By Charlie Levine
One of Capt. Alex Tallman’s core values is to always be friendly and respectful to clients and other fishermen. This mantra has served him well as a young captain who scored his dream job, on his dream boat. The Florida-raised Tallman has been running the 63 Ricky Scarborough, Big Smooth, owned by Steve Johnson. Tallman met Johnson through a mutual acquaintance after Johnson purchased some property at Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas and stationed a 39-foot Nor-Tech center console there.
“Steve showed me the properties and the center console,” Tallman says. “I had spent ten years in that area, so I knew it very well. I told him that I liked the setup, but I wanted to fish on a sportfish boat. He said, ‘OK, why don’t you go find one?’ So, that’s what I did.” They purchased the Waterman a 2015 Ricky Scarborough and took to updating her to meet the needs of Bahamas/East Coast operation. “This is one of my favorite boats that I’ve ever been on,” Tallman says. “She’s quick, not too big, and easy to maintain.”
Growing up in Florida, Tallman always had an affinity for fishing. As a young boy he targeted bass and would hit the local lakes whenever he could. He eventually graduated to salt water fishing and would ride his bike down to Juno Pier to fish for snook. He’d save any money he got his hands on to go out on the Blue Heron drift boat out of Jupiter.
He inherited a desire to work on the water from his family which had many ties to the maritime world. His uncle, mother and grandfather all carved out careers on boats. “I always wanted to pursue a job on the water,” Tallman says. “I worked at Jonathan’s Landing Marina through high school, managing the marina’s fleet of boats. It was maybe 40 boats that I would kind of take care of and show people how to use, everything from center consoles to 50-foot cabin cruisers.”
After high school, Tallman attended the Chapman School of Seamanship, his mom’s alma mater, and graduated with a 100 Ton Master Captain’s License. With his license in hand, Tallman hopped on a 75-foot Hatteras motoryacht and spent a year in the Bahamas. “That was a great experience,” he says. “They had a center console as well. We’d fish and spearfish and that kept me interested. I learned how to deal with higher-end owners and keep a really tight boat. The captain was a real stickler and taught me everything from how to turn down beds to cleaning the interior and exterior. It gave me a good basis on the importance of paying attention to detail.” Tallman, just 19 at the time, also ran the boat on short trips.
From there, Tallman moved into the offshore fishing world when he scored a job on the El Lobo, a 90-foot sportfisher run by Frank Gibbs. “Frank saw me grinding away on the motoryacht in the Bahamas, walked up and said he’d been watching how hard I work, and he’d love to get me on board as a mate.”
With a crew of just two people to run the 90-footer, Tallman took advantage of the opportunity to learn from the experienced captain. “Frank is a super mechanical guy and taught me a lot in the engine room. We spent three months in the yard with multiple systems that had to get redone. We worked together for close to a year before that program changed and I jumped ship.”
His next gig was on the ThomCat, a 68-foot enclosed-bridge Hatteras, run by Capt. Bill Davis. The boat spent six months in Palm Beach fishing live bait for sails and trolling for pelagics and six months targeting billfish and bottomfish in the Abacos. “We did it all,” Tallman says. “Anything that had eyes we caught. Bill Davis is one of best fishermen I’ve worked for. He would wake up thinking about fish and go to bed thinking about fish. I had never seen someone that wanted to fish more, and he really got my drive going. All we talked about and thought about was fishing.”
Tallman spent five years on ThomCat, but the program wasn’t changing, and he was getting an itch to travel and experience more fishing spots. When the opportunity to jump on the 90-foot John Bayliss Singularis came about, Tallman made the move.
“I jumped on Singularis right after it was built,” he says. “That was definitely the most traveling I did on a boat. We went everywhere. As soon as the boat was christened, we left to fish the Big Rock, the White Marlin Open and went as far north as Nantucket.” From there they fished throughout the Caribbean and motored through the Panama Canal to Costa Rica.
Again, Tallman got to learn from an experienced captain. “The captain of Singularis, Jerry Lanzerotti, is a super mechanical guy who can fix anything. I would listen and watch how he did things. Every program I worked on, I’d watch and see what I like and add that to my tool box. I wanted to take everything I learned and bring it to my own program.”
From Costa Rica, Tallman fished with the Fanjul family who own Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic on their 74 Viking. That program ended in the Abacos and that’s when Tallman met Steve Jonson and decided to take the gig. But there was one more adventure the aspiring captain wanted to put on his resume – heavy tackle black marlin fishing on the Great Barrier Reef.
“I met Tim Richardson in the D.R. and I knew his mate Garrett Penley from Costa Rica. I fished with them on Tim’s G&S the Chaser in the D.R. and told him that I’d love to go to Australia and got hired on as a second mate to fish on the Tradition.” Richardson, an Aussie, has fished the Great Barrier Reef since the late 1980s. For the past few years, Richardson has also fished the Caribbean part of the year on the Chaser.
