As a requirement to accepting the crown after winning “King of the Dock” one of the prerequisites is for our winner to sit down and tell us more about his day, his tactics, and techniques. He is administered truth serum and hooked to a lie detector machine to make sure he is telling the truth. Not really, if you knew our new King, you would know that Tommy and crew want people to catch not only fish but the fever as being on the water and fishing with family is a pastime like no other.
So, without further ado……..Let the “Inquisition” begin.
QUESTION: Tommy, tell us a little about you. How long have you been fishing? Help us meet the Clapsadle Family.
ANSWER: Fishing has been a way of life for my family as I started fishing at a very early age with my mom and dad in an 18-foot Sea Ray in front of Pleasure Beach. My grandfather passed away in his boat during the Summer of 1959 in the very same spot I was brought up fishing. When I was 8 years old my father introduced me to wire line fishing by some old salts in the neighborhood. One of the biggest bluefish I ever caught was my first, trolling wire in front of Seaside, by turtle rock where many of the dockage customers blackfish in the Fall. Many nights after school in September and October, my dad would take Victor Sotille and I to troll wire until dark in front of Harkness all along Goshen Reef. In those days we had no reason to fish anywhere else. We had all the fish we needed, bass to 40 pounds, along with slammer bluefish. I did not fish Bartlett’s Reef until I had my own boat, which was my very first purchase when I became a firefighter at the Submarine Base in 1989. Danny Woods, at Bayside Tackle (Tom Dennis owner) showed me on a chart and explained how to fish a red and white parachute inside Bartlett’s Reef. As a young firefighter, I learned many firefighters had moonlight jobs. I started commercial rod and reel fishing for a few local guys, both inshore and offshore out of an 18’ center console. In August of 1997, a week after Michael was born, I received a call from Kevin Bentley asking if I could cover an afternoon trip on the Good Company with Captain Joe Garafano, I said “Sure!” After a few trips with Joe, I was asked to work on the busy charter boat, Lady Margaret with “Papa” Claude Adams. Claude was one of the best wire line captains in the fleet and I knew I was hooked up with not only one of the best fishermen but, one of the nicest guys around. In the winter of 1999, I attended a Captain’s course with my friend Victor, and received my USCG 100 Gross Ton Masters License and the first boat I ran was the “FISH” owned by Pete Fisher. Peter needed to take a week off to watch his grandkids, so he gave me the keys. Each day I would return with a load of bass and blues and will never forget, after tying up from one trip, him jokingly saying to me, “Way to go kid….I am going to take some more time off.” It was a week of thick fog, I responded, “Capt., I will watch the kids you can run the boat.” After being mentored by the finest, I was ready to take the next step and on September 11, 2001 (one of the hardest days in our nation’s history), we took delivery of a 26’ Downeast boat we named, M&M and for several years we ran a successful 4 passenger charter boat. Joey Lapierre actually worked on the M&M when Bobbette and Victor couldn’t make a trip. Michael and Mitchell became extremely busy playing baseball year-round and I was promoted to the Chief of the Submarine Base Fire Department, and we sold the business and the original M&M. Within minutes of cashing the check, we decided it was time to fish for fun and we met Mark & Don at Boats Inc. and bought our first 25’ Parker and the rest is history.
QUESTION: Tell us about your crew, some notable changes this year
ANSWER: It was an emotional week to say the least. Leading up to the tournament I knew our crew would not be the same without Bobbette aboard as she was dealing with a medical issue at YALE. Although the doctor cleared her to “Ride Along” with the weather forecast I wanted her to be safe. Bobbette, hands down is one of the best I have ever had the privilege to fish with.
So, we had our hands full as Bobbette was out, my other mate Victor was in Alaska fishing, and my youngest turned 21 on tournament day and even though he was focused, he also had visions of the “After Party” as well. So, we made a call to the bullpen and brought in Evan (a friend the boys played baseball with) and “My Cousin Vinny” (for real). In the midst of all of this, our biggest “Onshore Supporter” my mom was in Pennsylvania handling arrangements for my uncle who passed away Friday after a short and awful battle with cancer. Needless to say, fishing in the “One Tide” this year came with some added emotion. I am very proud of these guys as where many would simply pack it in, they treated this as a challenge and truly stepped up. After so many years of being in the Top 10 or Top 5, they dug their spikes in, crowded the plate, and were ready for anything thrown at them and we got it done.
QUESTION: It is time to start digging a little deeper into your success for that day, so give us a background of your game plan and preparation please:
ANSWER: Like any trip, I do not care how good you are as with any fishing, there is always some luck involved be it bad or good. With that said, there is a great amount of attention to detail, from the preparation of the tackle, knowing the areas you want to fish and how to fish them, tide, weather, reports, social media and even some pre-scouting trips. As Doc Miko always says, “The tournament is won the day before.” Many guys like to run, but I take pride catching close to home. If it were not forecasted to gust to 25 knots, I may have run over to Block or Montauk, because there were big fish there earlier in the week as Friday, I had two 40’s inside on the flood. I was anxious to get out of the captain’s meeting and the horn to blow, because once the ebb started, it was going to make for a long day waiting for the bass. With a trickle of flood remaining, Mitchell landed a 36” Striper within 45 minutes of leaving the dock while a lot of other boats in the tournament were still running to their spots. I knew there were big blues at The Race leading into the tournament on the ebb so getting away from our wire line comforts, we diamond jigged some bluefish up to 10 pounds on the west end of The Race. Diamond jigging is a very effective way to “catch” but we prefer “Snapping Wire” in known areas looking for that one cow. I typically always fish with six reels (Penn 113’s) spooled with new wire as over time, that has always worked for us whether it be drift, troll, or live line. Patience is key, the fish will bite, for a small window on each tide but you just have to be prepared and don’t miss the opportunity to produce when the moment arrives.
