Alan Bates stood near the aft deck of his 72-foot Rybovich, Cutting Edge, and wiped down the rails. He looked more like one of the crew than the owner of this magnificent fishing machine, not to mention a two times winning angler of the 2001 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament or "Boy Scout" Tournament. "It was the luck of the draw," said the Lambertville, Michigan-based angler, who with his brother John excelled in the business of steel, about his win.
Alan an his brother loved to fish from an early age. They traveled to destinations like the Northwest Territories where they fly-fished for lake trout, and later to Hawaii, the Florida Keys and the Virgin Islands after they brought Capt. Bob Taute onboard and switched their focus to big game fishing.
"We first came down to St. Thomas in 1987 and fished the Boy Scout Tournament that year," says Taute, a former Marathon, Florida, charter captain who's worked aboard the Bates' two prior boats, an Ocean 46' and Bertram 54' both called the Jeni-Lyn since 1986. First mate Mike Rodamer has worked with Taute and the Bates for 27 years, and second mate Jimmy Gagliardini's got his start with Taute and the Bates at age 14.
Two years later proved a charm. "We won the 1989 Boy Scout Tournament and John won Top Angler. Then we won again in 1990 and Alan was Top Angler," Taute said.
The brothers would repeat their wins, with John earning Top Angler again in 2000 and Alan in 2001.
Big game fishing didn't exactly come easy to Alan, especially when we was learning new techniques like switching from lures to pitch baiting. Taute explains: "I remember the time Alan hooked up a 500 pound blue marlin. The reel backlashed and he wasn't sure what to do. I started backing down and thank goodness the fish didn't sound. We made the release and it was the winning fish in the 1990 tournament. But afterwards, if you looked at the reel, all the tangled line looked like a bird's nest."
Down to earth. A great guy. Upbeat. These are all ways Alan's crew describe him.
Taute says: "He had an upbeat outlook. When he got sick, the doctor told him he'd have three months to live. He lived two years. He never gave up."
Even when ill, Alan still went fishing. "He was paralyzed on the left side, We'd strap him down and he'd reel with his right hand, " Taute said.
The Cutting Edge will be out fishing again for this year's Boy Scout Tournament, but it will be twenty-something John Jr., and thirty-something Alan Jr. taking turns in the fighting chair.
Still, Alan will continue to be a part of the tournament. "We promised him we'd spread his ashes on his favorite fishing spots: Hawaii, the Florida Keys and the Virgin Islands," Taute said. "That means Alan will forever be part of the North Drop."