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A New Jersey Fisherman subscriber's video goes viral after his six-year-old grandson Sam Adams scores a trophy striper in the LBI surf. The man behind the lens, 62-year-old Don Adams, talks about his favorite fishing buddy.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
Tags: surf

“It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
- Mark Twain

Six-year-old Sam Adams stands 47 inches tall. Clad in over-sized chest waders that come up just below his chin, the young surfcaster from Pittman, NJ weighs in at 42 pounds soaking wet.

Perhaps it’s his six-year-old stature that has had social media on fire, ever since Friday, November 6th when young Sam - with his grandfather Don Adams in tow - dragged a 41-pound, 5-ounce striped bass into Jingle’s Bait and Tackle in Beach Haven, NJ on Long Beach Island for weigh-in. At 46-3/4 inches in length with a 26-inch girth, the whopper of a striped bass had no problem engulfing Sam’s bunker chunk on the beach at Spray Beach in foggy, overcast conditions; the bass did however have problems shaking Sam off the other end of the line, though video shows it tried.

The Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic website shows the weigh-in time at noon on Friday; Sam caught his fish about a half-hour earlier. The photo itself of Sam standing head-to-head with his trophy outside of the tackle shop and posted on Facebook would generate the typical immediate skepticism to be expected in today’s Twitter-driven world. As soon as word spread that a 6-year-old surfcaster moved into second place overall in the eight-week long surf fishing tournament with a fish of epic proportions, tongues began to wag and keyboards went into over-drive.

But then a 9:26 video emerged on YouTube showing the actual beach battle between boy and bass, and the cynicism quickly subsided.

“This was not Sam’s first time fishing as you can tell,” Margaret O’Brien from Jingle’s said of the video. “The day we posted this fish we had phone calls with doubters that wanted to protest this fish but now after seeing this have now changed their minds and could not believe what they saw.”

From the very onset of the battle, granddad never puts down the cellphone, capturing the entire battle on video while offering words of encouragement from several yards away.

“Okay, the man’s got a big one this time,” Sam’s grandfather Don says to start the video. “Just hope we have enough line!”

For 9 minutes, young Sam fights relentlessly against the fish, never for even a split second showing signs of giving up or giving in.

“Keep that rod tip up and hold on boy,” the grandfather can be heard saying.

“I crossed your line,” Sam warns granddad.

“That’s alright, don’t worry about my line,” the elder Adams replies. “Go down the beach with him a little bit. You hold on tight though, hold the line up, hold the rod up.”

For non-fishermen who have seen the video (which went from a few dozen views on Saturday to over 25,000 by Monday morning), one might think it difficult for Don Adams to not put down the cellphone to help his grandson.

“He knows if the drag is running, not to reel,” Don told me by cellphone on Monday morning from back on the beach fishing that very same spot. “He learned by fighting me.” When Sam was younger, Don said he would take one end of the line and charge around the back yard dumping line and peeling the drag, with Sam handling the rod and reel. “I was the shark,” the longtime Fisherman subscriber said of their backyard practice sessions, as his apprentice learned the basics of managing a big fish on rod and reel.

For hardcore anglers, the video says it all; not once does the mentor offer to take over, nor does he ever seem worried about losing the fish, or the gear itself!

“Just keep it tight,” Don advises Sam during the fight. “Hold on to him, you got him.”

“I’m tiring him out,” Sam says while digging his boots in the sand and cranking down on the handle, the rod bent over against the massive fish in the surf.

“You’re tiring him out, but don’t get cocky,” granddad responds. “You’re doing good, you’re doing really good.”

Young Sam follows each of his grandfather’s instructions, walking down to the water while cranking the handle to collect line, then easing backwards towards the dunes to gain more ground on the fish. There are times when Sam stumbles, but he never stays down. At other moments it appears as if he might lose grip on the rod and reel, but refuses to give up. Even while taking a break from reeling to rest his weary little hands, the young boy never once seems inclined to give up.

“Walk, walk, walk and reel,” the 62-year-old granddad and recent retiree from Sewell, NJ says as the fish is finally seen in the wash by those who have now gathered on the beach to watch. “Walk, walk, walk and reel.”

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