IGFA Legendary Captains and Crew

Criteria for LC&C Award Nomination
The primary criteria for receiving the LC&C Award from the IGFA is that the captain or crew member must have provided leadership in their trade and have earned the respect of their peers, thus making a meaningful contribution to the sport of recreational angling over an extended period of time. The nominee must demonstrate that he or she has espoused the ethical angling standards stated by the founders of the IGFA. A representative balance should be created wherever possible between various aspects for the sport including but not limited to saltwater/freshwater, inshore/offshore, east coast/west coast/gulf coast, foreign/domestic, coldwater/warmwater. To nominate a candidate please email Julia Shafer at jshafer@igfa.org.

The 7th Annual Legendary Captain & Crew Awards dinner will take place on Saturday, February 18, 2017. The Tommy Gifford Award will be presented to Buddy Carey, Ralph Delph, Billy Harrison, Jack Morrow and Curt Whiticar. For more information, please click here
 

 

2011 Class

Ron Hamlin
Charlie Hayden
Allen and Buddy Merritt
Charles Perry
Omie Tillett

 

2012 Class

Bill Curtis
Bark Garnsey
Joe Mott
Chip Shafer
Laurie Woodbridge
2013 Class

Jimmie Albright
Snooks Fuller
Bob Lewis
Frank LoPreste
Laurie Mitchell
Gary Stuve
2014 Class

Mike Benitez
Gary Ellis
Bill Hatch
Randolph "Bouncer" Smith
Dennis "Brazakka" Wallace
2015 Class

Al Anderson
Christian Benazeth
Emmett "Mutt" Coble, Jr.
Jose Wejebe
Peter B. Wright

 

 

 

2016 Class

Billy Baum

Kenny Barhanovich

"Bonefish"
Sam Ellis


Jay Trochesset

Bob Montgomery
Laurie Wright

 

 

 

Tommy Gifford Award


Tommy Gifford (1896-1970) is considered one of the most innovative bluewater anglers who ever lived, and one of the greatest charter skippers to guide anglers to the major game fishes of the sea.  He began his chartering career in Miami in 1920 at age 23, and within a few seasons had made a reputation for himself. Gifford was the first to use spreader outriggers on the East coast and the first to catch an Atlantic blue marlin with the new devices. Over the course of his 50-year career, he developed an encyclopedic knowledge of game fish and techniques to catch them, and he served as guide and consultant to some of the most famous names in saltwater angling, including Ernest Hemingway, Michael Lerner, Charlie Lehman and Van Campen Heilner. He never lost his zest for the sea, or his awe at the creatures beneath the waves. Raymond Camp wrote, "Big game angling has a brief history, but Tommy Gifford's name is sharply etched on every page."

The Tommy Gifford Award is presented to the Legendary Captains and Crew nominees by a select committee of internationally renown captains and mates.

Karl Anderson Charles Perry
Bobby Brown - Vice Chair Bouncer Smith
Bark Garnsey Skip Smith - Chair
Gary Ellis Gary Stuve
Billy Harrison Laurie Wright
Steve Lassley Peter Wright

 

Jimmie Albright

Capt. Jimmie Albright was a pioneer of the Florida Keys flats. He guided Joe Brooks to the first bonefish and tarpon on a fly, invented the Nail Knot and the Albright Special, and fished movie stars, dignitaries and sports figures, including Ted Williams.

Al Anderson

Capt. Al Anderson’s family was responsible for his lifelong love of fishing.  By the time he was in graduate school at Adelphi University,  he was marking fish using a copper wire tag he had created.   In 1967 he marked his first striped bass for the American Littoral Society.  That same year he met Frank Mather, founder of the bluefin tagging program at Woods Hole, and began tagging tuna for him.  At the time Al was charter fishing part-time aboard the Prowler out of Wakefield, Rhode Island.  In 1977 he began working with Jack Casey’s shark tagging program, and then with additional agencies.  And a few years later, after a 20-year teaching career, Al became a full-time charter captain.  

Al has always credited his clients for his considerable successes, achievements, and contributions to marine science.  He’s shared his vast knowledge in books, magazines and journals, and in 2011 was one of five recipients of Sport Fishing magazine’s Making a Difference Award.  

