On April 20, 1999, at 11:30 a.m. Tommy Resha of Birmingham, Alabama hooked a “mean” marlin while fishing aboard the boat Abracadabra, captained by Ron Riebe of Key Largo, Florida. They were fishing out of Marsh Harbor during the South Abaco segment of the Bahamas Billfish Championship.
The fish was a brute, estimated at between 1,200 and 1,800 pounds—so big that when it passed beneath their 46-foot Bertram, the fish’s bill could be seen on one side, tail on the other. The boat has a 14-foot beam. The fish would have set a record for largest marlin caught in the Bahamas, so was worth $500,000 in prizes to the anglers.
Using 100-pound test line, 400-pound test leader, Resha battled the marlin for 32-hours, 40-minutes – in what is believed to be one of the longest fish fights ever recorded.
No one slept during the fight, and Rieba stayed at the helm. Angler Resha was fed by the crew in the fighting chair, like a prisoner during the epic battle.
Wet towels were spread over his legs, and water poured over his head to protect and cool him against the blazing Bahamas sun. Resha even had to relieve himself in the fighting chair, since if anyone but him touched the rod or reel it would disqualify the catch.
“This fish was big and smart,” said Riebe. “Everything we did, he reacted. It was so intense. We chased him for 25 miles with the boat. We tried all the tactics, different directions, everything. But this fish actually would turn the boat, and it weighs 25 tons.”
Finally, angler Resha gave in to exhaustion, so he tightened the reel drag, trying to winch in the fish. Though the marlin was drawn close enough for the crew to touch the leader dozens of times during the fight, under extreme tension, the leader finally broke.
Following the exhausting fight, Resha tried to stand, but couldn’t. His hands were curled almost shut by cramps from grasping the fishing rod so tightly for so long.
“I had to fish for 37 years to find this sucker [the marlin], and I hope I never see him again,” Captain Riebe said.