ROB RUWITCH - A WORLD-CLASS RECORD-SETTING ANGLER
World-class record-setting angler, Rob Ruwitch, took his four-year-old son Zachary fishing in Antigua last year. Ruwitch, a Miami, Florida, native and owner of Sharky's Revenge, a 46-foot Knicheloe Nickerson, was fishing the Caribbean island's waters as part of ESPN2's Billfishing Xtreme Release League series. "When I hooked a blue marlin, I grabbed Zachary and held him over so he could see. He started to cry and I didn't know what was wrong," Ruwitch explains. "Then, he looked up at me and said: 'Daddy, I wanted to catch it'."
Not surprisingly, Ruwitch got his angling start while fishing with his father. "My dad worked for a TV station and he had a fishing show. I remember going out to the lake and fishing for tarpon, bonefish and bass with him."
Billfishing became the Florida angler's desire during his teenage years following a trip to Costa Rica. He pursued his passion back home in Florida waters. "The first time I caught a sailfish, we were out trolling for dolphin. This was the mid-1980s and the sailfish population was nowhere near what it is today. When I caught it, I thought 'cool' and then I wanted to catch a blue marlin."
Ruwitch made a bet with his college roommate to see who could catch a blue marlin first. "I traveled around and even came down to St. Thomas. Then I realized that I really wanted to catch that blue marlin on my own boat and on bait I rigged. My terms became more important than beating my friend. I finally did get my marlin and it was at Chub Cay in the Bahamas."
Blue marlin now rate as Ruwitch's favorite catch. "Its all in the bite. Marlin have a spectacular bite. They're aggressive, dramatic, electrifying fish."
One of this Florida angler's favorite fishing locales is Venezuela. "It's the best from a quality, quantity and variety standpoint."
And, it is variety that made for Ruwitch's best fishing day of his life, a great fish story and a record for the books.
"We were in Venezuela and on December 16th we released 5 sailfish, 3 blue marlin and 2 white marlin. We wondered how we could top that," says Ruwitch, who at the time was fishing on his Sharky's Revenge with his legendary captain, Bubba Carter, and long time mate, Jason Douglas.
Top that the team did when Ruwitch reeled in a Fantasy Slam - blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, spearfish and swordfish - between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. the next day.
"It just sort of happened. We try to catch all we can in a short time. That's always a goal. The caveat to it is the spearfish. You can't target this specie. Well, it was first in the line up that day and so after that we figured we'd go for it. We got the next three, the blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish, then we realized we didn't have equipment onboard for the swordfish. We called Capt. Desi (Zenar) on the Big Y and borrowed 80-pound tackle. We had enough equipment for one drop and we did it, we got the swordfish and that made all five."
Ultimately, Ruwitch parlayed this spectacular day into two outstanding, never-been-accomplished records. He caught all 9 billfish species in 33 calendar days and all 10 species, including a short-billed spearfish, in 50 calendar days - or what proved to be only 12 1/2 days of actual fishing. "I caught five species in Venezuela, then the rest in three other locations in the Pacific: Hawaii, Panama and Cabo San Lucas," Ruwitch tallies.
Previously, the record for catching all 9 billfish species was 4 months and 33 days. Ten was a lifetime achievement. So, Ruwitch's feat marks him as one of the most accomplished anglers in the world and in sports fishing history.
Truly the sportsman, this Florida angler is a light tackle guy. "I use 50 in St. Thomas and 30 in places like Puerto Rico and Venezuela," Ruwitch says. "I also fight all my fish standing up. If you have multiple's on, its easier to dance around the cockpit in unison with your crew, rather than being strapped into a chair. Catching multiples is easier stand-up because of the maneuverability."
He adds, "I also like to use natural bait like ballyhoo. I catch my own bait and bait my own hook. I love bait and switch."
When Ruwitch isn't in Venezuela, he's often competing in the sailfish circuit in southern Florida. "My team and I fish on the Contender factory boat in some 10 sailfish tournaments a year."
He also fishes in five Caribbean-based tournaments, traveling to locales such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic over the summer months as well as to St. Thomas in August for the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament. "Blue marlin on 50 with Jimmy Loveland rules, now that's great," Ruwitch says.
He adds, "One of my best fishing days was the layday of the 1999 Boy Scout Tournament. We left the dock about 11 a.m. and ultimately saw 11 and released 6 for 9. It was the best day of the tournament for us."
Throughout the year, he'll also compete in tournaments in Venezuela and the Bahamas. "I'd like to take my boat to Pinas Bay, Panama, sometime. The fishing is good and it's beautiful there. It's on my 'to-do' list," Ruwitch says.
Upcoming, Ruwitch's 'to-do' list will be filled with about 100 days of fishing, up from the 80 to 90 a year that he normally fishes. "This is to fit in all the tournaments I have scheduled and also to meet my next goal. That is, to tag 100 sailfish, 100 blue marlin and 100 white marlin in a calendar year. It's a huge goal and one not remotely done. It's going to be hard."
Another goal, says Ruwitch, is to do more fun fishing. "My friends know I won't. I'm really competitive. I'm always trying to figure out how I can be better, how the team can be better at catching fish."
On land, Ruwitch's days are divided between his CEO position at JR Plastics, Inc., in Ocala, Florida, a diversified plastics manufacturing company and playing "Mr. Mom" to Zachary.
About Zachary, Ruwitch says, "My philosophy is to let him pick the sports he'd like to do. Low stress. I don't want to push him into anything. But, I live on the water and he loves to catch snapper out on the dock. As far as I'm concerned, he can fish until he gets bored or tired of it. So far, he's neither."