Capt. Al has remained passionate about tagging for the past 50 years -- not only tuna and striped bass, but also marlin, sharks and bottom fish.  According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Al has tagged more Atlantic bluefin -- and has more recaptures -- than anyone in the world.   And just six months ago, in August 2014, Capt. Al tagged and released his 60,000th game fish, a six-pound striped bass.

 

 

 


Kenny Barhanovich

Captain Kenny Barhanovich was born and raised on the peninsula of Biloxi, Mississippi. Surrounded by water, it seems that the choice to make his career on the waters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast was inevitable. At the age of 14, Barhanovich became First Mate on the President Kennedy, one of many trawlers that lined the coast in the late 1950s. She would be the first boat that Barhanovich’s father, the late Yankee Barhanovich, would acquire in his charter business.

For the next six years, Barhanovich and his father worked to build their business. They changed the boat name to the Miss Hospitality to better appeal to visitors. “Fish-N-Fun” on the Miss Hospitality would be their signature catch phrase for the next 40+ years. Barhanovich worked for Ingalls Shipbuilding for some time to support his wife and three daughters, but ultimately returned to his true passion- the charter business. It was at this time that he got his captain’s license and he and his father upgraded to a 51’ custom sportfisher.

Barhanovich faced many obstacles during his career, including the death of his father and numerous hurricanes that affected the charter fishing businesses of the Gulf. Over five decades later, Barhanovich never gave up on the business he helped his father create. He still enjoys heading out to the waters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and putting charters on great fish.


 

Billy Baum

Captain Billy Baum has been fishing the fruitful waters off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina for over 50 years. A native of nearby Wanchese, Baum resides in his hometown during the summer months and spends his winters in Florida, where he took parties fishing for 33 years as a charter boat captain.

Baum became widely known and admired among coastal anglers during his long career as a licensed captain, not only for finding and catching fish, but also for building the boats he took to sea. Each of his custom made boats was named the Dream Girl. He built six Dream Girls in all, starting with the first in 1976. Baum retired in 2004, but he still owns his last boat, the 57 foot Dream Girl; Captain Jason Snead runs her out of Oregon Inlet.

In total, Baum estimates that he has fished approximately 60,000 charter clients in his career. Looking back on his most memorable trips, Baum recounts an exceptional day of bigeye tuna fishing. His charter enjoyed multiple hookups that day and they boated eight bigeyes ranging in size from 175 – 200 pounds. Baum’s clients caught numerous big blue marlin off Oregon Inlet as well. Although the fish were always released, Baum estimates the largest to have been around 600 pounds.


 


Christian Benazeth

Christian Benazeth was born in 1947 in the south of France, and at a very  young age he began fishing and hunting with his father. In the early 1970s he  moved to East Africa, where he discovered safaris and game fishing, and began running the "Yamani Safari Camp" in Somalia.  

Christian started fishing in the Atlantic Ocean in the 1980s, encouraged by Pierre Dupuy, who was a sport fishing pioneer in West Africa.  There he continued to run fishing camps, and began serving as an IGFA  Representative from 1987 to 1998 in Mauritania and Senegal.  It is here Benazeth set his first IGFA world records, mainly light-tackle sailfish records with angler Jean Paul Richard.  Christian has gone on to set – as  angler and captain – more than 20 IGFA world records on light tackle and fly.

More recently, in the Ivory Coast, he operated a charter boat and concentrated on blue marlin, often catching fish of more than 1000 pounds.  Today he continues to fish for blue and white marlin in West African countries from Equatorial Guinea to Morocco with Laurent Sahyoun, one of the best anglers of this generation.

For the past 30 years Benazath has promoted catch-and-release with local anglers, mates and other captains, as well as the conservation of fishing areas. Later this week Christian will be honored by The Billfish Foundation, for the second consecutive year, as the Top Tagging Captain for Atlantic Ocean White Marlin.  
 