“Australia was a difficult job but it’s by far one of my biggest accomplishments. Garrett’s a complete animal in the cockpit and Tim is so experienced and well known. Every time we backed down on a fish, I was comfortable because I knew Tim would keep up with the fish and I could hang on for dear life. I’d seen a few big ones in the Bahamas, but nothing compares to Australia.” The crew would catch nearly 70 marlin that season and win top tagging mate and boat honors from The Billfish Foundation for Pacific black marlin.
After Australia, Tallman went right to work for Johnson on Big Smooth. The boat’s owner is a commercial real estate developer whose company is based in Tennessee. Johnson actually played pro football for the Patriots and the name “Big Smooth” comes from a nickname he earned during his playing days. “Steve’s a 100-percent team player. He’s very open-minded and truly a great guy to work for,” Tallman says. “He lets me run the program on the fishing aspect, and never questions my motives.”
They spent seven months in the Abacos and ended up going to Ocean City to fish the White Marlin Open. “That was definitely an eye opener for me. That was the first time I’ve run a boat up there and you’re fishing against best crews in the world.” They didn’t land in the money, but for Tallman, experiencing a new fishing area is his favorite part of the job. “I love the travel program, going to new places and fishing new water,” he says. “You see different techniques, different types of baits, and I love that aspect.” He admits that he misses the action in the cockpit but he’s not about to give up his seat at the helm.
“Driving the boat is the easy part, knowing the ins and outs of your boat as well as learning from your mistakes is key,” he says. “At some point in time, something will go wrong. How you approach and overcome those obstacles will truly define you as a pro. Doing your maintenance, looking around, and trusting your intuition could prevent a serious mechanical failure. My mate, Anthony Delgreco, is a huge help in this aspect.”
And if he can’t fix it, Tallman’s not afraid to reach out for help and advice. Having a network of other captains that you can bounce things off of has been an invaluable resource to him.
“Any captain that knows me, knows I’m all in,” he says. “There is not a job you can ask me to do that I will not do. I’m always there to give a hand and I never want to burn any bridges. You never know, there may come a day when you’re out in middle ocean and need to call for help. It’s critical that you can make that call and have someone to count on.”
Charlie Levine is the publisher of FishTrack.com and the author of the fishing book, “Sucked Dry: The Struggle is Reel,” available on Amazon.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
57-foot Capps Boatworks
Owner: Paul Knowles
By Charlie Levine
Many captains are born into the fishing industry and taken under the wing of their fathers or an uncle. But you don’t have to be born into this industry to succeed. The majority of captains who make it to the top of the ladder work harder than the rest and never stop learning. Drake Sawyer falls in line with that ethos. And when you have some of the biggest names in offshore fishing singing your praises, you know you’re doing something right.
The 29-year-old captain is originally from Port Aransas, Texas. Drake began working on boats at 14 and never stopped. He started as a mate on charter boats and head boats (party boats, if you’re from Port Aransas), fishing for king mackerel and red snapper in the Gulf. When he was 16, he fished his first billfish tournament on a 31 Bertram.
“That was my first exposure to tournaments,” Sawyer says. “The runs were long and very wet on that 31. We didn’t billfish much on that boat, but we fished a handful of tournaments. The majority of the time we were meat fishing.”
Throughout high school the burgeoning young skipper bounced around and kept working on head boats. Soon he landed a job on a 61-footer but when the skipper took the boat to Mexico, he left Drake without a ride.
“That winter I had just left college and I was working on any boat I could,” he says. “The captain of a 42 Tiara named On Location saw me buffing a boat in the middle of a cold front and asked me if I could help him. After he had seen my hard work, he asked me to fish with him in Mexico, so I ended up fishing down there that season regardless.”
On Location was owned by Paul Knowles from Corpus Christi, Texas. Ten years later, Drake is still working for Paul. From 2009 to 2011 Drake mated on the boat as they fished Isla Mujeres and Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, and then headed back to the Gulf for the summer.
In 2010, Paul purchased a 57-foot custom boat built by Nelva Capps of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The boat was only four years old at the time and had 800 hours on it. With a larger boat, the On Location team began traveling more. They ventured over the Bahamas then up to Massachusetts in search of giant bluefin tuna before heading back down the coast to fish the Gulf circuit. Then in 2013 they set sail for the Pacific, running through the Panama Canal.
They fished Piñas Bay, and upon the urging of Drake, decided to hit the FADs in Costa Rica. That was their home base until this past fall.
As the mate, Drake kept learning everything he could from tackle to engine maintenance. In 2014, Drake got his shot to run the program. He was 24.
