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'Don't let him bite'

4/12/2007

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Show Two of the 2007 Quiznos Madfin Shark Series airs Sunday, April 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The six episodes air each Sunday through June. Check for show times and re-airs. Madfin TV schedule

Editor's note: See exclusive video to ESPNOutdoors.com at bottom of page.

From behind mirrored shades and a mask of sunscreen, Steve Rodger scans the flats around Key West, Fla., for sharks. He and his partner, Jake Perry, together are team Spear One, competing against seven other teams on the first day of the Quiznos Madfin Shark Series.

Each pair is vying to catch, measure and release big, exotic sharks. Two teams will be eliminated at the end of the first and second days. On the first morning, there is already a sense of urgency. For Rodger, that will soon appear to border on the foolhardy.

"Hey, we've got another shark here," Perry says. "Just off the starboard side."

Rodger reels in the fish, a little lemon shark with a fresh-looking gash on one side. With gloved hands, Perry pulls the shark to the side of the boat for measurement.

"I can hold his head with the rod, and I can grab the leader myself," Rodger offers. He holsters his pole and moves to help Perry.

The small shark takes a chomp at Perry's left hand. Perry pulls away, as Rodger says, "Don't let him bite you," and the shark squirms out of Perry's right hand on its tail. Rodger, still holding the line, reaches for the rod, but a moment too late. He fumbles it, then tumbles into the water after it.

The rod disappears as the shark drags it away; Rodger wades back to the boat through the chest-deep water. He said later that he held onto his sandals by remembering to clench his toes. "Good thing we're fishing with your gear, and not mine," Perry says. "Nice try, nice try."

Rodger's blunder meant a lost rod and lost time, for other teams were actually catching sharks and releasing them on purpose. Team Crooked Island scored the 100-point bonus for first catch by hooking up on a big lemon early in the morning.

"He's a big one, Robbie," Carter Andrews tells his teammate, Robbie Gibson, as Andrews reeled in the 9 ½-foot lemon. The shark thrashes and gnaws at the boat until Andrews and Gibson get a satisfactory measurement, retrieve the hook and free it from the "tailer," the pole-and-loop that the competitors use to handle a shark's aft half.

Team Redfish has its choice of sharks at one point. With one lemon already on his line, Robert Moore tells his teammate, Mike Mahan, "You've got three sharks out there, Mikey." The response: "I think I just got picked up."

The two men become a flurry of lines, tailers and hook removers. No sooner do they remove the first hook than it's time to bring the second lemon shark to the boat. The second hook comes out with a metallic scrape, like the sound you hear in your skull at the dentist's office.

It's with rapid catches that the first episode of the Madfin coverage leads into the second, which will air this Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Team Finesse's Ken Harris and his son, Clay, head to deeper, blue water in search of a more valuable species of shark — a mako, say, or a hammerhead — but instead find a sandbar shark. It's a tougher catch than a lemon on the flats, yet worth the same 100 points with hook removal.

Team Conch (Rush Maltz and Stevie Impallomeni) manages to catch and release a lemon shark bent on bending itself like a Slinky. Spear One scores an 8-foot lemon that takes a healthy swipe at Perry's arm.

And Key Limey, the returning champion from last year, the inaugural Madfin Series, makes a run after a hook-up to catch up with a lemon at the end of the line. Turns out the beast is about 10-feet-long.

"Biggest lemon shark I've seen in my life," Tony Murphy tells teammate Carl Marciallo. It's also the biggest of the day, when all is done, good for 300 bonus points.

"Key Limey releases a huge lemon shark," Murphy says when he calls in the catch. "Huge. Gets the hook out."

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