old salt blog

Savor The Moment

Captain Dave Mistretta

Walking through the entrance to the KOTB captains meeting is quite an experience. You
can feel it in the air. An event of extraordinary proportion is taking place. Local businesses bring
their best to publically strut their stuff.   Various restaurants squeeze together like a can of
sardines their booths side by side, each trying to outdo the other’s dish.  Various fishing and
boating companies proudly display their products with experts eager to give you an earful.
Nautical artists stand under their temporary tent galleries, hopeful to sell unique pieces of art.
Bouncy houses set up for the kids. Vendors strategically sandwiched between it all, diligently
competing for business and lines at every porta potty in the house.  This place is jammedCaptain Dave Mistretta
packed full of people. You can easily find fishing teams huddled everywhere in clusters,
flaunting their designer hats & shirts, plastered with every kingfish design you could imagine.
Others, old schooling it, sporting their flip flops & board shorts. Some even roll off their boat,
toting white rubber boots and foul weather gear many still smelling like fish.  Numerous
families stroll thru the event in amazement, trying grasp all that’s going on. Pinellas County
Sheriff deputies in full force; everywhere you look, making sure it all runs smoothly. It always
does. This place resembles a giant nautical state fair on steroids, only
waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay  better. It’s the King of the Beach!

Now, add 1000 spectators, plus 500 lying fisherman to this mix, add the beer trucks
with multiple taps flowing like a river; combined with the smell of so many different delicious
foods, it’ll make your stomach growl.   Then, add live music that rocks the entire complex and
even across the entire bay.  Over top all the commotion, a loud speaker bellows   ” Welcome to
the 2015 King of the Beach”.

That’s what I call one Wing Ding of a captains meeting. It’s TRULY a magical event. This
is the stuff in life that makes me tick. You can always count on bumping into someone you
haven’t seen in years.  It’s a 22 year long monumental historical event in the makings folks. To
me, this is like attending the Super Bowl of King Fishing, The World Series of Mackerel, and the
Stanley Cup of Kingfish, all combined into one.  This is a big deal in the world of Dave. If you are
ate up with the fishing bug like me, and many attending this event, you totally get what I’m
trying to say. The KOTB is hands down the biggest kingfish tournament around. For years it’s
held the title for being the largest kingfish tourney on the west coast of Florida. There are
around 400 boats, captains and crew giving their all to take home the crown.

“You can feel it in the air. An event of extraordinary proportion is taking place”

The reason this event is so big: It all started 22 years ago, local fisherman wanted a
tournament that had decent payouts and could grow to unimaginable size. Who better to take
hold of the reigns than The Old Salt Fishing Foundation? For years, this organized group of
volunteers has supported many great causes. Basically, this is an organized group of fishing
folks that have joined a club, simply wanting to give back to the community and have fun along
the way.  Now how about that folks!  As the years went on, prizes got better and a lot of money
has been raised for many good causes. The tournament grew to substantial size.  This
tournament has sentimental value of epic proportion from all angles.  Thank you Old Salts for
all you have done.

Our team has been fishing tournaments together since childhood, dating back to the
70s. This tournament brings us all together from our different lives. We reminisce about the
past and fish harder than one could ever imagine. We have a ball.

That’s what it’s all about. The entire day of the spring tourney , immediately after we
caught the giant winning king,  lifelong friend and team mate Rob Somers repeatedly  kept
saying ,  “savor the moment …savor the moment….Savor the moment!! We don’t know when
it’s going to happen again. By the way, Rob was the angler who landed our winning fish. He’sking of the beach kingfish tournament
always worked the back of the boat, and hasn’t landed a big money fish in years. He was due,
but always seemed to have his head buried in the live well looking for that perfect bait. He
would more than often say,” It’s all about the bait”. How true.  We always joked that it would
be the 50lber when it was finally his turn. Today was his day. It was our day!

When we walked up on the stage and took the crown for the first time in 22 years, it
was amazing. We finally broke, the at least 6 times, 2nd place curse. We didn’t get beat by a
few ounces this time, like so many times before. The KOB no longer eludes us. We did it;
teammates repeatedly announce to us on regular basis, savor the moment, savor the moment!
We will savor this moment like a giant porterhouse steak.  A 49.12lb. mouth watering kingsteak,
to be exact.   It was an emotional moment. The rest of this story will explain further why this
crown has even more meaning. We are honored to hold the crown until the next winner goes
onstage.  Maybe it will be us again. You never know. Only twice in KOB history has that
happened.  Why not?


It’s all about the Smile

I’d like to share our winning day, in the spring of 2015, with you – from start to finish so that I
can further explain how wonderful this whole thing is…..  called the “KING OF THE  BEACH”

Our day starts with winds 15 knots and gusty. Many of the boats opted to fish Egmont channel
where the land protects many king spots. Many tournaments have been won in these protected
waters of the Bay. That’s what makes this area unique from other locations. There always
seems to be somewhere fishable in Tampa Bay, no matter the weather conditions.

We were thinking outside the box and decided to ruff it, we fished an area that was
holding bait 9 days prior. Forecast said it would be calming as the day went on, so things looked
promising. Nobody had really got out much to scout, since the winds were pretty high for over
a week. It leveled the playing field, since no one really quite knew where the fish were in the
Gulf. It was a game of educated guesses and a little luck. That’s what makes a 400 boat tourney
so interesting. That’s why it took 22 years for us to win this coveted crown.  It’s simply anyone’s
game. And that’s why we savor this particular day forever.

