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Penn’s Big Water Adventure TV Show – Behind the Scenes

By Kastking | 22 January 2018 | 0 Comments

The phone call came during mid-summer 2013, and after greetings were exchanged with The Fisherman editor Fred Golofaro, we got down to the purpose of the call.  Fred was inquiring whether my charter schedule was open for the 3-days in early September for the time span when Mark Davis of Penn’s Big Water Adventures would be in the region filming a show about Montauk.  The original plan was to shoot footage from both a boat and from the surf, and hopefully capture some of Montauk’s famous fall run of striped bass.  I paged through my calendar and through some sort of destiny the only 3-day span of days I had available all month were the 3-days Mark and crew were going to be in town.  So, I penciled in the dates, and crossed my fingers for both decent weather, and good fishing.



I’ve always enjoy watching TV fishing shows, and Penn’s Big Water Adventures has been one of my favorites for the last few years.  The show is all about saltwater fishing, and watching the host, Mark Davis, trek all over the globe in search of big fish helps me cope with the dreary winter months.  In fact, when I grow up, I want to be Mark Davis, what a great freaking job.  That being said, I also like the show because Mark always makes the fish and the locale the real “star” of the show.  This is the main reason why I watch the fishing shows.  Sure, I hope to learn a thing or two, but I really want to experience the little nuisances these various fishing destinations have to offer, and who knows maybe someday I’ll bucket list them.  After getting the call from Fred I was both happy and proud that the show chose to fish with me.  However, I must admit, I was also a little nervous.  In my heart, I know I’m a good striper angler, but stripers being stripers, they can sometimes make me feel like an idiot.  I looked forward to the experience, but I can’t deny that I was a little apprehensive that I’d blow it on the show.


Captain Tom Mikolesk ( C ) i aboard the GrandSlam filming Penn's Big Water Adventure TV Show

Captain Tom Mikolesk ( C ) i aboard the GrandSlam filming Penn’s Big Water Adventure TV Show





My striper charters that took place right before the show came to town were okay, and we had decent action with stripers to 30-pounds.  In fact, the day before the filming was scheduled a charter client had just landed a good sized 30-something pounder when I got a text from Mark Davis saying that he would be in town that evening.  I texted back saying the fishing was good, and I spiked the text with a photo of the striper we had just put in the cooler.  Back at the dock at trip’s end I put the Marine forecast on, and the forecast was not great.  The forecast called for the present light South West winds to shift to the east at 15 to 20 with gusts to 25-knots that night.  Crap…I hate east winds.  The old Montauk saying, “East is least” certainly seems accurate to me because whenever the wind blows from this direction the striper fishing always seems to shut down for me.  In the back of my mind, I was hoping that the East winds would ignite the surf fishing that had been “deadsville, ”   and perhaps the crew could be able to  get some good surf fishing footage the next morning.



Later that evening I met the entire crew that would also include Fisherman publisher Mike Caruso, two cameramen, Adam DeBard, and Zach Frazee, and of course Mark Davis.  We soon headed out for dinner on the docks at Swallow East.   There, we all enjoyed our meals that ranged from Montauk clam chowder to striped bass tacos, and grilled skirt steak.  However, while I was sipping a frost draught, I noticed that the winds had indeed shifted towards the east and were blowing pretty gusty.  It was at this time that I threw on the table the surf fishing option because of the East winds. Mike Caruso quickly concurred, and began working his surf fishing cell phone network to see if any bite had developed.



The next morning a rarity happened.  The wind dropped ahead of schedule, but it was still puffing from the East.  We stayed the course and all jumped into our trucks and motored down to the area in the vicinity of the famous Montauk Light, arriving just as false dawn began to glow on the horizon, and as usual, this sight was surreal and spectacular.  The wind was still in our face at about 15-knots.  There were a few casters present at Jones Reef going through the motions, but nothing was going on.  After a team meeting, it was quickly decided to head to my boat.



Loading the boat took some time.  The gear featured Penn tackle and a huge Pelican cooler packed with ice and assorted drinks.  While the gear was being stowed, I rigged up the Penn combos.  My terminal tackle was made up of 6-foot Seaguar 60-pound fluorocarbon leaders and 8/0 Mustad Demon Perfect Circle hooks.  For bait on this day we would be using live eels, so I was sure we had an adequate supply of the slimy creatures.



The steam out was ok, though it got a little lumpy as we approached the Point.  I headed to a spot called the Elbow for our first drift.  Two minutes into the drift Mark hooks up, and quickly a 30-inch bass is boat side.  I’m thinking…maybe I’m going to get lucky. It takes us about 20-minutes to get all the shots needed, including the intro to the show.  Once done, I put the throttle down because I want to get back to the beginning of the drift.  I’d like to say it was easy from that point on, but where’s the fun in that?  The rest of the morning I tried all my go to spots that had been producing fish, but all the action I could muster was from bluefish.  After lots of chopped up eels I decided to roll the dice and chase the tide all the way to Block Island.



At Block the water was crystal clear, and my fish-finder was much more “alive” with both bait and predators. The current was pretty weak, so I decided to troll big tubes over some boulder fields.  The action was immediate, but the bites were from big 12 to 15-pound bluefish.  If we were filming a bluefish show we were golden, but it was stripers or bust.  The fish-finder continued to light up with activity, and Mark decided this would be a good time to put out his modified Troll Pro camera housing to capture some underwater shots.  This thing looked like something a mad scientist had whipped together in his lab.  The bites on the camera rig were immediate as a “wolf pack” of blues attacked the modified umbrella rig. Mark was pretty happy and was quite sure we had just gotten some cool underwater shots of attacking bluefish.  By now, the current was shot, so we headed called it a day and headed back to the dock.



