Tampa Bay area fisherman lands massive grouper

Image courtesy Capt. Paul Christie, Capt. Jon Chapman

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Tony Panipinto has been fishing competitively for years. But even he wouldn’t believe this fish story – if he hadn’t witnessed it.

Panipinto is an avid fisherman but he’d never caught a fish like the one he landed in the Gulf of Mexico during the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament over the weekend.

Photo courtesy Tony Panipinto
Photo courtesy Tony Panipinto

“I said, ‘I think I have a fish,’ and they were like, ‘You have the bottom because the rod was just doubled over,'” Panipinto recalled. He was competing with his team.

Little did he know, he’d actually hooked a nearly 350-pound Warsaw grouper. “It was like hooking a little car that is not going fast; it was kind of idling away from you,” he said. “We knew it was big fish, and when he came to the surface we kind of realized, ‘Holy crap. How are we going to get this thing into the boat now?'”

“There was a special bait. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to tell anybody about that bait or the fishing tackle we used,” Panipinto added.

It was a challenge with all five men on board trying to pull it in and trying to find a spot on the boat to bring it back to shore.

It wasn’t just the catch of the day. It set a record for the tournament, which has run for 33 years.

Tournament director Mike Biggins said he was amazed when he saw the fish. “Wow, wow, and I think that’s what everybody’s thoughts were,” he said.

This is the second time Panipinto and the team have won the fishing tournament.

As for the huge grouper, he donated it to a local fish house.

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