 

Mike Benitez

Mike BenitezIn 1951, when Mike Benitez was 18, he started working as a mate on fishing boats. That same year Puerto Rico began bringing in experienced captains to promote the island as a sport fishing destination. Mike signed on, working with and learning from Art Wills, Tommy Gifford and Johnny Harms, fishing Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. A few years later, captain’s license in hand, Mike built his own boat, bought the charter business from Wills, and began his long and productive career.
Mike’s contributions to Puerto Rica sport fishing are many. A 756-pound blue marlin world record caught by his client in 1956 put the island on the map. In the 1960s and 1970s he was involved with The International Billfish Tournament at Club Náutico de San Juan, Johnny Harms’ marina in St. Thomas (where Mike fished in the summer), the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (the “Boy Scout” Tournament), and many more projects. Also in the 1970s he began exploring new destinations such as Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, Brazil, Venezuela, Panama and Australia, where in 1973 he caught a 1,162 pound black marlin with Capt. Peter Wright. And in the 1990s he operated a charter boat out of Madeira.
Mike never lost his passion for the sport in a career that spanned 60 years. He received the IGFA Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award in 2011. And that same year, during the first IGFA Great Marlin Race, Mike implanted a satellite tag in a marlin that 120 days later surfaced off the Angola coast, 4,776 nautical miles from Puerto Rico. That date was January 5, 2012, two days after Mike Benitez’s passing.


Emmett "Mutt" Coble, Jr.

Emmett Coble Jr., “Mutt” as he was known, was born in North Carolina.  As a young man he studied history and English lit at Wake Forest and played semi-pro baseball.  In 1942 Mutt joined the Navy and fought in three different theaters of the war as a member of the “Armed Gun Crew.”  He survived the sinking of two ships – one time spending four days in the ocean before being rescued.  So it was fitting that Mutt would spend the rest of his days on the world’s oceans chasing monster fish, a pioneer in big-game fishing.

Mutt was considered by many to be the best wireman in the business back in  the days when all heavy leaders were single-strand, tinned piano wire.  He wired many world records from Australia to St. Thomas, and numerous black marlin over 1,000 pounds.  

For decades the legendary deckie made his annual pilgrimage to work with the giants on the Great Barrier Reef.  He was highly respected by his peers and a crew favorite.  With years of seniority over most of the crewmen, Mutt’s knowledge and experience were legendary.  He was athletic -- with the necessary upper-body strength – but he also possessed the all-important “finesse” that all top-notch wiremen have.  Mutt seemed to see everything first, and there was nothing he couldn’t do.  Even with a bad back – from the years spent on game fishing boats – he wouldn’t let go of the wire.

Mutt’s 1991 video “Her Majesty … The Australian Black Marlin” is his legacy, and it remains a sport fishing classic.
 

 

Bill Curtis

In 1949 commercial photographer Bill Curtis arrived in Miami; nine years later he was guiding full-time in Biscayne Bay, which he continued to do until 2005. His vast experience, expertise, and professionalism – plus his dedication to the area’s resources and his innovations which include the poling platform – have made Curtis a living legend in the world of Florida light-tackle and flats fishing.


"Bonefish" Sam Ellis

Samuel Achilles Ellis was born on November 27, 1919, in Berry Islands, Bahamas. He received his early education at the Bimini All-Age School.  During recess, young Sammy would pass by the fishing docks to eat his snack and it was there that many would listen to his melodious voice and invite him to sing another song.  One day, he was invited aboard a tourist ship and that was his last day at school; the boat belonged to the Colemans, a wealthy family from Florida.  Upon their return to Florida, Mr. Coleman sent Ellis a large box of clothes, two sets of boxing gloves, and a rod and reel.  This was the beginning of both his fishing and boxing careers.

Known as “Bonefish” Sam before there was a “Bonefish just about every name,” Ellis honed his fishing skills by walking the beach to catch bonefish.  Soon, he had perfected the art of bonefishing.  Early in his career, he was recognized as having landed more than three times as many bonefish on rod and reel than any of his contemporaries at the time.  He was famous for his ultra-keen eye sight and a highly valued crew member for his great strength and ability as a wireman on giant tuna and marlin. His notable clients included: The Duke of Windsor, the Ford and DuPont families, George Albert Lyon, Van Campen Heilner, James Kimberley, the Drake family, U.S. congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Ernest Hemingway, and Michael and Helen Lerner.  