QUESTION: Please share the places you fished that day.
ANSWER: We fished Bartlett’s Reef, Goshen Reef, the West end of The Race, and the south side of Fishers Island. Had we not run out of time on the way end we always make a pass or two at Black Point as both Bass and Blues were there earlier in the week.
QUESTION: You just did not stumble on the spot, how long have you been fishing this area.
ANSWER: For several years I fished areas that I have become very familiar with. Today some of those areas have dried up a bit, such as the sluiceway. The fish no longer come in the numbers or sizes they once did so I would not even waste my time over there (Wink, Wink). Bartlett’s Reef has showed signs of rebounding this year and probably the best I have seen it in five years. As mentioned earlier I grew up snapping wire on Goshen Reef, as did Michael and Mitchell. It is such a great area for young kids to learn how to fish. The boys have scored many trophies in the youth bluefish category fishing on this local reef. The great thing about this sport is it is always changing so you just have to put your time in finding the new hideouts and do your best to control your excitement when you do locate a new “Haunt” by not telling the world.
QUESTION: When you got to your spot, how did you fish?
ANSWER: Wire of course! We started with Tube and the otter tail and in minutes Mitchell a 36-inch bass in the boat. As the day went on, we switched it up in many ways, green parachutes, spoons, tubes of every color, and even diamond jigs in the race. After several hours and late in the game, I was beat, I deferred to Michael as to what he thought. Without much hesitation, “Green Parachute and let’s get back to snapping wire!” We caught both the bass and blue we took to the scale snapping that green parachute, or our version of “Old Faithful.”
QUESTION: How deep were you fishing?
ANSWER: We were fishing anywhere between 15 and 40 feet, very challenging when fishing wire line as you must avoid dragging bottom while also focusing on getting the lures deep enough.
QUESTION: Please share with the readers what time and what the tide conditions were when you hooked up to the fish that put you over the top.
ANSWER: The first bass we caught was a nice 36-inch fish that came first thing on our second pass at 8:15 trolling a tube which was just prior to slack tide right at the very end of the flood. Our big bluefish was caught by Denny around 1:00 towards the end of the ebb tide. The striper we brought to the scale was caught by Michael around 2:15 with the wind gusting and the seas were building and most likely just on the front end of the flood tide. I was fried mentally and shared with my crew, “Last Pass” when Michael yelled, “Fish On!”
QUESTION: Once that bass was aboard, you knew you had the winner, right?
ANSWER: Not at all. Our family has been fortunate enough to always place somewhere in the Top 10 and a few years in the top 3, and last year we missed winning it all by only 4 ounces. Over the years we have brought some beautiful fish to the scale, and although this year we didn’t have the sizes we may have had in previous years, we were simply hoping for a respectable finish and remain in the Top 10. After landing Michael’s bass, we looked at one another and thought, “Maybe Top 5” but never thought we would come out on top. There are several good fishermen who love to compete that reside at our Marina. I watched Sean Maginess troll alongside of us and the rod double over as he put a nice bass aboard. I knew Joey LaPierre was fishing some high spots over at the Montauk Rips, and past champions Dave Warwick and Raymond Etienne were over at Block Island with Doc Miko while other heavy hitters grinded it out in the Race and over at The Gut. As earlier stated, we stayed the course, and grinded out in the shallow water close to home! Every year I lose focus hunting for that one big bass but have to remember a big bluefish rings up points very quickly and coupled with a decent bass is what can put you over the top.
QUESTION: Final Thought(s) for This Year’s One Tide Challenge
ANSWER: Wow, I have a lot of final thoughts, but most importantly, not having Bobbette on the boat with me this year, put a lot of things into perspective. It’s no secret as to how good a fisherman she is but she puts in the time because she loves it. It’s not a competition, she simply loves to fish. People that have been fortunate enough to fish with her see that passion and expertise. Additionally, she is willing to share with men, women, and children as the more the merrier and if you “Catch” she is thrilled because it is an activity, we all can do. On to the more serious, life is way too short and you never know what challenges one may face whether it be a year, a month, a week, a day….even a tide. So, based on what happened to our team the week prior to the One Tide, enjoy the days. Do something that gives you pleasure that you enjoy doing together. Now couple that with the family we have at Boats Inc, life is good. So, if you see us out on the water and you want to catch and you see Bobbette working the cockpit, stay close….we are going to catch. Thank you Boats Incorporated for all you do for me and my family. This is an amazing event people look forward to every year and as long as I have been on the water, there is no one out there doing what you do for your customers 7 days a week.