© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2002
They say records are meant to be broken; this one may not be. Joey Rufin, 13, shattered the weight mark in the junior division of the 6-year-old Suncoast Tarpon Roundup on Friday morning. His 223-pounder not only eclipsed the record set by Jason Gell (167 pounds) in 1993, it is the largest tarpon recorded in tournament history.
It was the second 200-pounder in tournament history and first since Mike Masters' 200.2-pounder in 1994.
Joey, fishing with neighbor and veteran tarpon angler Mike Weingart, battled the silver king for an hour before bringing it to gaff. The nearly 7-foot-long tarpon had a girth of 441/2 inches. Working a slow-moving school of fish in the gulf north of Clearwater, the behemoth couldn't resist a fresh shad presented on bottom.
Joey had fished for six years with a personal best of 134 pounds.
Though it seemed huge when it came out of the water, there was no way of knowing it would be more than twice as big as Joey, who weighs 105 pounds.
Tournament organizers are inquiring into possible world and state records. The scale will be certified and line will be tested in compliance with International Game Fish Association rules.
With seven weeks to go in the 10-week event, Zach Nelson leads the regular division with a 167-pounder. For the leaders in all categories, including the release divisions and daily standings, call (727) 584-1730.
-- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.