In addition to his fishing career, Ellis was also a fine boxer who went a few rounds with Hemingway in the 1930s.  In 1959, he was featured in LIFE magazine, along with his wife Irene and nine of his seventeen children.  He was named Father of the Year in the Bahamas in 1987 and in 1996 received the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism’s first Cacique award for Leisure and Sports.  In 1995, he was inducted into the Bimini Fishing Hall of Fame. A kind man who always opened his home to anyone in need of a place to rest their head or a warm meal, Ellis was the founder and Pastor of the Community Church of God, which he remained until his death on March 12, 2003.

 


 

Gary Ellis

Gary EllisBorn in Sioux City, Iowa, Gary Ellis worked his way through a number of careers in a number of places – actor, model, radio, TV – before he moved to the Florida Keys in the late 1960s.
Catching one sailfish during a visit convinced him he wanted to stay in Islamorada and learn the water. He became a mate for Capt. Skip Bradeen, and still managed to keep one foot in his other occupation: doing travelogues, bit parts in movies, and commercials.
But the fishing won out. Gary studied the ecology of the Keys, gained an aptitude for analyzing conditions, and earned his captain’s license. And with help from a number of mentors, many of whom were Keys legends, he mastered backcountry guiding.
At the time there were only a few tournaments held in the Keys, and none in Islamorada or the Upper Keys. When Gary was named director of the newly-created Islamorada Fishing Tournament, it was the beginning of the more than four decades he has been involved in founding, organizing and directing tournaments in the Florida Keys.
In the mid-1980s, when Susan and Gary’s newborn daughter Nicole was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, they set out to find a way to fight it -- to raise awareness and funds for research. With the help of their clients and many friends, The Redbone Celebrity Tournament Series was founded in 1988. The first tournament raised $16,000. Over the years the Redbone’s numerous events -- across the U.S. and internationally – have raised over $20 million towards finding a cure for CF.

 

Snooks Fuller

Capt. Snooks Fuller started chartering in the early 1950’s on the legendary Lady Doreen. One of the most famous and influential game fishermen in New Zealand, he was a pioneer of light tackle and the first to use fiberglass rods.

 

Bark Garnsey

Bark Garnsey grew up at Hillsboro Inlet in the early 1950s, surrounded by some of the best and most knowledgeable captains and mates, and it is here that his lifelong passion for the sport and extraordinary career began. Garnsey is recognized worldwide for his superb fishing, boat-handling and communication skills, and for re-writing the book on billfish records with angler Stewart Campbell.

 

Ron Hamlin

Ron Hamlin is considered one of the most innovative captains and accomplished anglers.  At the age of 15 he started training as a mate; a year later he was working with Capt. Frank Ardine on the Sail Ahoy.  He tagged his first sailfish in 1960; today that number has grown to five figures.   Hamlin got his first job as a captain in 1971 and the same year he won the Walker’s Cay Blue Marlin Tournament, the first of many tournament wins.  Always on the hunt for new and better fishing grounds, Hamlin has fished all over the world.  He and his crew were the first Americans to fish Venezuela’s La Guaira Bank, and he caught the first thousand-pound blue marlin in the country.   For more than 40 years his innovations, including wind-on leaders spliced with Dacron, formaldehyde baits, pitch-bait techniques, and his pledge in 1998 to fish only with circle hooks, have all revolutionized and had an enormous impact on the sport.  With more than 25,000 billfish releases to his credit, Ron Hamlin has spent his career not simply breaking records, but shattering them.

 

Bill Hatch

Bill HatchA successful businessman from Iowa, who never saw the ocean until he was 30 years old and who was prone to severe seasickness, Bill Hatch was an unlikely fishing pioneer. But he became one of the most creative, experienced, widely-traveled and popular guides of all time.
It was Bill Hatch more than anyone who inaugurated the sport of sailfishing. While in Miami recuperating from an accident, Hatch quickly became interested in offshore fishing, and before long had his own cruiser. He was initially attracted to kingfishing, using the mullet strip-baits of the era. But he soon became fascinated by sailfish. Little was known about the species since it was considered a nuisance and of no commercial value. His keen observations of their feeding habits, and experiments with baits and techniques, led to his development of the first strip bait. And then one day in 1915 he came up with the real secret to consistent captures -- the drop-back method. Today, 100 years later, the technique remains integral to the sport.
Hatch became the most sought-after guide in Florida and elsewhere. He was one of the earliest in Bahamas waters, guided Oliver Grinnell to the first successful rod-and-reel catch of a broadbill in the Atlantic -- off Montauk -- in 1927, helped pioneer marlin fishing off the Maryland coast, twice served as coach of the U.S. team in the International Tuna Cup Match (including the first contest in September 1937), and accompanied Michael Lerner on his expeditions to Australian and Peruvian waters.

