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Nedd this competition hook up fishing love

June 14, 1987|By DARLENE H. GARDNER, Staff Writer

When Bill Noll and Tom Young took off on fishing jaunts a few years ago, Linda Hopkinson never begged to go along.

Hopkinson, who is Noll`s girlfriend and Young`s sister, didn`t think she had the makeup to be a fisherman. ``I`m afraid of the water, plus I get seasick,`` she said.

Hopkinson`s competitors at recent fishing tournaments would probably be surprised at the revelation.

Since Hopkinson teamed up with Noll and Young in June 1986 on the X`Austed Rooster as main angler, the boat has finished in the top five in every tournament it has entered. Noll is captain of the boat, and Young is backup angler.

``We all have different expertise,`` Young said. ``Linda knows how to catch the fish, I`m pretty good at gaffing them and Bill runs the boat. It takes teamwork. There`s no way to do it by yourself.``

In May`s Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo, X`Austed Rooster took third-place boat honors, Hopkinson was third angler (out of 630) and top female angler, and she and Young won top family honors.

Hopkinson got hooked on the sport about four years ago after Noll took her bass fishing at some hot spots on Alligator Alley. Before long, she was a regular third on Noll`s and Young`s fishing trips.

The lure of catching a sailfish attracted Hopkinson most of all. The fish are notorious fighters once they`re hooked, and Hopkinson relishes the battle to reel them in.

``She got addicted to catching fish,`` Noll said. ``Now, when Linda gets grouchy, the only thing that makes her happy is to catch a sailfish.``

Hopkinson is so enamored of the fish that she wears the likeness of a sailfish on a gold chain around her neck and has the smallest sailfish she ever caught (3 1/2 pounds) mounted in her bathroom.

Still, Hopkinson admits that her nerves act up when the boat gets out of sight of land. An incident a few years ago fueled her uneasiness. The trio was fishing in Noll`s 19-foot boat when they got caught in a major storm.

``We couldn`t see anything,`` Hopkinson said. ``We were in Key Biscayne, and the boat was crashing down on 10-, 12-foot waves. It was a miracle that we made it. After that, I didn`t go saltwater fishing for over a year.``

Noll and Young are glad she reconsidered, because Hopkinson is an important ingredient in their winning team. Van Harrington, the mate, rounds out their crew.

Noll, who gave up his body shop six months ago to take a job as captain of the Moby Dick V at Bahia Mar, explained their fishing strategy.

On the morning of a tournament, the X`Austed Rooster crew gets up in the dark of night to fish for live bait. At the Pompano Fishing Rodeo, they started their day at 2 a.m., six hours before the tournament started.

The next step is to scout possible fishing sites. ``We find water that looks good to us,`` Noll said. ``We find rips or color changes, areas along reefs that have produced sailfish for us before.``

By the time the tournament starts, the crew has laid the groundwork for a good day.

``We use a system called free lining, and most people don`t fish this system. We`ll fish up to eight rods at all times, and it`s quite a bit of work to keep everything untangled. If the fish are not in one place, we`ll pick up and do it all over again,`` Noll said, adding that the technique varies slightly depending on what they`re fishing for.

``You don`t even have time to go to the bathroom or do anything. You`re out on the rods constantly,`` Hopkinson said, adding that the crew uses light, 30- pound tackle.

Even though they get along well enough, tournaments try each crew member`s patience.

``There`s a lot of tension, because we have a lot of money at stake. The last tournament cost us $1,500 to enter,`` Young explained.

Hopkinson said the fish that gets away could mean the difference between first and second place, which could amount to thousands of dollars.

The tournaments, however, are more a means to an end than an end itself. Noll is trying to build a career as a captain, and success at tournaments helps his growing reputation.

Once the X`Austed Rooster has engine work, the crew plans to fish bigger, more lucrative tournaments in the Keys and the Bahamas. For now, however, the trio doesn`t profit heavily from the tournaments.

``It`s gotten to the point where it`s paying for itself,`` Noll said. ``We have got a lot of electronics in the boat, rods and reels and tackle.``

Noll, Young and Hopkinson first teamed up at the Ladies` Fish Off in June, 1986 and came away with high-point boat honors.

Their first big tournament was the Fort Lauderdale Semi-Annual Billfish Tournament in October, 1986. The X`Austed Rooster was the third-place boat, and Hopkinson caught the heaviest sailfish (61 1/2 pounds) and was high point ladies angler.

The high-place finishes keep coming, and Hopkinson is a major reason for it. Noll said she has fought as many as 100 fish in a tournament, an accomplishment that takes stamina and skill.

``A lot of people don`t know how to fish. When a fish is running away from the boat, they want to tighten up the fish and stop it,`` she said. ``We let the fish run. If you tighten the line, it will break.``

Hopkinson and Noll live on the 34-foot X`Austed Rooster, which is moored at Royal Palm Yacht Basin in Dania. Young, who owns a pool service business, is from Miami.

The trio`s only disappointment is that Noll`s new job and the tournaments take away from their personal fishing time.

``Wd don`t get to go play fishing like we used to,`` Hopkinson said. ``We used to go just for fun.``

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1987-06-14/news/8702220271_1_sailfish-fishing-tournaments-saltwater-fishing