“A lot of the things the previous captains taught me turned out to be incorrect,” Drake says. “We started fishing the tournaments in Costa Rica and I realized I had no idea how to sailfish, at least down there where you’re fishing next to some of the best in the world in one of the best fisheries. We needed to learn how to do this or we were just wasting money. I asked questions to everyone on the dock I possibly could.”
The young skipper befriended some of the most respected captains in the industry. Gentlemen like Bubba Carter, John Bayliss and Chip Shafer. Those were the men he fished next to, and those were the men he emulated. Drake’s hard work in the cockpit and bilge paid off. He caught an average of 900 billfish per season in Costa Rica and released his 1,000th blue marlin at the age of 28.
“I took the boat over with 3,000 hours on it,” he says. “We’re at 10,700 now, in the last five years. We’ve been fishing it hard.”
In Costa Rica, the crew exclusively teaser fished, and they’ve got it dialed. “Paul would come by himself to fish the FADs for five days, and he pitches every single fish,” Drake says. “On his best day he caught 20 blue marlin. The boat caught 22. The only reason Paul didn’t catch the other two was because they were doubles.”
For any boat to put up big numbers and hit goals, the crew must work together. “Paul is a really good boss to work for,” Drake says. “We always come up with a game plan, but when it comes time to fish, he trusts me to make the calls.”
After finishing their Costa Rica deployment in 2018, the On Location headed to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to fish Cabo and Mag Bay. “I’d been egging Paul on to do that trip for the last couple of years. When we decided to move the boat out of the Pacific, it made sense to take advantage of that destination before we go. We got lucky and hit it on a good year.”
The team fished three multi-day trips out of Mag Bay for a total of 12 days of fishing. They released 652 striped marlin – more than 200 billfish per trip! “It’s an absolute incredible fishery,” Drake says.
After Mag Bay, the On Location headed back to the U.S. to get some work done for its next big adventure… Madeira, the Canaries and Portugal. “We let our 1,000th blue marlin go this last FAD season in Costa Rica and now we want to go and try to catch a 1,000-pounder,” Drake says. That’s quite a changeup from teaser fishing on light tackle.
The plan is to ship the boat to Madeira in June and keep it there for two seasons. In 2020, they’ll embark on some serious travel, fishing for tuna in the Canary Islands in March and April, grander blue marlin in Madeira from May through August, white marlin off Portugal in September and October, then back to the Canaries.
There is much work to be done. It’s a 13-year-old custom boat, so there’s plenty of glass and finish work to keep them busy. They’re also installing a transformer to be able to keep regular voltage with Euro power. And then there’s the tackle.
“We’ve got a lot to learn about heavy tackle,” Drake says. “I’m looking forward to switching gears. It’s a whole new fishery to put my mind to. My boss and I have been working really hard. He’s working on his technique as an angler, and I’m working on mine as a captain.”
They’ll be fishing 130-pound tackle almost exclusively, at least in the beginning. “I don’t want the right one to show up and be under-gunned,” Drake says. “I’m starting to gear my head toward the tackle and getting as many recommendations as I can as to what we need before I get over there. It’s going to be fun.”
The crew has caught two blues around 700 pounds in the Gulf of Mexico and a handful of blue marlin in the 350- to 400-pound range in Costa Rica. It’s definitely a big learning curve but the young captain is ready to put his skills to the test.
“We will start lure fishing then move over to teaser fishing,” he says. “If we get to switch on one over 800 pounds, we’ll have accomplished our goal.”
The opportunity to travel and experience new fisheries is the ultimate dream job for Capt. Drake Sawyer, but it took a lot of hard work to make it happen. “Fishing is all I’ve ever done,” he says. “Luckily I’ve had an owner like Paul who has given me lots of opportunity to spend time on the water.”
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
By Charlie Levine
On September 13, 2016, Capt. Kyle Peet left Ocean City headed for the grounds aboard his 54-foot Taylor Made, No Quarter. Aboard were Peet, his mate Erik Mateer and a group of anglers from Xtratuf boots. Peet had his sights on a piece of water 85 miles offshore for an overnighter.
“I wanted to try for a grand slam,” he says. “That’s all I wanted to catch. I’d never caught a grand slam here.”
The bite was on. In the first five minutes of trolling, the No Quarter hooked a triple header of white marlin. Packs of fish mobbed the spread. As soon as they put new baits back, the fish bit.
“It was one of the coolest experiences ever. It was like fishing in Costa Rica, but it was right here in my back yard. I was marking 20 at a time,” Kyle said. By lunchtime, they had released 12 whites. Then they got a blind bite that turned out to be a 200-pound blue. Peet hammered the throttles in reverse to get the release. A few
minutes after that release, they turned loose a sail. Kyle had his grand slam… and a lot more time to fish.
