The Bright Side: The List

  • Pam Basco (second from left) poses with her 32 pound spearfish caught fly fishing on 16 pound tippet (test line). Also pictured are Diamond Dave, David Borges, Capt. Kevin Nakamaru and Richard Richardson. (The Charter Desk/Courtesy Photo)

Lots of people keep lists. It’s just something we do.

Some folks keep lists to organize their day ahead.

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Some people write “to do” lists of things for themselves to do. Others write “to do lists” of things for others to do. These folks are called parents.

And there are those who keep a list of things they have already done, sometimes their accomplishments in life. It seems some do that just so they can wave them around in other people’s faces. These folks are called bores.

One might think if one had a list of world records, They may be tempted to wave it in other people’s faces. Thankfully, not everyone is like that.

Take Pam Basco for example. Pam is a devoted fisherwoman and has been for many, many years. She grew up in Galveston Bay and has been around fish and fishing all of her life. Pam has a list of 14 world records in fishing. Some are current and some have been beaten over time, but all went into the record book.

When asked if one particular record was still standing, she thought about it, started to say something, sighed and then laughed, “I guess I have to check the list.”

It’s not every day you talk to someone who has so many world records she has to check her list see if one still stands, or not.

This is not someone who sets records to impress other people. This is someone who sets records because she fishes.

“I always felt that we should not just fish, but get involved,” Pam said. “My saying was ‘catching fish should just be the reward for time spent protecting them.’”

The list of ways she has been involved and given back to her sport is even longer than her world record list. That’s a whole nother article.

Nope, that’s not someone who fishes for some sort of stature. She fishes because that’s just what she does.

Back in the 80’s, another Texas woman, Deborah Dunaway, started setting the world on fire catching marlin on very light tackle and setting world records. This inspired Pam to try it and she’s been hooked on it ever since.

Many devoted musicians work in a similar environment. Take the “Maestro” Taj Mahal. He is both a student and a master in more disciplines of music than most people even know exist. Every song could win a Grammy, but most do not.

When fans compliment Taj Mahal after a concert, he usually just nods, smiles and says, “Thanks. It’s what we do.”

Taj likes to think about fishing when he’s out on tour, not just Grammy’s, but he still earns them from time to time, because after 55 years, he’s still playing and mastering disciplines.

Pam still earns a world record from time to time, because after more than 40 years, she is still fishing, and recently undertook a new discipline — fly fishing for billfish.

Up until now, all of Pam’s 14 world records were caught on conventional tackle. To us mere mortals, that’s a normal rod and reel. What is not conventional is most of her records were caught with very light line — line as light as two pound test!

Think about that for a minute. Two pound test line will break if you pull on it with even a smidge more than two pounds of pressure. By comparison, it takes about six pounds of pull to break dental floss.

On April 30, during only her second trip to fly fish in Kona, Pam caught a fish that has since been submitted as yet another world record. She caught a 32 pound spearfish on 16 pound tippet (test line). How’s that? Setting a world record in only your second try in a new discipline!

Pam gives a lot of credit to the crew on Northern Lights. Back on March 17, in a West Hawaii Today article called “Innovators of Sports,” Capt. Kevin Nakamaru and crew were waiting to get word on another world record on fly with another lady angler — Wanda Hair Taylor. Wanda caught a 33 pound spearfish on a fly, with a 20 pound tippet.

Wanda fishes the world with her partner, Jake Jordon, who has developed a revolutionary approach to catching billfish on a fly rod. Anglers using his system have been knocking down world records all over the place. Capt. Jordan said that Capt. Kevin Nakamaru and his crew on Northern Lights have mastered his system, and it appears that the proof is in the pudding.

Pam’s been fishing with Kevin for many years, but she is quick to say that the fly fishing technique he taught her is what made it possible to catch a world record on fly tackle.

That’s not to say this was a slam dunk. Pam explained how this all came down.

“The first day out, Kevin had us run drills and practice as if we were actually raising and baiting a billfish,” Pam said. “He told the boys ‘left teaser, left teaser! Bring it in quick!’ and then he’d pull the boat out of gear and holler ‘Yank the teasers! Go Pam, cast!’ and that’s what I did.”

We fished two days and after practicing the first day, we felt like we had the system down, but only a fish would tell,” Pam added. “It wasn’t long before a spearfish obliged us. It came in on a teaser, the boys worked as a seamless team, Kevin gave the signal and I cast the fly. It was beautiful to watch that spearfish attack that colorful fly. It was so hungry it couldn’t miss and we were on! That’s an incredible feeling to practice something and turn it into reality. We were all really happy and went to work to catch that fish.”

Pam started laughing at this point, because in a snap, everything discombobulated.

“We got pretty close to the fish and we were thinking ‘just a bit more and we got this,’ when it took off on a dive,” she said. “We still can’t figure out how this happened, but a side plate on the fly reel just fell off during this run, right into the ocean! Half of the fishing reel was just gone, over the side and sinking toward the bottom. Now what were we supposed to do?

“Kevin said he’d jump in and get it and I thought, what? And follow it down to the bottom of the sea? Then we figured out that the line was still running through the side plate and we were still hooked to the fish, so the decision was made to pull the line by hand and get the side plate and the fish back to the boat. It wasn’t going to be a world record now, so why not get dinner?”

Around here, there are a lot of hand line fishermen. However, they are pulling cord with heavy monofilament leaders. Fly line has a lot of diameter, but the weakest point in the system is that 16 pound test “tippet”. How do you keep from breaking that weak line, when pulling by hand?

Pam again praised her crew.

“You know these guys are great leadermen, because they understand that catching fish on light tackle means that a fish comes to leader having felt very little pressure on the hook,” she said. “This is when they use finesse and not brute strength. They applied this same thinking in this instance and just babied that fish up. We missed a record but we had a great Bar B Q.”

Well fed but hungry for revenge, the team went back to work the following day, and once again, a spearfish obliged. Everything went right in the beginning and the reel stayed together through to the end. During the 35 minute fight, the spearfish tried every spearfish trick in the book. It dug its heels in and stayed down, then up it came, running and jumping like a snake running low hurdles, but it wouldn’t get away.

There is a process to qualification for a world record. There are forms and signatures to sign by angler, skipper, crew and witnesses. The scale must be certified and up to date. A line sample has to be collected and lots of photos taken. Once the evidence is compiled, one packages it up and sends it to the International Game Fishing Association, down in South Florida. There, they go through it all as if to verify the Mona Lisa as authentic, and they pull the line on a high tech machine to make sure it does not break at a heavier weight than claimed.

Pam has held two other spearfish records over the years. In 1993 she caught a 31 pound, 8 ounce spearfish using eight pound test. In 1999 she qualified a 29 pound, 1 ounce spear fishing with six pound test. Both were awarded but both have since fallen. Not counting her most recent catch, only one of Pam’s fourteen world records still stands.

Pam’s new record on a fly rod, should it qualify, would be a bit like Taj Mahal winning a Grammy for a song recorded with a local band in Mongolia after just two rehearsals.

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Why not? It’s a big world. Pam is 69 and Taj is 75 and folks like them are an inspiration to get out in that world, keep doing what you do because it is what you do, and keep learning new things.

And if someone waves a list of their life accomplishments in your face, wave a fly rod in theirs.

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