First set of baits out is when the big gal hit. She screamed off what seemed to be a
mile of line as we went into full pursuit. Five minutes later and a bunch of salt water sprayed in
our face we stuck the hog.  The 61” sea monster just kept coming over the gunnels. Our smiles
grew right past our ear lobes.  We all roared with excitement. My hand still stings from the high
fives received from each teammate. You gotta love that.

Our state of mind once things calmed was, get back to work. There’s got to be a bigger
one out there. If we stop fishing and go to the scales too confident, we just knew someone
would beat us. Then, we are back to, yes another 2nd place finish. Even with this huge fish we
could barely squeeze into our fish bag.  We were obviously in shock.  It was 8:00 in the morning
and we had what looked like a fifty in the bag. So what did we do? We fished harder for the
remainder of the morning as if we never had the hog buried in ice. Not once did we look at the
beastly king.  Did we want to?  Heck yea but, we didn’t.  Four straight hours, we trolled in pretty
unpleasant sea conditions trying to get even a bigger fish. Wondering if someone had a bigger
fish in his or her bag.

Fourteen-year-old Josh Heavenridge landed an 18 pounder and didn’t even want to
weigh it.  He was thinking big after the beast we gaffed earlier.  You got to love that kid; he’s a
competitor. We finally convinced him to reluctantly weigh the fish. He won some wonderful
prizes for 2nd place junior. Girlfriend Charlene was next on the rod next trying to nab a ladies
trophy. She’s been fishing numerous tournaments and her number hasn’t come up yet. That
day it almost did.  She’s a tiny little thing and did a great job, in the nasty conditions, but hooks
pulled at the gaff.  Her fish in twenties swam away. She was bummed.  Dave Heavenridge
pointed to the stuffed bag and shouted winner -winner -chicken dinner! She laughed. We kept
fishing. The entire time we kept wondering if we were still stuck in the curse of second place
finish at the King of the Beach, again and for the 7th time in 22 years.   Either way it somehow
felt soothing. We were in a good place no matter what.  We were grateful.

By noon the shock of what we had accomplished set in. It was time to get back to shore
for precautionary reasons, just in case we had boat issues. Not once did we look at the fish for
fear of disrupting even one ounce of precious slime. All we had to do is open the tackle bag and
weigh the monster with our 60lb Boca grip.  We opted instead for the butterflies in the tummy,
mystery-like waiting game. Again savoring the moment.

Now, the hurry up and wait part of catching a big fish. Oh yes, this is quite a feeling to
have a fish in your bag you know is bigger than the 42lber currently leading the tourney when
we arrived. We purposely avoided the excited anglers, since they thought they had the winner.
This is tournament fishing, folks.  Fun, but, it can be brutal sometimes.  Who knows, we never
weighed ours. Maybe we were too excited and over judged its size. We opted to keep quiet.
We hung out under an old oak tree off to the side. Friends came to peek in the bag at its tail. All
their responses were: WOOWSA!!

On this special occasion we tried to wait till the end. I mean this was tournament fishing at its
best. Big fish in the bag, first baits out landing it, extremely untidy sea conditions. It doesn’t get
any better does it? Well, as you will read it truly does. Finally with 30 minutes left, we couldn’t
take it and got in line to weigh. When Dave and Josh Heavenridge pulled that beast from the
fish bag, I knew we’d won. It was truly an overwhelming experience.

What happened later that day tops all of what we accomplished in the early hours of the
tourney. As a team, we decided to donate half the $20,000 prize to our good friend /fellow
teammate and very special person, Jon West.  He was trying to soak in all the bad news he just
received. It was the news that no one wants to hear. The doctor informed him that he had
stage 4 cancer and needed immediate surgery and treatment. We decided that the money was
great, but he needed it much more than us. Anyone who has experienced this trauma knows
it’s financially impossible to keep up with it all. That’s what true friends are for.

After emotionally announcing his condition during our awards ceremony, something
even more beautiful happened, yes it got even better.  People started walking up and handing
their checks to us, stating he really did need the money more than them too. For days, this kept
happening from all directions.  Jill Foraker headed the Old Salt team to immediately start a
fundraiser for JON, raising another $15k to add to all the generous offerings from others.
Captains gave charters, art work was donated… it was an amazing session of giving, rather than
taking. The fishing community stood tall and joined together to help a fallen fisherman during
his toughest battle of his life.

I love our community and what this all stands for. People are awesome and the proof
can be found in the crowd of fisherman congregated at all the KING OF THE BEACH
tournaments.  Just look around you at the next captains meeting and smile! You have every
right to smile. You all, as a community, helped a fallen fisherman. I thank God every day to be
able to be a part of all these kind gestures.  And yes… miracles do happen.

Jon is in his final week of chemotherapy. It was a long brutal journey, but it ends with what I
think is the first of many miracles to come.  His doctor gave him the news everyone wants to
hear during the tale end of his 4 month chemo treatment.  SHE SAID… I DONT SEE THE CANCER

Thank you,

One Response to Savor The Moment

  1. well written dave, you put the audience right into the scene with that one. you don’t need to hear it from me, but thanks. I was able to spend some time with jon recently and left feeling really good about his progress, and feeling just as good about the fishing community that has shown tremendous support for a pillar in our arena. again I thank you and everyone that has been a part of it. see ya on the beach…capt.dan barry-jawbreaker fishing inc.

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