After a wearisome three-hour fight with a thousand-pound tiger shark, 21-year-old Tyler Kennedy finally had his tournament-winning shark in tow and on the way to the scales.
“I was more relieved than anything that we had managed to get it secured to the boat. I couldn’t have gone for too much longer, honestly,” he told the Press-Register in Alabama. His shark officially weighed in at 948.6 pounds and shattered the tournament record of 874.6 pounds for a tiger shark.
The senior at Auburn University in Mobile was taking part in the sixth annual Outcast Mega Shark Tournament. At 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, he finally hooked something 20 miles southeast of Orange Beach, Alabama.
For a big catch, you need big bait. Kennedy was using a 15-pound king mackerel with its tail cut off. The fish dangled in 130 feet of water for only about an hour until the line slowly began to tick off Kennedy’s Penn International 50W reel.
He let it go for about a minute. “With the giant hooks we use and big bait, you have to let the shark eat it for a while before setting the hook,” Kennedy said.
When Kennedy set the hook and the shark knew something was up, the rod almost jerked out of Kennedy’s hand and into the water. Kennedy said, “It was like the rod was tied to a brick wall.”
Just 20 minutes into the fight, they saw the shark come up to the surface about 50 yards away from the boat. Kennedy and his crew of his uncle Michael and cousin Ryan and fishing buddies Brett Rutledge and Rob Mayfield saw a glimmer of hope that this might be a short fight.
But it was not so, as the shark didn’t surface again for another three hours. Kennedy eventually wore the shark out and reeled it in when it took time to rest. Then it became a test of endurance.
“I was doing all I could to get line back and Uncle Mike would tell me it’s 50 feet under the boat, 40 feet, 30 feet, but then it would make another run,” Kennedy said.
Finally, Kennedy got the shark close enough to the boat for his uncle to put a harpoon through the back of its head. Even after that, the shark did not give up the fight. Its tail started whipping around in a frenzy. Rutledge lassoed the tail, flinging him about.
The tail eventually came under control and a few pistol shots finished off the gigantic beast.
The crew quickly realized they could not haul the shark into the boat, so they lashed it to the boat and took off at only 5 knots for the journey back to Perdido Pass to get the fish weighed. Five hours later, they arrived and caused a stir among tournament attendees.
“People jumped on Jet Skis and into their boats to come out and look at it. Everyone was taking pictures. It was something,” Kennedy said.
On the tournament’s scales in Pensacola, Florida, the tiger shark officially weighed 948.6 pounds, but it would have weighed well over the Alabama state record of 988 pounds 8 ounces if it weren’t for the fluid weight the shark lost on the journey back to shore.
“The difference is equal to only about five gallons of fluid,” Kennedy said. ‘That shark was easily over 1,000 pounds and maybe closer to 1,100 when I caught it. But that’s something everyone who catches a big fish out there has to deal with.”
The female shark was dissected for research purposes and was found to not be pregnant, although its girth was at an amazing 10 feet. That was likely because of the full 7-foot porpoise skeleton that was found in its stomach along with other large meals. The shark’s length was 13.5 feet.
Image copyright Donna Powers