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Burnley Leadin

    While this happened a long time ago, it remains as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. Of course, at my age, if it had happened yesterday I probably would have forgotten all about it.
    Back in the 1970s and early 1980s the Indian River Boat Owners Association held an annual offshore tournament out of Indian River Inlet. In those days most of the larger boats were tied up at Southshore Marina owned by fishing and conservation pioneer Barbara Porter.
    When I say larger boats, I don’t mean the 70-foot-plus battle wagons we have today. I don’t think we had any boats over 50 feet, and the mid-40-foot range was the most common. Buddy Hurlock’s Post Slow Poke, Jimmy Snow’s Bertram Snow Goose, Art Halstead’s 31 Bertram Bluefin and Charlie Stapelford’s Ocean Stape II. These were private boats. A few charter boats including the Ethel with Capt. Ben Betts, the Miss Ene with Capt. Buddy Wagner, John Nedelka’s Karen Sue, a 31-foot JC, and the Aquarius with Capt. Bill Massey also plied the offshore waters. Since these boats were a bit on the slow side, Bill Massey would tell his parties they were fishing the canyons when they were still inshore of 30 fathoms. Today the area is known as Massey’s Canyon. Then there were a few small boats. Paul Coffin had the Little Boat, a 22-foot Mako and Frank Goodheart ran the Brenda Lou, a 25-foot Chris Craft.
    In previous years I had fished the tournament on the Little Boat, but this particular year I was on the Brenda Lou with Frank Goodheart and Bob Rumble. We were assigned an observer whose name I can’t recall.
    In those days marlin were quite scarce. If a boat could catch and release two or three marlin they had a good chance of winning the event. Scoring was pretty straightforward: You received 75 points for a white marlin release and 300 points for releasing a blue marlin. The other option was a point a pound for a dead fish on the dock. The idea was to conserve marlin by only killing fish that would pass the 75- or 300-pound mark. Since it was a small contest with all local boats the incentive to cheat was pretty low.
    Preparing for a day of offshore fishing was a chore since we used all dead bait and wire leaders. Every evening the crew would gather at my camper to tie up the next day’s bait. The most common bait was a ballyhoo rigged to either skip or swim. We also made up a few swimming mullet with only a small percentage that actually swam correctly. My favorite was a big squid made with two hooks and a small float that kept it on top of the water.
    When we began fishing offshore, Paul and I made all of our rigs with 15-foot wire leaders because that is the way the charter captains made theirs. When we finally got a marlin to the boat we realized a 15-foot leader was too long when your boat only had an 8-foot beam and very low gunnels. After that experience, we cut the wire leaders down to 5 feet. We still had to tie up two haywire twists for each leader, a process that created some nice callouses on my thumb and forefinger.
    Then there was the navigation system. Back then the top of the line was Loran A and Frank had a unit installed on the Brenda Lou. Since the U.S. Navy had provided me with training on this equipment, it became my job to go below and try to get the little man into the house. That was a tricky operation on an aircraft carrier, let alone on a 25-foot Chris Craft in the middle of the ocean. Most of the time we relied on dead reckoning, using the compass and the sonar.




Cold water can be deadly, no matter what time of year. Understand how it affects you and how to survive.


kite in air

Looking for a different way to present bait naturally? Go fly a kite!