You probably won't see them on television. Sponsors' logos won't be wrapped around their boats or their bodies.You've likely never heard of them.
They are the anglers who make the finest catches with the most amazing stories, yet do not show up atop the leader boards during summertime fishing tournaments.
It's tournament time in Tampa Bay, the time when the regular old anglers pound the waters for those “bragging rights,” and the weigh-ins are parties of their own, where those who have caught the best-and-biggest fish beam with big checks before cameras and tent-shaded spectators.
Bumper-boat fishing in Boca Grande is in session. Yep, the five-week Pro Tarpon Tournament Series is wrapping up and those logo-studded vessels are done hoisting tarpon from the pass to the side of their boat, where television sportscasters gush and cameramen zoom for glory.
Know where the real anglers are?
Check the South Skyway Fishing Pier. Just about every morning, William “Scooter” Robinson lets the boys and girls know where the fish are and how to tie the right knot. He’s a legend.
Scooter’s world view in unlike others. Slightly over the railing, you could say, as he peers from his wheelchair onto the green mass of water.
“He rides around in a wheelchair,” Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier State Park manager Race Tyson said, “but no one ever told him he was handicapped.”
No one told Scooter he is one of the best fishermen on the Gulf coast either.
Scooter's back broke in 1984 when he tried to unload a gazebo off a trailer.
"I tried to play Superman," he said. "It didn't work out too good."
Sometimes he is out there 24 hours until he catches that one grouper big enough to cover a Kaiser. He cannot bolt backward after hooking a grouper — an advantage when trying to rip grouper away from their rocky shelters. But he slays them anyway.
Ever see the name Brent Homan on a leader board?
Retired from the U.S. Armed Forces, the Iraqi War vet in 2009 may have caught the most astonishing fish no one’s talking about. Again, the south Skyway fishing pier was a witness.
A roadside bomb in Iraq ripped massive wounds into Homan from his hands to his head. Shrapnel pierced his brain and diced his right eye.
Prior to surgery, the Texas resident resisted overwhelming pain and unconsciousness to save a digit.
“I need my thumb,” he told the surgeon, “to be able to fish.”
Doc added a metal rod in his thumb, shaping it so it curved to his index finger, as though it were gripping a fishing rod.
But he could not restore Homan's right eye.
A certain tarpon that day in 2009 could relate to being blind on the right. Homan knows. He caught it.
Of all the hundreds of tarpon swarming among the piles of bait fish that stack among the pilings, Homan boated a fish he later called his kindred spirit — it also was missing its right eye.
Capt. Ric Liles, a Ruskin resident, was also on the boat.“We went out to eat afterward,” Liles said, “and we had chill bumps and stuff. It was just, ghost freaky.”
Said Homan: “God just sends me messages every once in a while, and lets me know I’m doing the right thing. That He’s still watching.”
There are thousands of other stories that deserved to be told, and most won't be publicized in papers or hyped on TV or rooted from the love of money.
So help us all out.
Whose stories do you know?
If You Go:
11101 34th St S, St. Petersburg
Cost: $4 a person; $2 for kids ages 6 to 11; and free for kids 5 and younger, plus $4 a car for parking.