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Ill-timed bite

So, we’re catching some tuna, mostly on the troll and on the slide, when the boat is sliding to a stop on a jig-strike, and it’s gray and lumpy on Tanner Bank (southwest of San Clemente Island) with the tops blowin’ off like it does sometimes in early June albacore fishing. Everybody’s dressed mostly appropriately; deck boots and warm clothes, wool and slickers and such, ’cause it’s wet, cold fishing.

This kid of about 18 is standing at the rail during a stop on a jig-strike and a couple of bait hook-ups on the slide. He decides to lean his rod on the rail while trying to light a cigarette. Problem was, his bait is out and swimming. While trying to get a spark in the wind and before I could say anything, his bait gets bit.

The reel was in gear and the rod loads, flips over the rail, and flies up and out like a seagull fleeing the scene after stealing a sardine.

In one swift move, this kid drops his cigarette lighter, places his hands on the rail, leaps, and catches the rod mid-air as it is flying from the speedy albacore strike. He lands in the water, already tip up and fighting the fish as he starts back-treading toward the boat.

One of the other crew reaches out with a gaff, handle-first, which the kid grabs. The cigarette butt is still clenched in his teeth, though the rest has dissolved or broke off. Another crew takes his rod and fights the fish for a half a minute while they get the kid back onboard, but the kid grabs the rod as soon as he gets back over the rail and eventually gets the fish to gaff.

Though it was the largest tuna of the trip, it didn’t qualify for the jackpot because a deckhand handled the rod during the fight.

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