Teenage Lady Angler Catches Three Tuna in Just Four Hours of Fishing

The yellowfin bite heats up during the 2017 Pensacola International Billfish Tournament

big tuna catch in Gulf of Mexico
Shay Clemons reeled in three yellowfin tuna topping 130 pounds — one weighed 174 pounds — and finished first, third and fourth place in the 2017 Pensacola International Billfish Tournament.Courtesy Landon Rhodes

The Gulf of Mexico is one of the best fishing grounds in the world during the summer.

But for one 13-year-old angler, those pristine waters gave her not one, or even two, but three catches she’ll never forget — in part because of how little time there was between each.

Shay Clemons caught three fat yellowfin tuna in just a four-hour window of fishing during the 2017 Pensacola International Billfish Tournament.

winning tuna from Pensacola International Billfish Tournament
Shay Clemons' first big yellowfin was the largest tuna in the 2017 Pensacola International Billfish Tournament. She caught three in four hours of fishing.Courtesy Landon Rhodes

Fishing aboard Breathe Reel Deep, a 52-foot Ocean home-ported in Orange Beach, Alabama, Clemons dominated the tournament's tuna division with a 174-pound tuna, the first of the three, and two more at 138 and 137 pounds. Those catches placed first, third and fourth. Her father Shawn Clemons captains the boat, while Landon Rhodes and Josh "Goody" Goodson handle the cockpit duties for the team.

Below is Rhodes’ account of the three catches, with the first coming on the afternoon of the tournament’s first day and the second and third on the following morning.

We’re marlin fishermen. We don’t fish for tuna, so we were about 110 miles offshore the first day of the tournament looking for a big blue, with 130s on the shorts and 80s everywhere else in the spread. The first fish came up on the short rigger and we put Shay in the chair thinking it was a blue [marlin].

Shay is 13 years old and weighs about 85 pounds soaking wet. We saw the fish come up and were like ‘Oh, my Lord, it’s the fish of a lifetime.’ Shay has caught blue marlin up to 500 pounds but never a yellowfin. One this big — 170 pounds —will whoop a grown man’s butt in a heartbeat. The fish fought for about 48 minutes before I stuck it, and that was the tournament winner.

big tuna catch in Gulf of Mexico
Despite trolling for marlin, the crew aboard Breathe Reel Deep experienced incredible tuna fishing in the Pensacola International Billfish Tournament.Courtesy Landon Rhodes

The next morning we’re still looking for marlin. Sure enough, 30 minutes in, a fish goes right on the short rigger again. It dumps a ton of line in about 30 seconds. We got Shay strapped in and Goody got her ready. She did the rest herself. Goody wired it and I stuck the tuna after no more than 45 minutes.

Around 15 minutes later, here comes another one. I’m the only other angler on the boat and I told Shay, ‘You’re going to have to do it again.’ We got her in the chair and she handled it great.

I’ve never seen anything like it. For a girl that size in a tournament setting with no help, I don’t know if catching three back to back to back like that has ever happened. None of the fish took over 45 minutes. It’s just crazy.

The first tuna hit an Abaco Prowler. They were hitting massive lures. The second one hit a green-and-black 12-inch Marlin Magic lure, and the third one hit a Senior Wide Range in Halloween colors. I’ve got nothing but props to say to the crew. We brought them up quick and stuck them, and it paid off for us in the tournament.