Day-2 was cloudy with southwest winds gusting to 20-knots.  We gave it a go, even stopping to catch live porgies for bait, but again once we began fishing for bass the bluefish simply mauled us.  By 11:00 am an angry line of thunder storms was heading straight for us, so it was time to leave.  Later on that evening we gave the evening flood tide a shot with the wind still blowing pretty good. The drift was way too fast for consistent action, but I got lucky on one drift and hooked a decent bass.  We did our best to get all the camera shots done as quickly as possible.  All the while, I was chomping at the bit to get back on my numbers to do another drift.   On the steam back up tide we marked some fish, but when we drifted over them they refused to bite.  Another hour passed and we were all pretty beat, and called it a night.




Day-3, the final day was nicer all around, and the winds had finally dropped out.  I decided to again catch some live porgies for bait and use them in unison with my trusty eels.  We quickly filled the live well with porgies, and headed to the striper grounds once the tide was right.  It didn’t take long for the bluefish to find us again.  By now I was getting pretty damn frustrated with the “saltwater piranhas.“  However, I tried to stay positive because the fish-finder was indicating some nice sized fish were swimming below.



On the next drift I saw Mike Caruso bow his rod, and in a flash he was hooked up with a decent sized fish.  From the antics of this one I was pretty sure he had hooked a striper.  Mike skillfully played the fish to the boat, and we soon I netted a mid-teen bass.  Okay, I thought, maybe they are finally going to bite.  It took us quite a while to get all the shots needed because we didn’t know if this was going to be the last striper we caught. During this film break I was getting extremely frustrated because I desperately wanted to get back to my way point.  Heck, there are days I can catch 10-stripers in 20-minutes, and because we were getting pushed for time, I really, really wanted to get some baits back in the water on the drift where we had just hooked up.



Eventually, all the filming was done with Mike’s fish, and once we got baits back into the water a live scup on a dead stick supplied all the Mojo I badly needed.  The bite came just where it should have, right as we passed over the rocky patch I was targeting.  The Penn spinning  combo in the port rod holder bent in half wickedly as the reel’s drag protested loudly with that lovely sound all charter captains love.  Mark pounced on the rod, and had some trouble getting the rod out of the rod holder because the big bass continued to take line on the powerfully set drag.  Cockpit chaos quickly ensued as we attempted to clear all the other rods in the water, so Mark had a clean shot at the fish.  Soon, the fish slowed and Mark began gaining back line, but he sensed from weight of the fish, and the solid head shakes that he had indeed hooked a “player.” I could hear him talking to the camera, “This is the right one… this is the right one boys.”  I simply stood back and let a good angler do his thing.  It was a captain’s dream come true at this point.  I had the net in my hand, and when I saw the girth of the great striper I let out a diabolical giggle, and a loud sigh of relief that you can hear on the show.



Once the bass was in the net and I got a good luck at her I knew we had just hit a “Grand Slam” in landing a true trophy striped bass, over 50-pounds, with a professional film crew aboard is a heck of a lot of luck with a little bit of skill thrown in for good measure.  In fact, if you are a true striper angler, you will know exactly how I felt the precise moment I first eyeballed that beautiful trophy striped bass coming up from the depths. As a result, I quickly thanked the “Big Man” above and it was then my emotions suddenly got the best of me, but I also noticed that it took Mark a bit to collect himself also, so I didn’t feel like that much of a whuss because of a tear or two that were in my eyes. The tears were from relief mostly because I felt that I had accomplished my goal.  I did the mighty striper justice, and I also did the historic port of Montauk justice.



Once we got the filming of the big fish wrapped we put the striper back in the net and weighed the fish and net together.  I felt this was the best way to avoid hurting the big girl’s insides. My trusty Boga Grip quickly settled in at the 55-pound range.  It was now time to get the fish back into the water for a release.  Mark hung out my “striper door” reviving the fish, as I quickly made up a breakaway rig that would allow us to get the release on video.   Once ready, Mark sent the rig to the bottom, and for the first time ever his camera recorded a 50-pounder being released, just off the bottom, where the water pressure would be more conducive for her survival.




By — Capt. Tom Mikoleski


Captain Tom Mikoleski is the successful fishing charter captain of the Grand Slam who sails out of Montauk, NY for trophy striped bass, doormat fluke, jumbo porgies, humpback sea bass, and monster sharks. Captain Tom is the author of Bass Buff — A Striper Fishing Obsession Guide




Eposeidon ( www.eposeidon.com ) is an e-commerce company (Eposeidon Outdoor Adventure, Inc.) that brings a fresh, innovative approach to anglers by offering qualityfishing tackle products at the best prices and no cost, or low cost shipping. Eposeidon’s goal is to exceed expectations through outstanding customer service and superior product value to their customers. Eposeidon is continually expanding its product lines, which include KastKing™ fishing line, fishing reels, and fishing rods, MadBite fishing lures, Ecooda reels, and other fishing tackle products, to meet individual fishing equipment needs. Eposeidon is headquartered in Hempstead, NY, USA and sells fishing tackle products globally. Eposeidon is the sole North American Distributor for Ecooda fishing reels.

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