Destin angler jumps into Gulf to get loose rod hooked with cobia

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

When a football player fumbles the ball, it hits the ground or it’s picked up by another player, but when a fisherman fumbles the rod with a 50-pound fish on line – it’s time to hit the water.

And that’s exactly what Capt. Taylor Bankston did on Tuesday while cobia fishing.

“I didn’t think twice about it,” Bankston said when he saw the rod go into the water.

RELATED: Crew battles 400-lb flying mako shark west of Destin while cobia fishing (VIDEO)

Bankston had taken a crew out fishing in the Rona Brown Bag 2.0 cobia tournament aboard his 25.6-foot center console boat, Get the Gaff, on Tuesday when they spotted a pair of cobia.

Fishing west of Destin, near the Navarre Pier, Bankston and the guys hooked up with a pair of cobia from the tower.

“We were transferring the rod out of the tower so we could fight the fish,” Bankston said, when the unthinkable happened. "It slipped out of the person’s hands in the tower and shot over the back of the boat.“

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At that point, Bankston went into action.

"It just went shooting by me. I saw where it went and I didn’t hesitate. I dove right over the engine about six feet and landed right on (the rod),“ he said.

Bankston said before his feet hit the water his hands were on the rod.

In the meantime, the guys on the boat were fighting the other cobia, leaving Bankston stranded for a few minutes.

“I was out in the water with the rod catching the fish, swimming with my flip flops on and they were all on the boat trying to get the other fish in the boat, and I’m thinking, ’Why don’t you come get me?’ ” he recalled

In that first minute he was in the water, Bankston said his first reaction was to put the reel in free spool and make sure the fish was still on the line. When he felt the fish on the line, he got the reel back on the bail and started cranking on it.

“I started feeling the weight and the more weight I felt, the more excited I got ... that was a good moment,” Bankston said.

He finally got tight on the cobia and was able to adjust the drag.

“This was all done under the water,” he said, noting that just the top 4 feet of the rod was out of the water.

The guys on the boat finally got their cobia settled down and came and got the rod and him back on the boat.

“I was only in the water for about three and a half minutes but when you’re in the water with your flip flops on, it’s a long time,” he said with a laugh.

When it was all said and done, Bankston and the guys managed to reel in the two cobia, he saved his buddy’s custom-built rod and he saved his flip flops.

Bankston said his dad later asked why he’d jumped in the water with all those sharks around.

“Oh ... I had to get the fishing rod,” he said. “When I saw the rod go in I was thinking for the fish, I was thinking for the angler and I was thinking for the person who owned the rod.”

Bankston explained that the rod was part of a matching, custom-built set and it would have been lost.

Plus they had just told one of the anglers on the boat, “Hey, we’ve got you a cobia on.” Bankston said the guy was excited. Also, the fish would have been dragging around a fishing rod.

“So by me jumping in the water I was able to fix all those scenarios,” Bankston said.

Once Bankston and both fish were on board, they fished a bit more and wound up seeing a wad of juvenile cobia plus another single.

And just when they thought they had seen and done it all for one day they spotted a shark on the way back home.

“We saw a giant Mako jump 10-foot out of the water. I’m just thankful that guy wasn’t around while I was out there,” Bankston said.

Once back at the scales, the guys weighed in the two cobia for a total of 83.4 pounds in the Rona Brown Bag 2.0 cobia tournament.

Their fish wasn’t the biggest.

“But we had the best story,” Bankston said.