What a weekend for the Maximum Gusto and crew after successfully completing their first official tournament (The Florida Key’s Nurse Shark Grand Prix will not be counted) in this year’s South Jersey Shark Tournament with a 3rd place finish in Mako points.

The Gusto was loaded up with another all-star crew of Rich, Matt, Brandon, Roos, Andrea, Bill, Joe, Akk , Uncle Akk, Sam, Megan, Mackenzie, Marlin and as always Captain Karl in the wheel house!   Being primarily a tuna fishing crew in recent years they decided to go out on a limb and get back into sharking like Captain Karl and Bill used to do back in the old days.

“Being primarily a tuna fishing crew in recent years they decided to go out on a limb and get back into sharking like Captain Karl and Bill used to do back in the old days.”

What better way to get back into it than by entering one of the bigger shark tournaments around!   With no prior practice trips and only the knowledge of some seasoned old salts (That’s a compliment Big Karl and Bill!) the Maximum Gusto was set to blast by the Cape May Sea Buoy at 6:00 am sharp on Friday morning.  Scouring the sea surface temps led them to head 40+ miles and setup up on some clean 66-68 degree water between the Elephant Trunk and the 19 Fathom Lump.  Upon arrival the chum slick was jump started by trolling the chum buckets about a mile before setting up the drift.  Chum in the water and a tasty variety of baits deployed it was time to play the waiting game for Mr. Mako!  Two hours pass and we begin questioning whether was chose the right spot as it seemed a majority of boats headed more to the north.  Just as the crew contemplated a move Mr. Mako finally stops by and starts terrorizing the spread.  After investigating a few baits and realizing the blue fish fillet would taste much better than the foam bobber he tried to eat, we were finally tight on the first shark of the day.

Sam was limbered up and ready to take control of the reel making quick work of a nice 100lb class fish and giving Maximum Gusto its first official tournament Mako release.  Morale on the crew began to rise know that the potential for more Mako was now possible.  Over the course of the next few hours the Gusto had a flurry of action releasing Mako after Mako all being very nice fish but falling below the 200lb tournament minimum.  Sooner or later big mamma was bound to come by!  Suddenly a shark comes hot rodding through the spread splashing along the surface and snatches up a bait.  Rich comes tight and begins to battle the beast and what appears to be the first shot at big one.  After a few minute flurry the hook pulls and the crew is left to wonder if that was big mamma as there was no chance for a visual.  With a spread quickly deployed a clicker starts screaming before the last bait is even set and we come tight on what feels like a real nice fish.  After a good battle and a nice jump (Karl and Joe did a great job capturing all of the action!) the biggest Mako of the day is boatside.  This shark appeared to be very close to the 200lb mark ± 15lbs.  On any other trip it would be in the box and awaiting the grill, however this was tournament time and with a few hours left to fish the right choice was to release it (much to the dismay of Uncle Akk who reluctantly watched meal after meal swim away), take the points, and continue the hunt for the tournament winning fish as you can only boat one shark per day.  The big one never came however the Maximum Gusto ended the day with an impressive 5 Mako releases and a commanding lead in points.

Upon reaching port the days catches start to trickle in and word gets out that a 330lb Mako was brought to the dock, one of the biggest in recent years.  The crews original plan was to Mako fish Friday and then attempt to target Thresher on Saturday.  With the Mako fishing being so great the day before the vote was to set out to the Mako grounds again.  Heading in the same vicinity as the prior day the slick and spread were deployed.   This time hours passed with no signs of action leaving the crew frustrated and baffled as the area was on fire the day before.   The lack of action prompted a move for and within minutes of stopping and setting up Akk comes tight on Mako as the baits are being set out and another Mako release is added to the catch report.  Off in the distance Big Karl sees something feeding on the surface which turned out to be an enormous school of Bluefin Tuna which wanted nothing to do with anything that was thrown at them.  The remaining moments of the tournament were spent ferociously riling the chum in a last ditch effort.  As the 3:30 lines out approached it appeared as if every boat in the tournament erroneously announced that they were suddenly hooked up (Which allows you to fight a fish past the deadline until it is lost, released, or boated).   The Maximum Gusto already proud of their accomplishments felt no need to cheat the system and headed for the barn.  The 6 mako releases were good enough for a 3-way tie for first with 1200 points which ultimately yielded 3rd place due to tie breaker criteria.  Quite an impressive feat catching more mako than 113 other boats!  Sure, no money was won which would leave some disappointed but that’s not what this boat, captain, and crew are all about.  The Maximum Gusto is fueled by the thrills, memories, and experiences generated by such great trips surrounded with great people!  The badass trophy trophy and little bit of street cred earned are all just a bonus.