarasota Slam, he knew there was something special in the fish box. But getting there was not easy.
“We had a lot of uncharacteristic break offs early,” Christie said. “Line breaking at the hook, hooks pulling out, some break offs way above the weight. I was getting worried.”
After losing what Christie described as good and big fish, he changed gameplans. The Sarasota Slam had a shorter one-night timeframe rather than the two nights the Crosthwait and Fire Charity tournaments provide offshore anglers, so getting fish quickly was the name of the game.
He turned back east from his original 120-mile, 490-foot-deep, southwestward destination to target cubera snapper as the sun started to get lower on the horizon.
“We’ve caught smaller ones before in the daylight and wanted to be prepared just in case,” Christie said. “Anthony Panipinto hooked up on a fish that started like a cubera digging really hard but then it started fighting out away from the boat. I was teasing him that he had a big amberjack.
“He only had 50-pound leader so didn’t put too much pressure on it. As it got closer to the surface it started to act like a shark running out away from the boat. But then we saw it was a cubera and started freaking out.”
The big snapper was gaffed and put in the boat. It was the largest cubera team Jumbo Shrimp had ever caught during daylight hours. With their snapper taken care of much earlier than anticipated, Christie pushed deep for swordfish.
“We got four to five hours of swordfishing In and actually caught a pup,” he said. “Around four in the morning we started fishing for grouper again. It was early and still dark. We set up a drift and I looked back from the helm and saw a rod bending over. ‘Is that a fish?’ I asked. That’s when Aaron Bishop said yes and started putting in work.”
After about 15 minutes Bishop worked a monster up from the deep. Christie and the rest of the team anxiously waited with each tug. With so many break offs happening hours before, they knew anything could happen.
When it hit the surface they saw a monster warsaw grouper, and after a bit of struggle to get it in the boat, it was iced down next to the cubera snapper.
Still not done, they also added a pair of large amberjack to the box early in the morning. They had all the categories checked as they headed east for the weigh-in.
They were last at the scales. The amberjack were weighed first, both around 69 pounds. The cubera was next, taking first place in the snapper category at 61 pounds. Finally the warsaw was pulled out of the box. The massive fish strained the hook of the scale before reading 210 pounds, also taking first place for grouper.
“I always love fishing with such a great group of friends for teammate,s and it was a struggle to start. But ending like that was fantastic,” Christie said.
SARASOTA SLAM RESULTS
Grouper: 1. Jumbo Shrimp, 2. Real Finesse; Snapper: 1. Jumbo Shrimp, 2. Snapper Snatcher; Wild card: 1. Big Catch; Tuna: 1. Playin Hooky.
Snook: 1. Gulleys, 2. Team Mermaid Vodka; Redfish: 1. Team Mermaid Vodka, 2. 24-7 Fishing; Trout: 1. Gulleys, 2. Team Pici; Trash Can Slam: 1. Team Pici.