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Largo's Stein has a talent for landing terrific tarpon


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2001

Largo resident David Stein is a thin, slip of a man who is a remodeling contractor most of the year.

Largo resident David Stein is a thin, slip of a man who is a remodeling contractor most of the year.

That is until May, June and July come rolling around.

Stein's customers know he's a lot harder to pin down during those months because of his addiction. He's had to deal with this obsession since the early '80s when he got the "fever." A 125-pound fever, and today he's a darn good full-blown tarpon-a-holic.

The proof is in the trophies that he's won fishing in the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup's Landlubber division.

On July 12, 1999, Stein received a special birthday present that turned out to be 139 pounds of a line-screaming, high-jumping silver king. It brought him a third-place weekly prize and netted him a first overall trophy, a new rod and reel, the Ken Bruce Memorial trophy, and of course "the most important thing," according to Stein, "bragging rights for the whole year."

The next year Stein was at it again.

On June 1, 2000, a 149-pounder swallowed his pumpkin seed and two hours later Stein again had "the most important thing." Stein won $1,100 and a first-place trophy, and again won the Ken Bruce Memorial trophy. Pretty impressive for a guy who looks 150 pounds soaking wet.

Tarpon fishing is hard enough from a boat, let alone from a pier or bridge. There are many obstacles.

Pilings, boats going by, and other anglers' lines are just a few hurdles with which land-based tarpon chasers have to contend. And what can go wrong usually does unless you have the savvy of Stein.

He has gone as far as clipping a line to his rod and reel when the "poon" runs under the pier and lets his rig go in the water then gaffs the attached line on the other side of the pier, brings up his rod and continues to fight the fish. Amazing.

Stein's technique isn't much different from most tarpon anglers who fish for these big bruisers from stationary platforms. He uses the outrigging method of employing two rods: a main line for battling, and the guide line or out line that is used to get the bait out and away from the structure.

Stein's out line consists of a light bait casting outfit rigged with a big 6-8-ounce weight and 3/0 hook. He starts by casting the out line as far as he can from the pier.

Once the out line is securely snagged to the bottom, Stein connects the main line to the out line with a weighted close pin and snap swivel. Similar to an outrigging clip. Then he simply slides his bait down the outline until the bait dangles just below the water's surface.

Stein has his preferred live baits. Pumpkin seeds are No. 1. Regulars refer to pumpkin seeds as "seeds" and what they are is a small silvery jack fish. Their real name is Atlantic Bumper and they're found inshore around piers and bridges hanging with the threadfin herring.

"Seeds are hearty, they're flashy, and the Spanish mackerel will leave them alone," Stein said.

"My second choice is a pinfish because they're hearty, too. They'll take a hit and you'll still be able to use it."

He also likes a ladyfish, or threadfin, and if he can get it, a live shad or menhaden.

Stein brings his own bait catcher on most outings. Equipped with his own rod and reel, 4-year-old son Kristopher has a great time catching bait for dad. Of course, dad takes care of culling the bait to put on his rig.

Well, 2001 isn't going different than the past two years for Stein. He is leading the Landlubber division again with a 133-pounder he landed May 21.

What's really freaky is the tarpon hit his first bait in the water on his first day of tournament fishing. The fish hit at 2:20 p.m. and pulled off 250 yards of 50-pound mono from his 4/0 reel. The mighty silver king succumbed 80 minutes. "Going for the three-peat man!" Stein said.

If I were a betting man, I'd lay the money down!

- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 448-3817. If you've had a great day fishing from land and want to share it with readers, contact the LUBBERLINE at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail

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