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2007 St. Pete Open - August 17-19, 2007 Check this forum for news, rules, updates, and other discussion about this year's St. Pete Open Tournament -- August 17, 18, and 19, 2007

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Old 08-20-2007, 09:00 AM   #1
SpearMax
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Smile Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

The Big One That Got Away!

Now, that should be the title of a movie about spearfishing! How often has that happened to each one of us? There is one thing I know for certain - fish in the ocean can not be predicted with any certainty. As my friend Bing says - fish have tails and go where they want. As much as we try, the big ones will continue to get away from all of us. So, here is my Warsaw story from the St. Pete Open 2007.

This story is similar to that told yesterday by Chris Hudgens (Financial Advis). Looks like he had a similar plan for this year's SPO! Oh well.......the fish did not cooperate.

Several months ago, I made up my mind to try and be a real contender at this year's St. Pete Open on August 18, 2007. I had shot the tournament for several years with mixed results. But this year, like so many of my fellow SPO shooters, I had a plan.

Hmmm....."I had a plan"...............sounds like a good title for a song. And after hearing that most excellent and funny imitation of a Scottish accent by SPUC President Scott Hooker at dinner on Saturday night, Scottish poets come to mind. So, here is the fitting part of that famous poem "To a Mouse" by Scottish poet Robert Burns:

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

The above is the "Scott Hooker version" in genuine Scottish dialect. The standard modern English translation is:

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leaves us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

My grand plan was simple - Win the St. Pete Open by shooting a deep water Warsaw grouper in my back yard off Palm Beach Inlet on the east coast of Florida. As mentioned above, I have since learned that several other people like Chris Hudgens were working somewhat of the same plan in the Gulf of Mexico.

The St. Pete Open is one of the most prestigious, oldest and largest tournaments in Spearfishing. It is what is known as a "Big Fish" tournament as opposed to an aggregate tournament like the Spearboard Open. The spearing objectives and therefore the trips to the prize table are based on shooting the largest fish in each category. Grouper is the number one category in this event.

In the 42 year history of the St. Pete Open according to Club records, the largest grouper to win the SPO was taken by Gary Zumwalt in 1991 and weighed in at 111.5 pounds. A few years ago I had brought in a 50+ pound warsaw from the east coast to the SPO which was something like the eighth largest grouper that year.

The water was running "cold out deep" off Palm Beach as it usually does during the summer when we get "cold-water upwellings". Warsaw groupers love cold water. We were experiencing 50 degree water on some of those dives. Damm cold for us! Members of my tech diving team had also seen an estimated 200 pound warsaw in the weeks leading up to the SPO!

Unfortunately, the upwelling subsided the weekend before SPO and I was scouting deep around 300 feet, but not seeing him. Then a few days before the SPO, I was seeing reports on Spearboard that indicated the upwelling had come back. So, I flew to the captain's meeting on friday night and handed my check and sign-up forms to Bucket One and flew back that night.

We dove early on Saturday to almost 300 feet and found no warsaws. We then dove a second spot over 200 feet and came up with the consolation prize that was on the Billy Howell Ford leaderboard for most of the night. Near the end of the weigh-in process, a great member of the SPUC Club named Jason DeLaCruz took the lead with a really nice grouper. In the spirit of sportsmanship, I congratulated Jason on a job well done. Heck!..... second place in the grouper category at the SPO ain't too shabby! That is the best tournament result I have ever had anywhere. I was happy to say the least.

Here are some photos of my 59.85 pounds gutted warsaw grouper.
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“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

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Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 08-20-2007, 09:22 AM   #2
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Re: The Big One That Got Away!

Now, I will share some of the diving experience. The first step in my grand plan was to get advanced Trimix certified. I had been a deep air technical diver for a few years and wanted to step up to trimix. I started the course through Force E Dive Shop a few months ago with my dive buddies Jim McGrath and Bobbi Cooper with trimix instructor Dr. Bill Adams. I completed the Advanced Timix certification (to 330 feet) through the TDI agency on July 14,2007.

On Saturday morning on SPO shoot day. Jim McGrath and I descended to almost 300 feet through a massive cloud of jacks. We were on trimix double tanks. I had 300 cubes and Jim had 240 cubes on our backs. (Chris Hudgens knows why so much gas for those depths ). The water temp down deep was 61 degrees that day.
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__________________
"Spearing is the path to enlightenment." --- Lao Tzu

“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

---- Success Unlimited Author Og Mandino b.1923 - d.1996

Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 08-20-2007, 09:23 AM   #3
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Re: The Big One That Got Away!