 

Charlie Hayden

A year after Charlie Hayden left his studies at Temple University in 1953 he was mating for fishing luminaries such as Red Stuart and Tommy Gifford, working out of Miami Beach’s Chamber of Commerce docks.   He soon became one of the area’s most sought-after mates, fishing the who’s who of the Atlantic sport-fishing fleet, in places such as Bimini, Cat Cay, Ocean City, Oregon Inlet and Montauk.  In the mid-1960s Hayden developed his reputation as a bait-rigging specialist with his perfect presentation of splittail mullet to the giant tuna running in the Bahamas.  In 1973 he spent 16 weeks in Australia, running Garrick Agnew’s 53-foot boat and catching 83 black marlin in 16 days, a number of which weighed over 1,000 pounds.   But he returned to his first love, working the chair and rigging baits, and by the 1980s, Charlie “Splittail” Hayden was big-game fishing’s main bait supplier, the first to air-freight coolers of bait worldwide to traveling crews.

 

 

Bob Lewis

The origins of kite fishing can be traced to innovative Pacific islanders, but it was Capt. Bob Lewis who refined the technique of using a kite to catch sailfish in South Florida waters, and shared his kites – and his extensive knowledge – with others.

 

 

Frank LoPreste

Frank LoPreste, owner-operator of the Royal Polaris, is a living legend of San Diego long-range fishing. He is known for pioneering Clipperton Atoll, developing new long-range techniques and taking others -- such as kite fishing -- to new heights.

 

Allen and Buddy Merritt

In the 1930s, teenagers Allen and Buddy Merritt were already integral parts of their father Roy’s sport- fishing operation and the famed Caliban Fleet, spending winters in Florida and summers in Long Island, where they were already hailed as two of New York’s top charter skippers.   In 1948 Merritt’s Boat and Engine Works was built in Pompano Beach.  While Allen and Buddy ran the charter fleet, Pop kept busy in the yard, and within five years the business went from servicing boats to building them.  Allen and Buddy eventually took on the operations of the famed boatyard, but not before they made their individual marks on the sport and became part of the elite group of most successful tuna captains in history.

Buddy, extremely competitive by nature, was known for his innovations in boat and tackle design and techniques.  In the 1940s he began fishing baits far back, he revolutionized tuna fishing at Cat Cay by using a mast to spot and bait fish -- the first to do so – and he designed the Merritt 37, considered by many the perfect tuna-fishing boat.  Buddy was the first to catch three swordfish on rod and reel in one day, and in 1963 won both the Cat Cay and Bimini Tuna Tournaments.  In 1969, when he traveled to Newfoundland to experience his last tuna season, Buddy caught a record 16 giant tuna in one day.

Buddy suggested Bill Carpenter hire Allen for the 1951 Cat Cay Tournament and Allen went on to dominate the event in the 1950s and 60s.  With Carpenter as angler and George Staros as mate he won seven out of 10 tournaments and took third three other times, an unrivaled achievement.  All the wins and record catches were no fluke, for Allen was widely respected for his knowledge, his skills, and his demeanor “under fire.”   During the 1968 tuna season in Newfoundland, Allen caught a record 15 giants, a feat only bested by his brother’s 16 the following year.

 

 

Laurie Mitchell

Capt. Laurie Mitchell persuaded Zane Grey to fish Nova Scotia’s legendary bluefin waters in the 1920s, and then became Grey’s fishing companion. Mitchell often outfished him, however: the all-tackle black marlin record he set stood for decades.

Bob Montgomery

Captain Bob Montgomery was a Florida native and second generation guide, following in the footsteps of both his father and uncle.  He passed his love of fishing along to his daughter, Michelle.  After his discharge from the Navy, Montgomery started light tackle fishing in Key West in January of 1969. At the time, there were only two other light tackle guides in the area, one being his brother, Capt. Gene Montgomery.

