A football connection led to a fishing buddy friendship between Jim Shannon, who owns the Jim Smith 71, Houdini, and Robert Baker, who angles from his 64-foot Viking, Reel Pushy. But, better than a touchdown to both men is the catch and release of a billfish, especially a blue marlin.
A native of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Shannon started fishing at the age of 12.
“My dad, who worked for the local telephone company, and I would go out in an old 19-foot wooden boat on the weekends,” says Shannon. “You didn’t have to go out that far back then, in the 1970s, to catch a fish. In fact, the fishery was so strong that you could catch fish right off the beach – dolphin, kingfish, wahoo, sailfish and an occasional blue marlin.”
Shannon then hit a dry spell and was boat-less until his early 30s. In the meantime, he attended Eastern Tennessee State University, majored in business, graduated, worked for Hewlett Packard for ten years and then started his own computer company which specializes in hardware, systems integration and maintenance. He also married and today has three teenage sons.
When Shannon got back into boating and fishing, he started off buying a 28-foot vessel.
“After that, I moved up to a 36-footer, then 41-footer and 61-footer,” Shannon says. “Now I own a 71-foot Jim Smith, Houdini.”
Shannon calls North Carolina home and he has owned a vacation home in Charleston, South Carolina, for the last 15 years. Charleston is the locale from which he primarily casts off to angle.
“The fishing is phenomenal in May, June and July,” he says. “The Gulf Stream is about 45 to 60 miles offshore, and you’ve got to pick your days, but on a good day you could easily get a slam – sailfish, white marlin and blue marlin – as well as tuna, dolphin or wahoo.”
Blue marlin are what Shannon likes to fish for best.
“It’s the way they light up and are so aggressive,” he says. “It’s incredible to watch them come in. Feed ‘em. Fight ‘em. Release ‘em. I got turned on to pitch baiting in St. Thomas fishing with Robert on Reel Pushy in the Boy Scout Tournament (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament). I love it.”
Shannon’s college roommate was Mike Smith, who today is head coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Baker played professional football early in his career and it was his acquaintance with Smith that led to his friendship with Shannon.
“I enjoy fun fishing and also tournament fishing,” says Shannon.
His annual calendar includes the five-leg South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series.
“My favorite is the second leg, the Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament,” says Shannon. “It’s the oldest and it’s well done. All the transoms are backed up to the dock, everyone is there and there’s some great camaraderie.”
Shannon also fishes the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament out of North Carolina, the El Pescado Billfish Tournament in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Sailfish Slam out of Charleston.
His best fishing day, and best fish story, both took place on October 19, 2009, when fishing in the Sailfish Slam.
“That was the day we released 15 sailfish,” says Shannon. “Even though we won the tournament, it was sad that lines out were at 3 p.m. because we wished we could have fished until dark. If we could have, I think we would have broken the state record of 22 sailfish released in one day of fishing.”
The Dominican Republic, St. Thomas and Venezuela are some of the places Shannon has fished in his career in addition to Florida.
In the future, he says, “I’d like to go to Panama and try my luck catching big black marlin.”