We searched high and low for the 200 pound warsaw. Alas, he was not home that day. Such is life (and death) under the sea!
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__________________
"Spearing is the path to enlightenment." --- Lao Tzu

“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

---- Success Unlimited Author Og Mandino b.1923 - d.1996

Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 08-20-2007, 09:30 AM   #4
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Wink Re: The Big One That Got Away!

Here is just one of my world famous graphs of this dive.
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__________________
"Spearing is the path to enlightenment." --- Lao Tzu

“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

---- Success Unlimited Author Og Mandino b.1923 - d.1996

Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 08-20-2007, 09:32 AM   #5
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Re: The Big One That Got Away!

On the next deep dive I found my "thrill on blueberry hill" in the form of a nice 60+ pound warsaw. My cold steel came from about 20 feet above as he was about to slip away inside the wreck. In these frames, you can see the moment (1/30th of a second video frames) when the shaft made impact.
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__________________
"Spearing is the path to enlightenment." --- Lao Tzu

“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

---- Success Unlimited Author Og Mandino b.1923 - d.1996

Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 08-20-2007, 09:35 AM   #6
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Re: The Big One That Got Away!

The shot behind the left eye stoned him instantly and he rolled over with mouth agape. I then released his swim bladder air with my knife as I have learned from prior experience with these big fish. As you ascend, the expanding bladder has the potential to pull you up right through your deco stops to the surface if you do not puncture it.
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__________________
"Spearing is the path to enlightenment." --- Lao Tzu

“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

---- Success Unlimited Author Og Mandino b.1923 - d.1996

Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 08-21-2007, 08:46 AM   #7
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

So here are the underwater pose shot and the cooler shot. Even though my "best laid plan" did go askew, I had a wonderful time trying. Second place is good enough for me. As Avis used to say to Hertz Rent-a-Car - "In second place, we try harder!" There is always next year on the horizon. I encourage everyone to get out next year and shoot the St. Pete Open. You will have a blast no matter what fish you bring to the weigh-in! Tony

PS. One last thing. I decided to use the services of an excellent SPO sponsor named Lee's Taxidermy. He does fantastic work as evidenced by that huge Cubera snapper prize at the awards event. I took my fish over to his shop on Sunday and he will be turning it into one of his masterpieces for my wall. So, get out there and support the SPO tournament sponsors. They deserve our business!
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__________________
"Spearing is the path to enlightenment." --- Lao Tzu

“Live this day as if it will be your last. Remember that you will only find 'tomorrow' on the calendars of fools.”

---- Success Unlimited Author Og Mandino b.1923 - d.1996

Last edited by SpearMax; 08-21-2007 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:37 AM   #8
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Amazing pics and well told story.
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:43 AM   #9
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

This has to be your best post so far, amazing job Tony you are insane dude
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:50 AM   #10
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Congrats Tony!! As part of your "scouting team" I'm glad one showed up on the right day. Sorry I wasn't there to see it in person but was over in the "grounds" having a blast with Cpt Ben on the Holy Spear It. A truly amazing trip. Report to follow very soon......
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Old 08-21-2007, 10:01 AM   #11
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Damn nice fish Tony and well placed shot. Gotta love when you roll those big boys. No fun to battle a big grouper at those depths. Congrats on a great showing at the tournament!
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Old 08-21-2007, 10:29 AM   #12
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Way to go Tony!

That's a perfect size for a mount.

Glad to see you hold up that big 2nd dorsal spine in that U/W pic.

I have yet to nail a warsaw, I guess I'm just too slow with my riding rig, because the Hell Divers have beat me to several of them.

Chad
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Old 08-21-2007, 10:48 AM   #13
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Great job Tony. That last pic of you and the grouper u/w shows off the size of the beast!! Cool story.
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Old 08-21-2007, 11:12 AM   #14
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Thanks for the details Tony.!
Great fish.!
Great story.!
I was drunk the first time you told me about it.!



Dago.
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Old 08-21-2007, 11:16 AM   #15
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Re: Spearmax - The Big One That Got Away!

Tony, great reading and congrats on the fish. The execution of your '"grand plan" was top notch - exactly the opposite of FUBAR!
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