Before there was GPS, Montgomery’s engineering expertise served him well on the water in locating and then relocating prime fishing areas throughout hundreds of square miles off Key West.  Using variable factors of tides, wind, the boat’s speed and more, he could calculate and pilot his boat, the Blue Runner, by dead reckoning to the channels, reefs, holes and wrecks for any number of favored species of fish. This skill gave him a big advantage in putting clients on fish. In 1971, he guided Jim Lopez to win the coveted MET tournament Master Angler award. For many years he enjoyed spending the month of May fishing for the big silver kings in Homosassa.

Montgomery appeared in two episodes of ABC’s American Sportsman with Curt Gowdy.  One segment featured Terry Bradshaw (1971) and another included both Jonathan Winters and Ernest Borgnine (1974). He was an active member of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association and served on its Board of Directors for many years.  Montgomery also served on the Board of Directors for Redbone, Inc., a non-profit to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis Research.

 

Joe Mott

At the age of 19 Joe Mott was running his own boat, setting the groundwork for his well-deserved reputation as one of the best all-around captains to ever hail out of Hillsboro Inlet. When the lucrative cobia fishery was just coming into its own, Mott was there; he played a major role in the growth of swordfishing in South Florida; and he was a pioneer of Cozumel sailfishing in the 1960s.

 
Charles Perry

Charles Perry may be the best heavy-tackle wireman in the world today.  He started fishing out of Oregon Inlet, NC, with his father, Capt. Charlie Perry, when he was six years old. He fished mostly inshore until he was 13, when he headed offshore with Captains Murray Cudworth and Tony Tillet.  But Perry really caught the bug while on R & R in Australia during the Vietnam War.  He fished the 1973 black marlin season in Cairns (and a total of 20 seasons on the Great Barrier Reef) and caught a number of granders.  He also fished for 14 years with Bark Garnsey and Stewart Campbell in West Africa, the Canary Islands and Madeira, and spent many seasons marlin fishing in St. Thomas and fishing for Bluefin tuna in Bimini and Cat Cay.

 

Chip Shafer

In 1973 Chip Shafer worked as a mate in Hatteras, with veteran captains who became his mentors. The following year he began running the Temptress between North Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas -- later adding Mexico and Venezuela – making a name for himself with tournament wins, double grand slams, and in 2004 a record-setting 500 billfish caught on fly with angler Nick Smith.

 

Randolph "Bouncer" Smith

Randolph Fishing has been Randolph Smith’s life. At five he was chasing bluegills in Michigan; at eight he was rigging his own ballyhoo and catching sailfish on family vacations in Florida.
By 1957 he had moved to Miami, where in his mid-teens he sold pilchards on the pier. At the age of 18 he was working driftboats, and in early 1968 became a licensed captain. For a few years in the mid-70s he ran a flats skiff in Islamorada, then returned to Fort Lauderdale, where he’s credited with bringing kite fishing to local waters and being one of the first to promote downriggers. In 1978 Bouncer returned to Miami – his 25’ Dusky the only mid-sized charter operation advertised in three counties – where he became a pioneer and leader in the development of light-tackle angling.
Bouncer’s name is synonymous with South Florida sport fishing. His experience and knowledge are vast and not limited to one species, or one technique, or one area. He’s devoted his life to sharing his passion and respect for the sport through radio, television, articles, videos and seminars. And he’s committed to the sport fishing community -- always available to answer a question or give advice, and always there when nonprofits and charitable organizations come calling.
Bouncer is an advocate for conservation and responsible fishing practices, and he became a strong supporter of circle hooks in the 1990s after hearing Tim Choate and Ron Hamlin promote their use. Bouncer has led dozens of anglers -- and himself – to world records. And he’s received many impressive awards -- including The MET’s Hyman Trophy and numerous top Guide and Captain honors -- all of which speak to his high standards and sportsmanship.

 
Gary Stuve

Capt. Gary Stuve is a third-generation waterman who worked his way up the ranks – to five Cat Cay Tuna Tournament wins and to a one-day catch (and release) of 73 bluefin tuna off Hatteras. His passionate concern for the species has him working closely with Tag-a-Giant.

