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Rich battles monster marlin

Bob Rich Jr. likes to keep a bucket list of fishing ventures.

Best known as president of Rich Products, owner of the Buffalo Bisons, and fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Rich also has a serious involvement in where the fish are biting around Western New York and at a Florida residence in Islamorada.

From bill-fish competitions around the world to perch catches in Lake Erie's deeper waters, he keeps an eye and ear on spots that are hot for fish fights.

Ten years ago, Rich penned his first full-length book on fishing, "Fish Fights: A Hall of Fame Quest." This 335-page text chronicles seeking his top-10 fish catches.

After an Oct. 5 marlin catch along Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Rich can now add an eleventh entry to his bucket list of accomplished fish quests.

"Actually, I may have to do an entire book on this one," Rich said upon returning from a 7-day Lizard Island International Black Marlin Tourney. This tourney is held along some of the best marlin waters on Australia's northeast coast; anglers there stand the best chance of catching a "grander," that is, a black marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds.

Fishing with partner Craig Reagor of Ponte Vedra, Fla., aboard the 43-foot Calypso captained by good friend Tim Dean, the competition began with a nice 600-pound fish that was fought and brought within leader distance. But this first catch did not come close enough to tag and release before it shook the hook.

"These are strictly 'tag and release' contests," Rich described his contest involvements. He opted to enter only release-based competitions more than a decade ago. The marlin contest in which he was competing has participants bring fish in close enough to shoot still and video proof of a catch.

Before releasing each fish, a non-intrusive tag is placed in the fish as an official entry in the competition. "These crews know weights of each fish caught without bringing them along side to measure length and girth," Rich said of the weight-measuring procedures.

Rich and Reagor, representing Lizard Lodge Resorts, a Delaware North company, like to hook into the biggest bruisers; however, this tourney ranks winnings as the number of black marlin caught, tagged and released, regardless of sizes.

As it turned out, Rich and Reagor caught eight entry fish and finished seventh in the overall competition.

"That one that got away on the first day would have put us in fourth place. As it was, three boats got eight fish, so there was a tie below fourth place," Rich said with regret.

Yet he came off the Calypso Oct. 5 with no regrets after hooking and tagging a monster marlin that showed well in still photographs and videos. That fish fight went from 1:50 to 2:05 p.m.

Many "grander" fish fights on relatively light tackle will go on for hours, but, for Rich, this was a grand personal accomplishment.

Hooking a fish that weighs five-plus times more than the angler is stunning. Fishing with a bait that weighs more than the average bass or walleye (8- to 10-pounds for the larger baits) is impressive by itself. And the photos add to memories of a fun time in the fighting chair at the center of the transom in the back of the boat.

But it was after the fish was caught, tagged, and released that turned this fish-fight outing into something more like a dangerous, big-game hunt.

Rich swears the crew did everything right, but after this big female marlin was tagged and cut loose, she took a wrong turn and instead of leaping another time for open waters -- scenes well chronicled in photo form -- the marlin crashed head-first into the center of the transom, shook its head and then finally headed down below water.

Crew members believe the fish poked that hole in the transom with its lower jaw, not the longer, upper bill. As a result, the fish could easily pull away from the boat's transom and escape unharmed.

"But the direction in which the fish was moving was right in line with where I was sitting in the fighting chair," Rich said with relief and some reservations about the next trophy-sized fish fight.

"Right now my bucket list is topped with grandkids outings," Rich said of his grandchildren ranging in ages 7 to 14.

For details on Rich's three published texts, go to bobrichbooks.com. Also, look for a possible fourth book sometime soon with a picture of a ventilated hull transom.

email: odrswill@gmail.com

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