Professional angler, Vic Starling, has a passion for sports fishing. "I've been fishing for most of my life and now at the age of 44, I still have the passion for the sport as if I had just started," says Starling, a lifetime member of the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) who hails from Destin, Florida.
Starling got hooked on fishing via fresh water angling at the age of 3. He moved on to saltwater fishing a few years later. "My father started chartering sports fishing boats out of Daytona Beach, Fort Pierce and Palm Beach in the early 1970s and I progressed with him. We won our first billfish tournament in 1980."
Billfish are Starling's first love. "Blue marlin are my favorite species since they're so aggressive. They really test your patience. I love bait and switch on 30- to 50-pound test. Sailfish and the rare spearfish are easy catches in contrast."
Yet, Starling says, some of his best fishing days he’s enjoyed have been out catching a lot of fish – 50 to 60 sailfish – with family and friends.
His best fish story, though, centers on blue marlin.
“My father, Ron Starling, friends Arthur Bryant and Dave Hutchenson and I fished the 1987 ‘Boy Scout’ tournament together on board the ‘Free Enterprise’, an AYC 65 with Captain Randy Jendersee. The last day, we had caught a total of 11 blue marlin for the tournament, including six releases in one day. Another boat, the ‘Islamar’, a 54-foot Bertram with Alex Adler on board, had 11 releases also, but we had them on time. With only minutes to go before the end of the tournament, Islamar hooked up. They called lines out and Islamar was still hooked up. We were half way in to the docks before Islamar called the committee boat to say the fish pulled the hook. We all fell to the deck with happiness. We won! That was a finish. We ended top boat for the tournament. I’ll never forget that.”
Today, Starling says he doesn’t get to fish enough. “I love it, but I also have to spend some time loving my family and working. I fish over 100 days a year, though. I have a passion and respect for the sport like no other.”
Through the year, Starling fishes in such locales as the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, Bahamas, South America, Costa Rica, Mexico and Australia.
“My favorite places to fish are St. Thomas for blue marlin, Venezuela for the blues, whites, sailfish and swordfish, the Gulf Coast fishing the rigs off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and Costa Rica for Pacific sails, blues, spearfish and black marlin,” he describes.
Starling follows the tournament circuit to many of these locales.
“My favorite tournament is the ‘Boy Scout’ in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” he says. “There’s a lot of talent. Some of the top captains, top anglers and top boats from all over the world are there. It’s a great place to be for an August moon.”
Starling never fishes alone. My motto is ‘team work wins’. A good captain and mate that still have the passion for the sport are essential. In the last couple of years, I spent a lot of time with Bob Hixon, owner of ‘Game On’, a new 74-foot Viking, and Bobby Jacobsen, owner of the 61-foot Viking, ‘Marlin Darlin’. There’s also always a few visiting anglers everywhere we go.”
Teamwork has been key to Starling and his fellow sports fishermen’s success over the last three years of competing in ESPN’s Billfishing Xtreme Release League or BXRL. “We won the Punta Cana and Mayaguez legs and came in second in the Tortola leg in 2003. We won the Antigua leg in 2004. So far, this year has been slow for us,” Starling says.
This year, Starling is fishing the BXRL with Team Galati, aboard a 61-foot Viking. Teammates include team owner Bob Hixon, Starling as director, Capt. Robert “Cujo” Brinkmeyer, Clay Hensley and Jason “Tiny” Walcott. Galati Yacht Sales and Service, MTU Detroit Engines, J/T Johnston & Towers, Viking Yachts and Bluewater Chairs sponsor the team.
What does Starling like best about competing in the BXRL?
“It’s competition at the next level. For example, you have to release the fish within three feet of the hook and tag it in the tag zone above the lateral line. This brings the marlin right next to the boat, and you have to try four to five times sometimes, to get the tag in the proper position,” Starling explains.
In the year ahead, Starling – who while not fishing sells Viking yachts for Galati Yacht Sales, consults for Rybovich, and buys and sells land - plans to fish “non-stop in tournaments all over,” he says.
Meanwhile, on the horizon of the sport, Starling foresees conservation as a critical issue. “Everyone, from all over the world, is starting to sport fish, and to take part in the conservation movement. This is what it’s all about. The format of tournaments is changing to mostly release and the legal size to kill is getting larger. If conservation continues to grow, which it will, our friends and children of the future will have plenty of fish to catch. I’m looking forward this year to take my 10-year-old daughter, Alexis, to Costa Rica fishing with me.”
Action Photos - Richard Gibson