We are happy to introduce you to Allison Wigley. Allison has really made an impression on the Florida fishing scene. She loves to chase snook around her home waters and has also become a very in-demand photographer, serving as the tournament photographer for a host of popular Florida sailfish tournaments. We asked her to answer a few questions about her love of fishing and how she has combined her fishing skills with her photography to create a burgeoning business.
Q: Where is home for you and where do you do most of your fishing? For what species?
A: I live in Jensen Beach, Florida, and do most of my fishing out of Stuart and Fort Pierce. This time of year the sailfishing is great in this area. A lot of the big boats are here now for the tournaments, it’s kind of what I see as the beginning of my tournament season. Snook season is winding down, we fish for them at night, and they’re a lot of fun to catch. My friends all know if they get a picture of the keeper it’s their invite to the snook taco party the next night!
Q: I’ve seen that you are pretty handy with a camera and have shot some tournaments and stuff. Are you still doing the photography?
A: Of course! I’ve been able to travel quite a bit and shot some big tournaments over the years. I was on the docks at the Bahamas Billfish Championship when they pulled the grander out of the boat, it was the largest blue marlin ever caught in the Bahamas. I also saw my first white marlin at the White Marlin Open up in Maryland. I’ve been taking pictures for 26 years, I never guessed that the camera would be the catalyst that has taken me to this level of offshore tournament fishing.
Q: Do you remember the first time you went fishing?
A: I grew up catching perch in Oklahoma lakes with my dad. I loved it. In my 20s I worked for Everglades Boats and got to fish tournaments with them. I enjoyed it, fun boats and long 60-mile runs to the fish, but I have to say everything changed when I moved back to Stuart. On a fluke, I was invited to photograph the Sailfish Classic at Pirates Cove Resort in Stuart. It was a new group of people and my first time on a big sport-fisher. I was a little nervous, to say the least, and to top it off I stayed up all night watching the offshore tornado warnings on The Weather Channel. I showed up to the tournament before the sun, certain it would be canceled, only to find lots of cute boys in rubber suits carrying trays of dead fish. I thought to myself, This might not be so bad. It was freezing cold, it rained all day and it was rough, but it may have been one of the best days of my life. I was put on a brand new 73-foot F&S and the crew was incredible. The guys caught 16 sails that day and won the tournament. I guess you could say I was hooked that day and I’ve been in freespool ever since.
Q: So are sailfish your favorite fish or is it something else?
A: That’s a really tough question! Fishing for each species is such a different experience, I really enjoy it all! Snook fishing here in town under the docks, or tuna fishing for 36 hours at a time in the Northeast? I couldn’t say, I love it all. We’re not comparing apples to apples!
Q: What is your most memorable catch?
A: How can I not say the first sailfish I reeled in? The captain threw me in the ocean and they let me keep the release flag. It still hangs in a frame in my room! But recently, I hooked my first sail. It happened to be during a tournament and the angler was an 11-year-old. Everything happened so fast! The fish came up on the left long and I was the one standing there, I pointed the rod tip to the rigger and let the fish eat the bait. Everyone said I would just know when I felt the fish and I did. It was like a feather on a hook. I came tight and the crew went nuts. I told the angler “good luck” as I handed the rod to him. I understand now what the mate really means when he says good luck. It’s more like “you better catch this fish!” The kid was great. By the time he got it to the boat, it was decided that I would also wire the fish. I had seen it done hundreds of times and I just did it. My first hook and release! It was pretty exhilarating.
Q: Nice! Do you like to get your hands dirty when you fish and help out with filleting or rigging baits?
A: I do get dirty. I snell hooks, floss mullet, and rig ballyhoo. I find myself wanting to do more and more on the boats, but a scale on the lens can really foul up a picture, so I try to find a balance. Photography is my bread and butter and has really been my ticket into this world. I just try to do both as often as I can.
Q: How often do you get out fishing these days?
A: I fish enough that it’s changed my life. I turned down a secure full-time position for the opportunity to spend 18 days in the Northeast. I fished almost every day. Here in Florida, there is always a lull in the bite during the late summer, but it picks up again in the winter. The bite is great now and I’ve spent the last couple of months fishing pretty hard.
Q: If you could fish anywhere in the world for any species, what would you choose?
A: I’ve got a few goals. I would like to make it to Isla Mujeres, Bermuda, and Los Sueños. A dream came true last week — I was invited to fish with one of the top boats in the Dominican Republic. I hope to make it down next season. I would love to catch a blue in the DR and I’m looking for the guts to photograph from the water in Isla.
Q: Okay, last question — shopping or fishing… Which one do you prefer?
A: I’ve had a lot of great days in Palm Beach, shopping and enjoying wine at long lunches with my mom or my girlfriends, but really? Have you ever caught a nice one?
To see more of Allison’s photos, make sure to visit her @alliedub13