Watermen Jacob Dupree and Tripp Amick recently competed in the Lowcountry Open, winning second place in the Simrad Swordfish category. We sat down with these two members of the Penalty Box team and talked about their journey to the tourney.
On Getting Started
Rheos: So, let’s start with the basics. How did you start fishing and what impact has it had on you?
Jacob Dupree: I have fished since I was able to grip a rod and know to reel in on my own and it is the same science as riding a bike. Fishing has given me pride in the place where I’m from, the place I call home. It gives me the respect I need to treat the ocean the right way, to be a true sportsman and stewards of the water and surrounding habitats. Too many times is the ocean taken for granted, and it’s hard to see how some people treat it, and fishing has caused me to not be one of those abusers.
Tripp Amick: I started freshwater fishing when I was 3, basically when I could walk and talk. There’s not a dollar amount you can put on the happiness fishing brings me. That’s one of the reasons why I started a full-blown charter company. I want to fuel the fire of the passion of fishing that I have and share that with others. So many people don’t have passions, so putting a smile on someone’s face and instilling that love, drive, and desire to learn more about fishing is a dream job, a dream come true for me. It started with fishing but it’s a whole lot broader about teaching people about ocean conservation, to have fish for future generations. I want future generations to enjoy the ocean like I have.
Rheos: How did you start your team and why do you fish in tournaments?
Tripp: Jacob and I both went to the same university and have a tight group of friends from college and we all fish together. A lot of people are spread throughout the states but we always try to get together for a few tournaments. We always block a week off to fish. The fellowship with your friends, all the heck yeahs and every smile, that’s why we do it. I can’t get fired up enough about it, the tournament sets you apart from the competition and shows that hard work paid off. It also kept our friend group really tight, imagine living in Asheville, Charlotte, etc, and yet we still go fishing today.
Jacob: When Tripp got a boat that could fit the bill, we knew it was time to up our ante and start fishing competitively. We all work great together and we know each other's buttons and how to avoid pushing them and we can all take criticism from each other without losing our cool. We are here for the shared memories and the triumphs, but none of it matters if we don’t make it home in one piece so we do not take safety lightly.
Rheos: So what would you say to someone who is looking to find their own crew?
Jacob: Don’t go “find” your own crew. Grow as one. A good team doesn’t happen overnight. Practice makes perfect, and there is no better practice than fun fishing. Use your time fun fishing to capitalize on taking new chances on strategies and spots while out on the water. Get extremely comfortable with all gear and know the boat and how each other work.
Tripp: As far as going and getting a tournament fishing group, everyone started at the very bottom when it comes to fishing on boats. Unless you own your own boat or know someone who does, the boat is the most important part. So find a crew or a friend or somebody who is open enough to taking you out and teaching you is very important. Be a sponge, soak up all the information, don’t go in thinking you know everything. And if you ever get that opportunity, make sure to go the extra mile to get another invite. Stay extra time, ask if you can come early and help. Be extremely helpful.
Rheos: So before any tournament, what’s your routine? Any good luck charms?
Jacob: For me, it’s hydrating, eating right, packing my gear, unpacking, and repacking to make sure I have everything I need. You can’t just turn around and run back in if you forgot something so it all comes with me. That being all of my camera gear, rain gear, sun protection, and emergency gear.
Tripp: I do have a good luck charm. My mom passed away when I was young. Before she died, she gave my dad a necklace with a charm of an angel with 2 people inside her wings, each representing my dad and I. When I was 12, my dad gave it to my uncle when he went to Afghanistan. My uncle came back alive and fine and then he gave it to me. When Jacob was diagnosed with cancer, I gave it to him. I was with Jacob most of the time, every hospital visit I was there, told him to give me the necklace back when he was in remission. The day he was in remission, I was in the office and he told us and he was wearing the necklace and he gave it back to me and we had a moment. It’s a good luck charm.
Before a tournament, we’re checking all of our rods, lines, taking care of our equipment like we’re fishing for a $20,000 fish. We’re going through tackle materials, rigging the bait, getting everything prepped, making sure all of our safety gear is in tact. I treat my boat like an airplane and focus on safety. I make sure everything is in proper tip top shape. And you got to make sure everyone’s ready to go, they’re going to bed ready to win that tournament and not just fish in it.
Rheos: And of course you’re checking that you packed your favorite pair of sunglasses, too.
Tripp: So, funny story, we were fishing and I had completely forgotten I had tried on a pair of Jacob’s glasses. He was like, “hey man can I have my sunglasses back?” I totally forgot they were on my face. I like that they’re so light, the polarization is so great, I can see fish coming into the spread well. I actually use the amber lenses for hunting and they’re a little better in the early morning. But when the sun is up, I switch to blue. And if I wipe out, they fall off, they’re floating right there beside me.
Jacob: Goodness, if you could take a poll of the number one thing lost on the water, I’d put all my money on it being sunglasses. These glasses make that impossible, all the while having the ability and utilization factor that any angler needs. True eye protection, great lenses, and polarization. And to only come in at 50 bucks? SOLD! TAKE MY MONEY.
We promise, we didn’t pay them to say this.
On the Lowcountry Open
Rheos: Now let’s talk about the Lowcountry Open. What was that experience like?
Tripp: The LowCountry Open was my first swordfish tournament and we competed against 10 or so boats and came in second in the release division. I’ve never actually fished, in a tournament, for swordfish. We actually found out that if we had killed this fish we released, we would’ve won $3,000. It’s a tough category. The weather has to be the most perfect, it’s really hard to see, there’s multiple factors.
Jacob: We went overnight. Which was my first time doing that. It was very hard getting your equilibrium right on a rocking boat in the complete darkness so that was pretty funny. But I’m happiest on the water so I was loving every second of it. It’s a whole different ball game. Your homework better be done. Your preparation better be perfect. Your patience level, most importantly has to be higher than ever. Swordfish are a humbling animal and their species haven’t survived for millions of years because they are EASY to catch, it’s because of the contrary. You may be waiting a while, but when it happens, all of your ducks better be in a row. These deep water fish have soft mouths and fight like a caged and enraged gorilla.
Rheos: And what would you say was the most memorable part?
Jacob: For me, it was being able to step back and focus on capturing the experience, as well as meeting some of the greatest and like-minded people that all enjoy the same resources the ocean has to offer. And the tournament brings attention to our many problems that veterans face. They are not taken care of enough and they deserve better from the people they served, fought for, and protected.Tripp: What was most memorable, was having the opportunity to take a veteran offshore and share that new experience with him. Local businesses in Charleston coming together to put veterans on boats like that was really cool. It goes back to me having the enjoyment of sharing fishing as a sport. Just to watch him smile and say ‘wow did you see that dinosaur’ and spend night and day fishing was incredible. It was putting that happiness in that guys eyes, getting him to smile and give him an experience he’s never had before. That was incredible.
*Thanks to our friends @jacobmdupree, @redamick, @ginja_ninja_fishingteam, @kyle.l.jones, @penaltyboxfishing, @creardon86