PINE ISLAND, Fla. Veteran fly-fisherman Tom Evans of Wilson, Wyo., caught a potential 12-pound tippet world record tarpon of 194.1 pounds on May 10.
Guided by Capt. Al Dopirak, Evans hooked the fish in about eight feet of water over the famed "Oklahoma Flat" off Pine Island, south of Homosassa. The current world record is 177 pounds.
Evans caught the fish on a brown tarpon bunny fly. He was using a 12-weight Kennedy Fisher fly rod and a Tibor Gulfstream reel carrying Cortland Crystal 12-wt floating fly line. Evans caught the fish around 1 p.m. on an outgoing tide.
An accomplished angler with seven world records for tarpon and marlin, Evans carries an official scale on every trip for record pursuits. He and Dopirak weighed the fish at a private residence on the Weeki Wachee River. Evans, who has fished most of May with Dopirak for the past 27 years, will submit an official record application to the International Game Fish Association upon returning home at month's end.
The IGFA requires a notarized application, a sample of the main line, the complete leader with shock tippet, proof of scale certification and photos showing the angler with the fish, the rod and reel and the scale used to weigh the fish.
The process takes a minimum of 60 days for domestic applications and 90 days for internationals. State-issued tarpon tags, along with a valid saltwater license, are required for harvesting the daily limit of two tarpon.
Dopirak, who guides from a 17-foot Maverick Master Angler, said the day had yielded little opportunity before Evans' big fish appeared.
"We had a glary day and we saw three fish coming out of the glare. Tom made a perfect cast to the lead fish, the fish ate and jumped and we both said 'Ooh, we might want to catch this one.' So off we went for an hour and a half."
Evans also fishes for bonefish in The Florida Keys, but most of his time in the Sunshine State is spent chasing giant silver kings. The shallow waters of Northwest Florida where he and Dopirak fish offer the opportunities he seeks.
"It's a matter of putting in the time and looking for the fish," he said. "You don't come up here for numbers – you come here for the chance to put the bug in front of something big."
Repetition and concentration, he said, are intrinsic to catching big tarpon.
"It's just putting one foot in front of another and knowing what to do at the right time," Evans said. "When you get the right opportunities, it just becomes (instinctive) because you've done it so many times.
"When we knew we had a big fish, I was a whole lot more focused. It's just a matter of paying attention and pulling when you should and not pulling when you shouldn't."
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida currently holds 29 world records for tarpon. All of the major fly fishing records have been caught in the Homosassa area.
The Florida state record for tarpon caught with conventional tackle is the 243-pounder that Gus Bell caught in Key West in 1975 on 20-pound test line. The all-tackle world record (additionally certified as the 80-pound class record) for a giant tarpon is 286 pounds, 9 ounces. Max Domecq caught that fish in Rubane, Guinea-Bissau, Africa on March 20, 2003.
For additional information on world records, visit www.igfa.org.
Capt. Mike Locklear (www.homosassafishing.com) contributed to this report.