Landing the big one
TAMPA, Fla. — “I thought my biceps were going to blow right out of my arms.”
Regardless, Bob Fornadley wasn’t gonna quit.
“It was going to me going down or him,” the Butler resident said of catching an 80-pound tarpon at South Shore Bunce’s Pass in the waters of Tampa Bay recently. “The biggest fish I ever caught before this one was 18 pounds.
“That (tarpon) fought me for an hour. It was agonizing at times. I mean, it hurt. But this was one time in a lifetime. I wasn’t about to give up.”
Fornadley, 72, has been a fisherman for 61 years. He was on this excursion in Florida with Daniel Barkley, a fishing guide and a good friend of his for seven years.
“When that thing caught my line and took off, I thought, ‘what in the world is this?’” Fornadley said. “I just held on. Occasionally, I had to give him some slack in line, then pull back. It was a long process that felt like it was lasting forever.
“My head is still spinning, even talking about it.”
Fornadley credited his own fishing experience and prayer for his finally being able to get the tarpon into the boat.
“I prayed to God the fish would stay on the line, that I wouldn’t lose him,” he said. “For the first half hour or so, I just braced my legs against the boat, face down, lifted the rod ... It was like playing tug of war for an hour.”
And he won.
During that same fishing trip, Fornadley would catch a 60-pound tarpon.
“That fight was nothing like this one,” he said, laughing. “That 80-pounder had unbelievable power. My guide could see me struggling with it. Three times, he asked me if I wanted to quit. As hard and long as we were going at it, there was no way.”
Fornadley is not your average, every-day angler. He does a lot of fly-fishing and has fished all over the world. He caught an 18-pound salmon in the state of Washington.
A retired Air Force veteran, Fornadley was also a school principal for 21 years, was a business manager and an insurance agent. He’s fished in Alberta, Vancouver and British Columbia in Canada, in Jamaica, the Carribean, Mexico, Guam and Hawaii, just to name a few stops.
He’s fished for catfish, bass, salmon, etc., sometimes with a guide, sometimes without.
“My parents fished, my grandfather fished, I learned from them,” Fornadley said. “We didn’t have a whole lot back in those days. We fished to produce food for the table.
“Whatever we caught, we ate. I loved it. Fishing became a passion of mine.”
Perhaps it was all those years of passion that paid off on that day in Tampa Bay.
“The catch of a lifetime, the thrill of a lifetime for me,” Fornadley said. “Nothing even approaches that one.”