 

Omie Tillett

Omie Tillett was born in 1929 on the Outer Banks with fishing in his blood.  At the age of 10 he was baiting hooks, tending lines and cleaning fish on his dad, Sam’s, boat; at 20 he was taking fishing parties out, the beginning of  50 years of guiding anglers to notable catches  and pioneering Gulf Stream fishing for white marlin, dolphin and blue marlin.   In 1951 he helped move a small, fledgling charter fleet from Nag’s Head to a new location that became the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.  And Omie’s early decision to build boats in the off-season played a pivotal role in North Carolina’s evolution into a premier custom boat-building state.  Though the entire Tillett family is recognized for pioneering sport fishing on the Outer Banks, Omie’s reputation, skills and creations became particularly legendary among fishermen, captains and boatbuilders, as did the local tradition, started by Omie, of blessing the fleet in the morning just as boats clear the inlet.

 
Jay Trochesset

Captain Jay Trochesset was born and raised in the charter fishing business on the Mississippi coast. He began working with his father, the late Capt. J.P., on the Gay Jay at the age of twelve, serving as a deckhand during the summers of his high school and college years.  Although Trochesset enjoyed his time at the University of Southern Mississippi, the excitement of catching cobia, red snapper, jack crevalle, king mackerel and grouper was his true calling.

Trochesset’s career as a licensed charter boat captain began in 1974 when he purchased his first boat- the Silver Dollar. As the business grew, he and his father spent the better part of three years designing and building the Silver Dollar I, a 50 foot fiberglass sport fisher- without the benefit of blueprints. Trochesset is highly regarded in the charter industry for bringing the first custom built catamarans to the area. In 1997, he christened his third boat, the Silver Dollar II, a 50 foot custom built catamaran. He now operates the new Silver Dollar III, an updated 52 foot catamaran purchased in 2009.  

A charter member and past President of the Mississippi Charter Boat Captains Association, Trochesset is a member of good standing in the MS Gulf Fishing Banks Association, National Association of Charter Boat Operators and the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce. In over 50 years of fishing, he has endured many challenges- including dozens of major hurricanes, the aftermath of the BP Oil Spill and numerous regulatory restrictions- but plans to stay in the business until he passes, just like his father before him. Fishing truly is a family affair for the Trochessets, as his wife Vickie runs the business and their two sons, Dustin and Brandon, are now third generation charter captains.
 

Dennis "Brazakka" Wallace

Dennis Capt. Dennis Wallace, who is universally known as “Brazakka,” an Aboriginal term for “wild man,” is one of the world’s great black marlin captains and an untiring promoter of Australian sport fishing.
At age 15 Brazakka began working trawlers off the New South Wales coast. Three years later he had enough sea hours to gain his “Masters ticket” and become one of the youngest skippers on Australia’s eastern coast. As game fishing began to take hold in Cairns in the mid-1960s, Brazakka decided that was where he wanted to be. In 1968 he became the third charter operator in the local fleet after buying George Bransford’s Sea Baby. But he soon realized it made more sense to lease private boats for the season, and he did so from 1970 until 1975, during which time he weighed 18 granders.
Over 40 years his reputation as a skilled skipper grew, and he attracted clients from all over the world. He designed the 54’ Sea Venture, the first self-contained, live-aboard game fishing boat, and was fully booked every year. Always colorful, Brazakka became a personality -- featured in beer commercials, the movie Brazakka’s Reef with Lee Marvin, and the Australian version of 60 Minutes. President Jimmy Carter was a client, as was Don Tyson. However his most famous may have been actor Lee Marvin. The two met in a Kona bar in early 1973, and over 12 seasons with Brazakka Marvin weighed 13 granders – one weighing 1,320 pounds -- and tagged at least a dozen more.
Brazakka fished off-season too: armed with a helicopter pilot’s license he took anglers “heli-fishing” for barramundi.

Jose Wejebe

Dennis Cuban-born Jose Wejebe’s father taught him to fish at an early age in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Jose became passionate about fishing, reading all he could and sending handmade flies to his heroes – people like Stu Apte, Flip Pallot and Lefty Kreh.  In return they shared their knowledge with the young man and encouraged his love of the sport and of the ocean.

