Say the boat name, Revenge, and you've instantly got the attention of the international sports fishing community. Why? Because Milton S. "Sam" Jennings, the 58-foot Revenge's Juno Beach, Florida-based angler and his captain, Mike Lemon, are one of the most catching duos around.
Born and raised in central Florida, Jennings started his fishing career angling in the state's lakes and streams as a young boy. "I moved to Miami in 1948 to attend the University of Miami's law school," he says. "That's when I was first exposed to saltwater fishing."
After graduation, Jennings stayed in the Miami area and continued sports fishing, heading out on day charter vessels in pursuit of anything that was biting - sailfish, dolphin, yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, even bottom fishing for tilefish.
"My real interest in blue marlin," Jennings tells, "developed in 1978."
Although he had runabouts, Jennings didn't get his first real sports fishing boat until 1978. "I bought a 48-foot Pacemaker and hired Capt. Bill McMurray for his blue marlin experience."
Jennings continues, "I'd heard a lot about marlin fishing and that's what got me interested. So, one day, we went over to Bimini. Lines were in the water an hour when I caught a blue marlin, about a 370-pounder. It was really exciting to catch something so large and it appeared easy. I say appeared because since that time I've learned it's not always so easy."
Then in 1993, after meeting Lemon during a charter aboard the late Win Rockefeller's Alchemist, Jennings signed the captain aboard his new vessel - Revenge Yachts hull number one.
Lemon explains, "Sam and I sat down, looked at the calendar, and planned the fishing days. That's when I realized I had an opportunity to catch more fish that I ever had before."
What Lemon saw was that, although Jennings had traveled to Mexico and Venezuela to fish, 90 percent of his the annual blue marlin releases had been in the Virgin Islands. So, after 11 years of savvy planning by Lemon and skillful angling by Jennings and his son, Jon, Revenge achieved the milestone of the 1000th blue marlin release in August 2004.
Photo right- Revenge reaches the milestone of 1000 Blue Marlin!
Throughout the years, Lemon says: "We've had some stretches that really stand out. For example, right after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, we released 26 blue marlin in four days and saw twice as many more fish. It was unbelievable. In 1999, we had a spectacular run of 101 blue marlin in 30 days and in a 4 day window released 27 total with ten fish alone on one of those days."
"I'm a natural bait fisherman. I've tried lures. The last few years, we've utilized teasers and the bait and switch method," Jennings says. "Pitch baiting is definitely exciting and the hook up is the best part. Its what keeps you going out there. After all, those stretches between fish are about as exciting as watching grass grow."
Many of Revenge's releases have come during tournaments. Jennings has scored Top Angler three times and Jon once in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (The 'Boy Scout Tournament').
"The Boy Scout Tournament is well run and well organized. A lot of the people who participate are good. We always enjoy participating," Jennings says.
Photo left - Proud crew displays 10 fingers for the catch of ten blue marlin in one day!
Numbers has been the name of Jennings game, but size has mattered too. Back in 1979, he caught a 1060-pound blue marlin that won him a Bahamas Billfish Championship in the 11th hour of fishing. The fish still stands as a tournament record.
What's ahead? "I used to fish about 75 days a year, but for the last few years I've averaged a bit more," says Jennings, who works professionally as a builder/developer.
St. Thomas is definitely in Jenning's sights as he looks forward to testing the March and April moons again, time periods that proved productive for blue marlin fishing last year.
"Conservation will be even more important in the future," he says. "I've noticed in the last 10 to 15 years that there's more boats, more anglers and fewer fish."