Boca Ciega Bay fish fanatics may remember the young Brantly McFarlin from the Rock the Bay Inshore Fishing Tournament and Festival this November. The 12-year-old captain placed twice in the tournament, and it wasn’t his first rodeo.
“I’ve been fishing with my dad a lot of my life,” McFarlin said. “I have brothers and sisters but they probably don’t like to fish as much as me.”
Probably not, considering McFarlin’s multiple tournament wins – including leaderboard status at the Johhny Kellar Inshore Fishing Tournament and his position as first mate at St. Pete Beach’s Non Stop Fishing Charters.
It’s on Captain Kevin Walton’s boat that McFarlin spends his summers and weekends hooking bait and “scaling the deck” as a young St. Petersburg angler. He wants to get closer to the Gulf, and any tips he collects get set aside for college.
“I remember him catching with a fake lure at the Pasadena Country Club when he was like two years old,” said McFarlin’s father, Drew McFarlin. “It’s all he’s ever really wanted to do, and he does it like it’s his job.”
The father-and-son team credit one nontanglible source of success: fish karma.
“There’s not really a secret to fishing. Every place is totally different,” McFarlin said. “But me and my dad always throw everything back.”
Drew clarifies that fish karma is their private rule of releasing anything and everything that finds itself hooked, regarless of size – in the name of conservation.
The act of catch-and-release is a fisherman’s way of playing tug of war with Florida’s fragile waterways, says Drew.
Keep up with McFarlin’s watery adventures via his Instagram: @Backwaterbrantly.