The shark fishing world is rife with stories of monster predators towing boats and snapping line strong enough to stop a runaway train.
But myth became reality for Alan Belcher when one of the biggest tope of all time ripped his rod out of the rest and left it hanging precariously over the side of the boat.
After managing to grab the butt of the rod as the huge 76lb specimen stripped line off his reel at a rate of knots, the Middlesex angler began to do battle with one of the biggest tope ever to be caught on rod and line.
It falls just 6lb 8oz short of the current British record of 82lb 8oz, a fish caught from Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, in 1992, and was finally beaten by the 40-year-old plasterer after an exhausting 20-minute fight aboard the charter vessel ‘Nab Cat’ out of Hayling Island, Hants.
“I turned my back to get a sandwich out of my lunch box and the skipper shouted ‘Alan! Get your rod!’ The fish had taken off at such a speed that the locking rest had slipped round and the rod was hanging in the water,” said Alan.
“The power of the fish was immense and I really feared that my 30lb mainline was going to give. It is, without doubt, the best fight and the most amazing buzz I’ve ever had while fishing!”
A mackerel hookbait presented at a mark east of the Nab Tower proved to be the winning combination for Alan, who was under the expert guidance of skipper Barry Meech.
“This tope was like a ballistic missile - I’ve never seen a fish nearly rip a rod into the water like that in all my 11 years as a charter skipper!” said Barry.