Jose purchased his first skiff in his early teens.  For several years he worked at the Miami Seaquarium, as a diver and then a trainer.  But he really wanted to be out on the water every day, and not long after receiving his Captain’s license at age 18 he became a full-time inshore guide.  On his travels to Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cabo San Lucas,  he gained additional knowledge, and back home began fishing offshore and tournaments.  But he always made time for teaching the  next generation, and for his extensive work with countless charities.

Soon Jose was recognized as a great angler, a top guide, and a natural for television.  In 1995 his TV show Spanish Fly first aired on ESPN2 and was an immediate hit.  It was a perfect blend of cutting-edge techniques, spectacular video, a flamenco guitar soundtrack and Jose’s charismatic style.  Legions of fans continue to honor the memory of the engaging host who “...  always found it easier to show people what the  coolest things about fishing are, rather than just tell them another fish story.”
 

 

Laurie Woodbridge

A skilled plumber by trade, Australian Laurie Woodbridge learned his craft serving as deckhand for George Bransford, and in 1973 Woodbridge acquired Sea Baby II for himself -- and became a legend skippering her. Multiple tournament wins and multiple black marlin granders followed, including Morton May’s 1,347 lb catch, still the 80 lb line class world record, making Woodbridge one of the most successful captains in the history of Cairns.

 

 

 

 

 

Laurie Wright


IGFA Captain Laurie Wright has marlin fishing in his blood- his great uncle was the respected Australian angler Errol Bullen, who was friends with Zane Grey and famous for his rods and reels. Wright grew up on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where he was actively involved in fishing and diving, before he moved to Cairns to work on a mothership. He started his own charter fishing business in 1983. During his first season, he caught a grander and (although he prefers catch and release) his early career saw the landing of his biggest fish- a 1,277 lb black marlin. Wright has steered his anglers to many world records. The men’s world record for black marlin on 8 lb test line and the women’s world record for black marlin on 30 lb test line still stand today.

Although he has fished all over the world, Wright’s promotion of the now infamous Cairns marlin fishery is legendary.  Dr. Guy Harvey has fished with Wright numerous times and dedicated an entire chapter of his Portraits of the Deep book to the Great Barrier Reef and his adventures with Capt. Wright. He served as President of the Cairns Professional Fame Fishing Association from 2001 to 2007 and was instrumental in the planning and establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A key figure in the establishment of the Cairns Game Fishing Hall of Fame in 2006, he himself was inducted in 2008.

In 2010, Wright was honored as a recipient of the IGFA Gil Keech Heavy Tackle Award for his angling prowess. In 2011, he was presented with the Elwood K. Harry Fellow Award for his outstanding contributions to the sport of recreational fishing. Wright still runs a number of charter and private boats during the Cairns black marlin season, as well as other areas in Australia and beyond.
 

 

Peter Wright

Peter B. Wright is a renowned angler, captain, journalist and scientist.  He grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, working charters out of Hillsboro Inlet.  Summers and weekends he fished the Bahamas with Captain Johnny Whitmer.  

Armed with a degree in biology Peter traveled around the South Pacific.  He ultimately landed in Cairns in 1968, where he became a mate on Capt. George  Bransford’s Sea Baby II, and wired and gaffed his first two granders.  Peter returned  to the Great Barrier Reef every season, and in 1970 had the opportunity to captain.

The heavy-tackle and boat-handling skills he learned fishing for giant bluefin in the Bahamas were invaluable.  Peter’s boat was the first in Cairns to have a tuna tower, a transom door, two-speed Fin-Nor reels and curved-butt rods.  In the mid-1970s he spent five years in Kona where he began fast-trolling formaldehyde-soaked baits to be more competitive against Hawaiian lures.  These led to soft trolling lures, and to Mold Craft’s "Softhead" series.

A member of the Cairns Black Marlin Hall of Fame, Peter  has caught more marlin over 1,000 pounds than anyone in history.  In his five-decade career he released countless granders and captured 77.   These include a 1,442-pound black marlin that remains the largest ever weighed in Australia, and the women’s 80-pound record of 1,323 pounds, still standing after 38 years.   He’s also recognized  for sharing his vast knowledge of fish, techniques and the history of the sport in countless articles, and at seminars and events.