Late in the day the boys hooked another billfish, thinking it might be a blue. As they got the fish to the boat, it turned out to be a longbill spearfish. Their fourth billfish species on the day. They now had a super slam!
They trolled till dark, releasing more whites. The next move was an obvious one—put out the swordfish gear and hope for the fabled fantasy slam. While grilling steaks, the swordfish rod went off. What happened next was an epic, 7-hour battle. “It was absolutely the most mental experience of my life,” Kyle says. “Driving around all night in the dark fighting this fish.”
The sword came up the surface and sounded again. It was no slouch. The battle continued until finally they got the fish close and the boys sank the gaffs. Just as Kyle was yelling to the crew to not let go, he saw a big mako make its move. The shark took a bite out of the sword’s tail, but they were able to haul the fish in. Oh, and they caught the mako, too. The end result was the first fantasy slam ever caught in US waters.
As the sun was coming up, acres of cutting marlin showed up on the surface, balling bait. Peet and crew couldn’t leave that action behind. They caught another 12 whites by noon before finally calling it quits. The final tally for the trip: 23 white marlin, two longbill spearfish, one blue marlin, one sail, a 345-pound sword and a 247-pound mako.
The young captain had certainly made his mark. Now 32 years old, Peet began fishing offshore with his father Mike when he was ten years old. They mostly charter fished, going offshore just about every week. It didn’t take long for the young angler to enter the charter ranks. At 15 he started working as a second mate. The next summer he did it again.
“I probably fished 120 days a summer for two summers in a row. It was the school of hard knocks for me. I just tried to learn everything I could,” he says.
Kyle graduated from high school in 2005 and went to work full time on a charter boat. He also tried his hand at commercial fishing, doing a two-month stint on a longliner. Peet saved up and bought a 23-foot Regulator, fishing weekends and working in the family business during the week.
“One day my dad came out with me and we got caught in storm,” Peet says.
This experience lead to the decision that it was time for a larger boat. They were still chartering a lot and it made sense to put that money toward a boat of their own. In 2010, after looking at 30 boats, they settled on a 54-foot TaylorMade. Not just any 54 Taylor-Made, but a boat that was previously the Tijereta, having spent six years fishing Venezuela with the legendary Bubba Carter behind the wheel.
“We knew she was a fishy rig,” Peet says. “But she was in rough shape.”
The father and son team began refitting the boat—a process that they’ve plugged away at for the past eight years. The only original thing left is the planking and some of the bottom.
The Peets repowered with Cat C18s, put in a mezzanine, updated the interior, installed new electronics, running gear—you name it. They renamed the boat No Quarter, and decided to charter when not fishing tournaments.
Capt. Butch Davis and Jon Meade, who were fishing on Cerveza and winning a ton of tournaments, fished with the Peets on No Quarter that first summer. Kyle worked the cockpit with John, getting an education in bait rigging and running the pit.
The next summer Kyle shadowed Butch on the bridge.
“I fished with Butch for close to three years,” Peet says. “What I’ve learned and how I apply it was 100 percent through him. He didn’t have to teach me, but he did.”
In 2013, Kyle took over as captain. He had the honor of catching the first white marlin of the year out of Ocean City. Then he won first place in the first tournament he fished, netting the team $330,000. He became the youngest captain to ever win the Ocean City Tuna Tournament. In the following years, the No Quarter has topped the leaderboard in the Ocean City Marlin Club’s annual tally several times.
In 2017. they were named top charter boat and released the most billfish overall, beating out Capt. Jon Duffie on Billfisher, who had dominated for a decade. “It was cool. No one caught 100 that year. Fishing was slow and I was persistent,” Kyle says.
In September, you typically get ten bites or so out of Ocean City, but in 2017 you were lucky if you caught one fish a day. “I kept going and going. It taught me lot of patience. I fished 90 days to catch 80 fish. That’s what it took to beat him.”
The local Ocean City boats are competitive with each other. In 2018, Peet had an active battle with Capt. Gary Stamm, one of his mentors. “We had one of best fishing experiences of my life for the whole month of September,” Kyle says.
The two boats, docked right behind one another, were in the top two spots all month.
“We talked about it every night, where we were going, what we were doing. It was a gentlemanly thing.”
It went down to the wire, and Stamm ended up beating Kyle by two fish. Kyle caught 149 billfish over his 92-day season. Going into the 2020 season, the Peets are phasing No Quarter out of the charter fleet but Kyle still has his eye on the prize.
“I spend hours studying the water,” he says. “I grew up playing ice hockey and they teach you that you don’t want to be where the puck is, you want to be where the puck is going. You want to be ahead of the fish.”
You can bet that when the bite turns on, No Quarter will be on them.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.