by Dale Wills
One definition of passion is when you put more energy into something than is typically required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement. Meet Mike Kasten, a tower spotter with eyes like a frigatebird. He personifies his passion by spotting fish in a spread before anyone else.
Kasten’s love for spotting fish began in the Florida Keys several years ago when he realized he had a knack for it. I was fortunate enough to work for some of the best captains in the keys sight fishing sails , mahi , and cobia. In 2010, Kasten persuaded Team Galati to give him a shot spotting fish from the tower. “They broke me in by going 26 for 28 on white marlin off Ocean City, MD the first time I went offshore with them and since that trip I was hooked,” he says.
“I never want to take my eyes off the spread or miss a fish. It drives me nuts if the captain or someone in the cockpit sees a fish before me,” says Kasten.
“I love coordinating the communication between the anglers and the fish,” he reports. “My job is to let the anglers know where the fish is and what it’s doing, like whether it’s lazy or aggressive. I also notice if there’s a tangle or if there’s a fish on the dredge that nobody in the cockpit can see. Seeing the fish and alerting the angler gives them an extra second to engage the fish versus letting the fish engage the angler. There are certainly a lot of boats that do not have towers and are successful tournament winners but if it’s a close race I am certain that I can be the difference in a few extra fish because I’m up there doing everything I can to help the team win,” says Kasten.
Kasten has also taken the tower communication to the next level by wearing a headset mike that lets him correspond clearly via a Bluetooth speaker in the cockpit, which he says all but eliminates the usual yelling and shouting during the fishing day.
When asked about how far back the long riggers are trolled and visibility of the bait, Kasten explains, “I have the guys fish the longs close enough to where I can just barely see the bait. If they are too far back, the fish usually ends up being a sneak bite and I’m no help. I probably drive them crazy because I’m always saying ten less or ten more feet on the rigger baits. If I can warn them the anglers love it.”
“Nine times out of ten, I see the fish before he gets to the bait depending on the light conditions. If the sun is on my back I can see everything in our spread and a sailfish or marlin sticks out like a sore thumb. If the sun’s in my face and there is a glare, I look for fins cutting through the water or a wake made by the fish. It also helps that I was blessed with 20/10 vision. If a fish comes up either very aggressive or lazy, I’m able to help the angler drop back to try to get the fish to eat but most of the time the fish wants to chase that bait and I try to not have them drop back unless he fades off. There have been countless times we have gotten a bite and not come tight and I will let the angler know if the fish is coming back to eat again and most importantly if they still have a bait. Another thing I help with is when we hook a fish and make our turn, sometimes you can’t tell where the hooked fish is and I’m vigilant at watching to make sure we don’t run over the line. I’ll let the captain know hard to port or starboard and give him a read on where the fish is.”
As you can probably tell, Mike Kasten is taking the job of spotting fish from the tower very seriously and has become an integral part of the Galati fishing team. Kasten adds that you also need to make sure the seas are not too rough to risk injury by climbing a tuna tower in the first place. “It’s something you should get comfortable doing at the dock before you try it offshore. It’s not for everyone but it’s an amazing view and something I love doing.” When it comes to sunglasses, blue mirror Costa sunglasses are his favorite for bright days in blue water. “They make the dark shadows of the sails stick out very well,” he says. “On a cloudy overcast day, I wear amber Costas to brighten things up.” Adding a tower guy can pay dividends. Just follow Team Galati via InTheBite as they compete around the world and remember that Mike Kasten will be riding 40 feet above the boat like a frigatebird waiting to dive on its prey. “Left long rigger!”
A good tower spotter can pay big dividends, especially in tournament fishing where every bite counts.