Meet Tony Huerta

One of the sport's top anglers and team owners on fishing, boat ownership and more
Tony Huerta standing in the cockpit of a sport-fishing boat.
Lo Que Sea owner Tony Huerta is a Fort Pierce businessman and restauranteur who also owns Little Jim’s Bait and Tackle. Chris Rabil Photography

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Situated between Orlando and Palm Beach is the quiet seaside community of Fort Pierce, a bit off the beaten path and certainly far from the hustle and bustle of southeastern Florida. It’s probably not what you’d expect for tournament-winning angler Tony Huerta, who has amassed an impressive string of victories while fishing from North Carolina to the Bahamas and many points in between on his 1995 58-foot Paul Mann known as Lo Que Sea. While working full time in real estate development and as a restaurant owner, he still manages to fish nearly 100 days per year. His place in Fort Pierce—Little Jim’s Bait and Tackle—is the perfect barefoot beach dive, with great food, live music, a marina on site and, of course, a full-service tackle shop.

Q: How did you end up with the Paul Mann?

A: I had a 43 Torres previously, and I got invited to go fish in Pirate’s Cove [North Carolina] on the boat. I’d gone up a few days earlier to look at some other boats to buy, and nothing really hit home. So I walked into the salon, the owner was there, and we introduced ourselves. After we talked, I said, “Hey, if you ever get ready to sell this boat, make sure you call me before you list it.” That was in August 2015. So in February of the following year, I got the call: “Hey, we’re selling the boat.” I said, “Where is it?” “Charleston,” he said. I ran to the car, drove up there, and the next day I ran the boat home.

Q: How many tournaments are you fishing these days?

A: We’ve cut way back. We’re now down to about eight a year. A few around home, a few in the Palm Beach/Jupiter area, both of Skip’s tournaments at Abaco Beach Resort and the Pirate’s Cove tournament. We have been having a lot more fun just fun fishing near home and the Bahamas. There are so many boats fishing, and the runs are really long—the older I get, the less I enjoy it. We’ve been fortunate in our hometown tournament—the Pelican Yacht Club Invitational here in Fort Pierce—and we also put on our own tournament in conjunction with the Pelican that is called the Lenny Schelin Jr. tournament, which supports glioblastoma research. Lenny was the mate on our boat before he passed away from this rare form of brain cancer at the young age of 33. It’s a great tournament with a low entry, a lot of fun with great parties, and we have raised nearly $70,000 for researching cures for this terrible disease since 2018.

A sport-fishing boat flying marlin release flags.
Consistency is key: Huerta and his team are consistently at the top of tournament leaderboards from North Carolina to Florida and the Bahamas. Chris Rabil Photography

Q: What are some of your most memorable trips?

A: I’ve had quite a few, but my top three are having Lenny aboard with us in the two months before he passed away. There was one where he caught three blues by himself and hooked one himself, as well as a sailfish, all in a half day. That was pretty special. Also in 2016, the year we bought the boat, we were fishing in the Custom Shootout and caught a white marlin with about two minutes left to take the lead by 50 points and win it. This past year we caught a blue marlin at the last minute to win the Custom Shootout by 100 points.

Q: The boat is 29 years old—do you foresee yourself getting into something different in the future?

A: The boat runs fine, we rebuilt the engines three years ago, we added sonar, and we have a lot of hours left on her. We keep up with everything, so no, I don’t see us getting anything else. We looked at maybe adding a Seakeeper, but I’m not sure if we are going to do that or not. We travel light, and hotel rooms are cheap. This boat is perfect for us. Capt. Garrett [Yarborough] says that it’s a fishing boat with a smile. We really just started to use the sonar last year and are finally dialing it in. We really only use it a lot when we’re blue marlin fishing in the clear water in the Bahamas. When we’re sailfishing, if it’s rough or we’re fishing an edge, I try more to fish the change and watch for bites than stare at a screen. It’s a lot more fun to me that way.

A sport-fishing boat cruising across the ocean.
Newer isn’t always better—the 29-year-old Paul Mann is a potent fish-raisr and has received numerous upgrades, including omni sonar. Scott Kerrigan / Skip’s Tournaments

Q: Any recent upgrades to the boat that you’ve been really happy with aside from the sonar?

A: We were having a lot of problems tearing up cutlass bearings—the boat has small wheels and small shafts, and also maybe because of that, the boat raises up in the rear when we back down on a fish, and we can almost always get a quick release. But we were hauling out three or four times a year replacing bearings, and we found that if we didn’t haul out and change them, then we didn’t see any fish. This year we swapped out to the new ceramic bearings by KryptoQuiet. They have been a game-changer. We aren’t having to haul out, and it’s been one of our favorite recent upgrades. From a confidence standpoint they are excellent. Before, when we weren’t getting bit, we would assume that it’s time for new bearings, but now we can just concentrate more on fishing.

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Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?

A: I think we’re going to travel more and fun-fish in the next few years. Right now we are ­planning a trip down to the southern Bahamas and also to fish the Dominican Republic this ­summer. We have also talked about taking the boat over to Costa Rica, either on her own bottom or on a ship. I prefer to travel by boat, so these longer, farther trips will certainly change up how we do things. But we’d love to explore more new places, see new things and fish along the way.

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