By Dale E Wills
It’s not everyday that you jump onto a sportfishing boat and with a former NFL kick-returner as the first mate (but more on that later).
I was fortunate enough to fish with one of the premier fishing teams in the Gulf Coast Division on a 95′ Jim Smith sportfish called Relentless Pursuit. We were simultaneously fishing the Orange Beach Billfish Championship and the Mobile Big Game Club Gulf Coast Masters during the last weekend in May and what a trip it was.
I’m so blessed to fish with many of the top programs in sportfishing and I can’t thank the owner and co-captain, Dennis Pasentine, enough for the incredible time we shared chasing blue marlin in the shadows of behemoth oil rigs. I’d like to thank the others onboard including Chip, Tony, Ben, Captain James “Moose” Galloway and Rocco for the belly full of laughs and delicious regional cuisine. I don’t recommend anyone inexperienced to try it, but we even deep fried fresh Louisiana shrimp on the mezzanine while running to our next fishing spot.
The Relentless Pursuit team does not approach tournament fishing like most other gulf teams. Instead of live baiting, Dennis and his experienced team prefer to troll and pull lures.
“I’m not a live baiter,” Dennis says with a chuckle. “I really enjoy trolling and catching all kinds of different fish in a tournament. In addition to searching for the big marlin, I like to bring back fish for friends and family. Using trolling lures helps us catch more of a variety of fish. Because we are always on the move hunting around for bait and any signs of fish, I’d prefer not to sit in one place and wait for a bite,” Dennis says.
Dennis found his love of fishing when he purchased a 60′ Hatteras in 1979, which he still owns to this day.
“It would be hard for anyone to find a screw in that boat,” Dennis says. “I’ve rebuilt and reinforced it in just about every place you can imagine. It’s a good strong boat that my family still uses today. I learned how to fish the gulf on her.”
Dennis is also a knowledgeable boat owner and his love for fishing is quite evident after spending time with him. He is very hands on when it comes to all aspects of his boat as well as big game tournament fishing. Having fished the Gulf for many years, he primarily draws on his vast experience in addition to consulting his crew to help map out a fishing strategy. Dennis is a fishing captain in every sense of the word.
While at the helm navigating on our initial ride out, we crossed over a scattered weed line 70 miles southwest of Orange Beach, Alabama and Dennis contemplated pulling the throttles back to fish.
“I love fishing down a good edge. I’ll never pass up a hard edge of any kind. If we see another good line, we are going to stop and fish it,” Dennis remarks while looking aft from the enclosed bridge towards the splitting boat wake. Despite his confidence, one can sense a part of him is second guessing his decision to keep moving. As we later approached our initial starting point near an oil rig, Dennis was quick to point out on the navigation chart where he caught a winning fish a couple of years ago and another bigger marlin between a distant oil rig.
It was evident to me the success that the Relentless Pursuit team has earned in the last several years—including a 2015 Gulf Coast Captain of the Year title—was largely due in part to Dennis and his fishing prowess. During the two and a half days we spent fishing, Dennis manned the helm 90 percent of the time. Bear in mind that we were fishing well before sunrise through sunset, until it was too dark to see the lures. Any time I would look up at the Relentless Pursuit sky bridge, Dennis was up there looking around for sea life. The man absolutely loves driving the boat and hunting for marlin.
Relentless Pursuit’s first mate Mike Akui, also known as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” played for the Houston Oilers from 1984-1986. Since I’m a football fan and we’re close in age, we naturally reminisced about the players and teams of the late 80s off and on during the course of the tournament. Mike’s story is one of being in the right place at the right time while he was a member of the Washington State University track team.
NFL scouts were evaluating the 40-yard times of a few student athletes on the WSU football team. The track team was practicing while the scouts were there, and the track coach went over and asked the scouts what times the athletes were running. He suggested that they needed to time Mike Akui, one of the fastest men on his track team. The scouts agreed and when they tested him, Mike’s time blew the scouts away. They had never recorded his rate of speed before.
In amazement they asked him to run the 40 again just to make sure they had measured correctly. Mike’s 40 time came in at 4.21 seconds and he was soon offered a position on the Houston Oilers as a kick and punt returner. Mike played three seasons in the NFL before his career was cut short due to an injury. Though his pro football days may be behind him, his passion for athletics still resonates during our conversation.
Mike has been fishing with Dennis for nineteen seasons and counting. Growing up in Hawaii, Mike fell in love with fishing from an early age. Like many Hawaiian marlin fisherman, he is dialed in when it comes to lure fishing and naturally fits within the team’s style. Mike especially loves the thrill of seeing a lure attacked at any given second while trolling as well as the adrenaline rush that comes with high stakes competition.
“It’s the highlight of my year fishing with Dennis and his crew during the tournaments,” Mike says passionately. The Relentless Pursuit team fishes 10-12 summer tournaments, which makes up the bulk of the boat’s schedule. The rest of the year is reserved for maintenance and hunting.
Dennis owns a large tug boat company which operates throughout the Mississippi River. In honor of his good friend, Dennis named one of his larger tug boats after Mike Akiu, including his jersey number. Inside the tug’s wheelhouse you can also find a picture of Mike in his Oilers uniform.
I would like to sincerely thank Dennis and the crew of the Relentless Pursuit. They are a first-class operation staffed with great people, world class fishing, and a truly awesome experience! They may not compete on the gridiron, but they are bringing a high level of game and competition to the Gulf…and beyond.