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 the young captain, who just turned 31, recently scored his dream job, on his dream boat. For the past year, 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.”
This past season 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.