• Published:February 12, 2013
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Keith Brandner isn't your ordinary teenager. He's happiest when he's on the water chasing game fish.

How'd you get into fishing?

My mom bought me my first fishing rod when I was about five years old. It was really a spur of the moment thing. My dad, brother, and I used to go down to the canal in Shinnecock, New York, and catch snapper blues. Those are some of my favorite memories. Then, when I was about seven, my friend from school and his dad took us out fluke fishing on their boat. By that time, I had already developed a fascination for sharks. I caught a sand shark and it really snowballed from there. I convinced my dad to buy a boat, a 26-foot
Grady-White and we started going inshore fishing and occasionally shark fishing too.

It seems like for most of the younger generation is all about gaming and computers. What caused you to pursue more hands-on endeavors?

I have never been a fan of video games. I never felt like I was accomplishing anything playing video games. It seemed like a big waste of time. When I go fishing, I always have a goal in mind. That way, when I reach my goal, I feel like I have accomplished something. I have always enjoyed the adventure aspect of big-game fishing. I love going to remote regions of the world in search of these creatures. I don't think that is something that can be replicated on any screen.

Your dad has supported you and your passion from the beginning. Is he as adamant about fishing as you are?

I have been extremely lucky to have a very supportive family. It is not only my dad, but also my mom and brother. They both get extremely seasick on boats, so they don't go out with me much. Nonetheless, they have supported me from the beginning. I also happen to have the best father in the world - he says his passion for fishing lies in seeing me catch fish and do what I love. I would be nowhere without the support of my family. 
" We caught a 241.3-pound yellowfin tuna on our first day, setting a new Junior Angler record. Luck was really on our side, as none of the other boats out there caught a fish more than 80 pounds."
Sounds like you spent a lot of time traveling to some pretty impressive locations. What are some of your favorites?

I have been lucky enough to travel to Mauritius, the Canary Islands, Nova Scotia, Maryland, North Carolina, south Florida, the Caribbean, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. My favorites are Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Piñas Bay, Panama. When you grow up offshore fishing in New York, you to want to catch big tuna. Fishing for giant yellowfin off of Puerto Vallarta is like paradise to me and I love Panama because it has been so reliable for big marlin.

I know catching world records is a top priority for you. What records have you broke, and what are some that you have your sights on?

I broke my first world record in August 2010, fishing in Puerto Vallarta with Capt. Herk Marsella on the Frantic Pace. We caught a 241.3-pound yellowfin tuna on our first day, setting a new Junior Angler record. Luck was really on our side, as none of the other boats out there caught a fish more than 80 pounds. The second record I broke was the All-Tackle record for Permit. I was fishing with Capt. Bouncer Smith out of Miami. I wanted to go swordfishing, but it was too rough so we went inshore fishing. It was a pretty good consolation prize!

When we went to Nova Scotia I wanted to catch a 900-pound bluefin tuna on 50-pound as that would have been a new record. I fought a grander for about an hour before the hook pulled. Then, we fought a 900-plus-pounder for five hours before the fish came up. Josh Temple grabbed the leader, and the fish proceeded to almost break his hand and the leader. Still, I was very proud that we even got that far.

Now, my goal is to break the All-Tackle yellowfin record, which is currently 427 pounds. There have been a number of 400-plus-pound yellowfin caught out at the Revillagigedo Islands, so I think it is definitely possible.

We hear that your family just purchased a new 60-foot Spencer that is in the process of getting some serious custom rigging. What are your plans with this boat?

I am thrilled about the new operation we are starting up. We are completely refitting the boat for West Coast fishing -- improved bait systems, a redundant generator that is essential for long-range trips, a Seakeeper Gyro Stabilizer for increased comfort and safety, and improved electronics, including a side-scanning sonar.

We're planning on doing serious record fishing over the next year and a half from Mexico to Panama.

It sounds like you're on the brink of an incredible year. Is there anything you'd like to share with other teenagers out there who have a passion for fishing?

Always be willing to learn. Keep your eyes and ears open and learn everything you can. Don't be afraid to ask why or how someone is doing something. My goal every time I leave the port is to learn something new. When there is down time, I practice knot tying or wiring. I have been surrounded by some of the best captains and fishermen in the world, including Don Law, Josh Temple, Ron Hamlin, Jason Pipe and many others.

Finally, be sure to thank your parents and those who take you fishing. It really is a blessing that they allow us to do what we love. We could not accomplish anything without them.

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THOUGHTS FROM KEITH'S FATHER:

I first took Keith fishing when he was quite young. It became evident right away that he loved it. He wanted to go fishing as often as I would take him. When he was about seven, he persuaded me to buy a boat. We chose a versatile boat, one that could pull a tube or skier in addition to fishing. After a couple of years of using the boat only for fishing, Keith persuaded me to trade that Grady for a Cabo 35.

It was at about that time that Keith's passion for fishing became an unqualified obsession.

Some kids draw sketches of cars or airplanes. Many play video games. Not my son -- he doesn't do any of that. He has devoted countless hours to filling notebooks with alternate lure spread designs. He reads about fishing -- books, blogs, websites -- and has recorded thousands of hours of fishing shows.

I have witnessed my son evolve from a weekend, recreational fisherman to an obsessed, world-class angler. When he is in the cockpit of a boat, whether he has fish on or merely anticipating a clip popping and springing to action, he is the happiest, most fulfilled young man one could imagine. He just beams when thinking about fishing, which is almost all the time!

-- Greg Brandner

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