Joe Kraatz: White Marlin Sweet Talker
By Chris Holmes
"Come on up. I'm going to let you go," Joe Kraatz pleaded to the white marlin on his line. It didn't immediately oblige. Kraatz kept pulling. It was the second day of the Extreme Kayak Fishing Battle of the Bahamas tournament. The day prior, he'd managed a small king, a strawberry grouper and a bunch of barracuda – nothing that looked to put him in the money. If he could catch it, he'd cash in. He might not have been there if not for the encouragement of his friends.
"I didn't want to get out of bed that morning," he said, nearly exhausted by his day one effort. Reluctantly he joined a group of anglers who said they were going long. As he trolled a live goggle eye past a air-filled plastic bag, his 30-pound braid started peeling off the reel.
“When I came tight on the line, the fish went berserk and danced for one hundred yards.” Kraatz immediately recognized the fish as a rare one for the Bahamas: a white marlin. He keyed his radio and shared the news, electrifying the other kayak anglers and setting the tournament officials scrambling to capture the moment. No marlin had ever been landed during an Extreme Kayak Fishing event.
Kraatz reeled his marlin close to his kayak many times, but he just could not get it in. While he was hooked up, fellow competitor Matt Eckert hooked a blue marlin estimated at 400- to 500-pounds. Eckert would be on it all day. Kraatz didn't have the time. That's when he resorted to talking to it. He had to baby it – like his main line, his leader was lightweight too, just 30-pound fluorocarbon. Fortunately it held tight.
“The marlin made one last dive and then I was able to pull him up and grab the bill. I was so happy when I was able to get him across my lap,” he said. After snapping a few photos, Kraatz was true to his word. The fish swam off healthy, and Kraatz went home the Battle in the Bahamas billfish winner.