The Marlin Man: How an Unusual Catch Changed Jim Sammons’ Life

In 1998 kayak fishing TV personality Jim Sammons caught a marlin off La Jolla. Since then, the marlin man and friends such as Sean White have handled 47 of the big billfish.
In 1998 kayak fishing TV personality Jim Sammons caught a marlin off La Jolla. Since then, the marlin man and friends such as Sean White have handled 47 of the big billfish. Photo courtesy The Kayak Fishing Show with Jim Sammons

The Marlin Man: How an Unusual Catch Changed Jim Sammons’ Life
By Jim Sammons

In 1998 I made a catch off my kayak that changed the course of my life. While trolling a live mackerel with my fishing partner Mark I spotted a couple flying fish, something you just don't see near shore in La Jolla. I jokingly told Mark to be ready because we might hook a marlin. Amazingly that is exactly what happened a few minutes later.

The fish went ballistic, towing me more than eight miles. I battled that 180- to 200-pound striped marlin for two and a half hours before it ended in a busted line – I was using 20-pound test better suited for yellowtail. We had the fish within two feet a couple of times. We could have landed it but opted not to gaff it.

That fight gained a lot of attention for my kayak fishing guide service and also sparked a fire that is still burning today to catch big game from my kayak.

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Catching a marlin from a kayak in California is almost impossible. In the seventeen years since it has never been done again. To repeat this feat, I'd have to travel to a place these fish are plentiful and swim close to shore.

There are a few locations in the world where this is possible but for me the natural choice was the East Cape of Baja. I had been guiding at a resort in the East Cape; I knew the potential of the fishery.

Even though I was spending time in Baja each year, because I was guiding every day I didn't have a chance to chase my dream for a few years. When a group of clients took a day off, I jumped at the chance to finally land the fish of my dreams. I used a panga – a Mexican fishing boat – to taxi my kayak 20 miles offshore and to have a safety net as I was fishing alone.

I hooked up again. It was six years after my first kayak marlin. Like the first it is burned in my memory. When I set the hook, this striped marlin jumped no more than five or ten feet from my kayak. My heart was pumping, my adrenaline was going crazy, and it was unnerving and exciting all at the same time. It looked like it was going to jump right at the kayak at one point, so I put the rod tip into the water, and it just went right under my boat instead of jumping at me.

Since that catch I have had many clients join me at the Rancho Leonero Resort to try their hand at joining our billfish club. Catching a marlin from a kayak is like nothing else. The adrenalized ride is hard to describe, a mix of excitement and fear. At this time we have landed forty-seven billfish from our kayaks including striped marlin and sailfish and have had shots at bigger blue and black marlin.

Catch Jackson Kayak staffer Jim Sammons on The Kayak Fishing Show, seen on WFN. The earliest seasons are available at CarbonTV.com for the great price of free, free, free.