DESTIN Florida– Adlee Bruner's fishing story is about the big one that didn't get away.
Bruner and five friends headed out Saturday morning on a charter boat, hoping to catch some grouper to enter in the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.
Instead, Bruner landed a gargantuan 844.4-pound mako shark, setting a new record for the decades-old tournament.
"It was tense," Bruner, 47, said about the fight to land the 11-foot shark with a mouthful of huge teeth. "I've fished for 40 years. I've never see one that big."
WILLIAM HATFIELD Florida Freedom Newspapers
VIDEO: Watch video of the shark being brought up to the harbor
Bruner and his fishing buddies were on the 52-foot charter boat "Twilight" with Capt. Robert Hill of Destin and deckhand Eric Hayles.
"We were precisely 70 miles southwest of Destin," Hill said. "In beautiful blue water. It was about 280 feet deep."
The fishermen first noticed the big mako because it kept eating grouper and scamp they had hooked.
"I told them to bring up their rigs," Hill said.
When the rigs came up, the big shark surfaced just behind the boat.
"A huge shark," Bruner said.
"That was an incredible sight," Hill said. "You sort of run around not knowing what to do, it was so big.
"It was like 'Jaws.' "
Hill hooked a two-foot amberine on as bait and tossed it out. The rig included a stout fiberglass rod and a Shimano PLD 50 reel custom built at Destin's Half-Hitch Tackle, with 100-lb. test line and a steel leader.
About 10 minutes after the bait was in the water, at 12:20 p.m., the shark hit about 200 feet from the boat, and the fight was on.
"He went to the bottom for about 30 minutes," Hill said of the shark. "(Then) it just decided to come up to the surface."
Bruner was not strapped in to a chair as he battled the huge fish.
"I was standing up the whole time," he said.
When the shark surfaced, Hill backed the boat up to it. That is when things got tense, Bruner and Hill said.
"My deckhand (Hayles) was the most courageous of all," Hill said. "He reached out there and gaffed him. He's the one who knew the fish wasn't worn down. He's tough."
"He went crazy," Bruner said of the shark. "It was a fight."
At one point the rope attached to the gaffe wrapped around the boat's rudder and began to fray. But after 10 minutes they were able to get another rope around the shark's tail.
"Once we had the tail roped, we had him," Hill said. Still, it took about an hour for the fish to succumb.
But then a challenge arose.
"We couldn't get him in the boat," Bruner said. "We tried for about an hour, but we couldn't pick him up."