DAVIS CLAPP: HOOKED ON FISH, NOW HOOKING OTHERS ON SPORTS FISHING
Size doesn't matter to world-class angler, Davis Clapp. Billfish size, that is. "I'm not a big fish guy. I like light tackle. It's numbers I'm after," Clapp says. "In every tournament you always see enough fish to win. You've just got to catch all you see. If you let one slip away it will kill you."
Davis - a Seattle native, member of the Weyerhaeuser International Forest Products Company, CEO of Discretion Records and now West Palm Beach, Florida, resident - got into sports fishing, he says, purely by accident. "Sure, I've spent time face down on the dock trying to catch something since I was about two. But, it wasn't until I took a trip to Cabo San Lucas in the mid-1980's that I got hooked. I stayed at a little hotel and jumped on their fishing boat one morning. We went out and I caught three striped marlin just like that. 'Boy', I thought, 'this is damn easy'. Later that afternoon, I want to the local tackle store and saw a sign for Bisbee's Black & Blue (Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament). I entered it and have never looked back."
Blue marlin are Davis' favorite fish to catch. "It's the bite, the eye contact, the mono a mono fight. I love St. Thomas because the blues are like none other. They have an attitude. They're mean. They're frantic. They come at you with red in their eyes. They tear up the teaser behind the boat. You're after them and they're after you. I love that so much."
One of Davis' most spectacular blue marlin catches came while fishing in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico. "I brought a 12-pound test rig along thinking we were going to get a 30-pound sailfish. We had all the other rigs there, but that was the one I grabbed and threw in the direction of the fin I saw rise up behind the boat. The captain, who from the bridge could see the size of the fish, yelled at me, 'No, not the 12!". But I'd already thrown it. Two hours and 45 minutes later I ended up successfully releasing a 325 pound blue marlin."
Photo right - Davis Clapp and teammate Jay Croyle of Team A-Fin-Ity are interviewed by Daily News reporter. Clapp was 2nd. Place Angler in 2005 ABMT "Boy Scout" Tournament. Team A-Fin-Ity fishing aboard Sassy Lady (Harbour Island), Overproof (Bermuda), Marlin Prince (St. Thomas) also won "Best of Series" title in 2005 Bermuda Triangle Series.
Davis' learned a lot about sports fishing from St. Thomas captain, John Prince. "Right after I'd fished Bisbee's for the first time, I went down to the Boy Scout Tournament (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin) in St. Thomas. The first day, I was out on the Marlin Prince, sound asleep in the cabin, when the mate at the time, Eddie Morrison, came in and told me their was a fish 300 yards off the back of the boat. I walked out of the cockpit, picked up the rod and jerked it - like the jerk I was at the time - and didn't get the fish. So, I went back in and laid down. I few minutes later I heard the thump of Capt. John Prince's footsteps coming down from the bridge. He walked in the cabin, looked at me and said, 'You will never be a blue marlin angler if you stay on that couch.' That was it. I've never gone inside the cabin during a tournament ever again."
Davis adds, "John also told me that if I wanted to get good, to go down to Mexico, use 50 pound test and fish for sailfish. I wasn't able to go, but I understand what he was telling me. It's not seeing, it's the feeling on the rod tip. Its appreciating the finesses and timing to be a good light tackle angler."
Photo left - Davis thanked by Carey Chen for his purchase of 2005 ABMT original. Davis then donated painting to benefit a local school.
Great, rather than good, is a better adjective to describe Davis' sports fishing talent. He's placed third and second in the World Billfish Series in 1995 and 1997, respectively.
In addition, one of his, and his Team A-fin-ity's most legendary achievements, is a two-time overall win of ESPN's Billfishing Xtreme Release League tournament series in 2002 and 2003. "We were on fire. Everything clicked. Everyone did what was necessary. It was awesome, magic, seemingly effortless," Davis describes.
To be as successful, he says, "Is not something you can really prepare for. I mean, you can fish five practice days and do great and then have a day that seems like no matter what you do you'd can't hook a fish. It does help to be where the fish are and that sometimes takes a sixth sense. You have to remember that you've got an active participant on the line. The hook can go down the hatch or the fish can shake its head and there's no hook-up. So, you gotta get lucky. After all, the hook only points in one direction."
Davis fishes an average of 10 tournaments or 60 to 70 days a year. Throughout the year, he'll fish for marlin in Florida, Hawaii, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Guatemala. "I just discovered Guatemala last year. It's flat calm. I love it," he says.
Photo right - Davis Clapp does early morning war dance to awaken his competitors aboard the 'On Line'.
In fact, though he sold his A-Fin-ity, a 53-foot Ricky Scarborough captained by Dave Noling, Davis has just bought a 37-foot Bill Knowles custom design that he'll take to Central America later this year.
New this year, he's entered Jimmy Loveland's Bermuda Triangle Series. "I haven't fished the Bahamas for awhile, but I'll get too now," he says.
The Bermuda Triangle Series is a three-tournament event that includes the Harbour Island Open in the Bahamas in May, Bermuda Open in July, and USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament in August.
"I've heard a lot about Australia, but it takes a lot of travel to get there and I'm not a big fish angler," Davis says.
He adds, "I think there's some awesome fishing grounds waiting to be explored off places like Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic."
Davis, a lifetime member of the IGFA and an annual supporter of The Billfish Foundation, says his goals have changed over the years. "It use to be to go out and get as good as I could. I know what that's like after fishing with the team. Now I find myself promoting the sport of fishing. Norm Isaacs built some great shows. But the question now is, 'can sport fishing become like football and capture the interest of the general public'. I don't think this is possible until nontraditional sponsors, like American Express and Dr. Pepper, get involved rather than marine sponsors. The key is to build a TV series where the competition is time zone friendly, fun, exciting and keeps the viewing audience hooked."