BECOMING A SKIPPER
By Faith Lategan
South Africa is immensely privileged to have some very influential female anglers in the sport, some of whom have shaped me as a skipper. SADSAA has also been incredibly active in the promotion and development of female participants in our sport. Fishing has brought me so many incredible highs, but it has also humbled me. It made anglers become friends and friends become family. It shaped my character as a human being and made me realise I possess a resolve I didn’t know I had. Every single time I go out to sea I return as a better skipper and angler. I hope my journey will inspire more females to step into the role of competitive skippers.
I was fortunate enough to have been trained by one of the greatest teachers of our sport, the late Anton (Ballie) Gets. Ballie never eased the pressure he put on me to push myself to become a better skipper. He saw potential in me and pushed me to greater heights. He also taught me one very valuable lesson, in that there is never “a top of the ladder” as a skipper. Our journey is often overlooked, and it should remain exactly that because it pushes us to become better.
What I have achieved in our sport I cannot take credit for alone. I have had the most incredible support system any competitive skipper could ask for. Not only have I had the complete trust of anglers across all disciplines, but I have also been supported by Shelly Beach Ski-boat Club, NDSAA and SADSAA.
When I started out in the sport in 2013, I made the conscious decision to focus primarily on skippering and not angling. There was a part of me that came alive every time I saw the immense joy in an angler’s eyes when that 25kg tuna on light tackle was brought on to the boat, and the pride when a medal was hung around their necks. I delight in seeing juniors develop into fully fledged professionals.
This passion was fueled by the realisation that my journey forms part of your journey as an angler. One day that young man/lady will put on that Protea jacket and I will know that my love for skippering — my desire to become a better skipper — was influential in their success. I don’t think there is anything that makes me feel more alive than to see the successes of hard-working anglers. It’s what makes me return time and time again. It’s what humbles me.
I am often asked what my biggest challenges were as a young and inexperienced skipper. The answer to that is simple — it was inexperience. It was the standards I had to set for myself. I often became my own worst enemy because I didn’t trust in my abilities — I didn’t believe that I was worthy to be at the highest levels of competitive skippering.
I spent a lot of time away from skippering, learning about the ocean and all of its intricacies. Where, how and why fish will be found. I studied tides, topographies, fish behaviour, migration and the conditions that lead to it. I learned to understand different species better. I learned what areas I am strong in as a skipper and where I could better myself.
With a little more knowledge, my confidence grew and then experience quickly followed. I was invited to skipper in our country’s most prestigious events which inevitably allowed me to grow, to learn and to achieve results.
Todate I have skippered at 15 Nationals, nine Interprovincials, an International and numerous interclub competitions, and received seven gold medals. I will be eternally grateful for those opportunities. Because of anglers, I was able to leave a footprint that I hope will inspire other females to participate.
My journey is still a young one. My abilities as a skipper are still in their infancy, and our ladder is a never ending one. May we always strive to be better within ourselves as skippers and anglers who participate in our beautiful sport. May we always be humble and grateful for what we are given every time Mother Nature allows us to go to sea.
To the competitive anglers out there, thank you for allowing me and others to learn from you. Thank you for every opportunity I and others have been given to take you out to sea. It has been a privilege to see you grow and to grow with you. I don’t think it is often understood how your dedication and passion for the sport motivates us to become better. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that.
I really hope my story will inspire other women to participate more as skippers; I truly believe there are some diamonds in the sport just waiting to be discovered.
LIFE ON THE WATER
By Mrs Seevarkie aka Elize Smith
Deep sea fishing is way more fun than many women might think. Just picture waking up at dawn and feeling the adrenaline pulse through your veins as you navigate your boat through a surf launch at sunrise, breathing in the fresh salty air when a pod of dolphins comes to play in your wake. While you put out your lines, a turtle swims by or perhaps you spot a majestic humpback whale breaching on the horizon.
The locals and many fishermen and women know me as Mrs Seevarkie. The name stems from me being co-owner of Seevarkie Guest House and Charters at Sodwana Bay where I operate my own King Cat 2206 named Mrs Seevarkie, while my husband, Johan, operates our other charter boat, Seevarkie.
My passion for fishing started at the age of three. My dad loved fishing and I was like his shadow, following him around all the time and spending time in nature, looking for bait and then trying to catch the big one.
I grew up fishing with my dad until the age of about 18, then met my husband who had grown up on a farm in the North West province. My dad and I introduced him to fishing from the shore and rocks and luckily he also loved it.
In the early ’80s I was introduced to deep sea fishing by friends who had a ski-boat. Soon afterwards I started to participate in interprovincial and provincial competitions, expanding my knowledge through fishing with different skippers and mates at various locations.
Johan and I loved the sport so much that we decided to buy a small Swift 165 ski-boat. At the time, we owned a pig farm in Pretoria and we brainstormed some names for the new boat. Our eldest son came up with the name Seevarkie as we all loved the sea and farming with pigs — the best of both worlds really. Our kids — three boys and a girl — were also passionate about fishing and water skiing, so a boat was a no-brainer.
We became members of the Mako Ski-boat Club where I earned my provincial colours in game-, sailfish- and marlin fishing. While I love gamefishing, I rate marlin fishing as my favourite. In 1994 I was part of a ladies’ team competing in the gamefish interprovincial at Richards Bay and one of my teammates convinced Jannie Nel, a commercial fisherman residing in Richards Bay at that stage, to take us out for the day to catch snoek (queen mackerel) and teach us the way to target them.
We won gold at that competition and I caught a personal best and a SADSAA record of an 8,6kg snoek on 6kg line class.
There is nothing more exiting than taking part in fishing competitions. The vibe is always great, you meet new, like-minded friends and you always learn a new thing or two. Since 1995, we’ve been competing in the annual Sodwana Bay OET and Billfish 15 000 competitions, and the Top 10 competitions at Cape Vidal where our kids became part of the team.
Some of the highlights of those years were obtaining my SADSAA colours in marlin fishing in 2004, coming third in the Billfish 15 000 competition in 2007 with the family, and winning gold at the 2008 Billfish Nationals where I was captain of the team. I love the camaraderie of the sport and in the end, you become part of a big fishing family.
I always found it fascinating to watch my husband launching through the surf, while quietly mentally rehearsing how I would have done it. When two of our sons chose to obtain their skippers’ licences, I was super interested and joined them on the course.
In 2007 we moved to Sodwana Bay and Seevarkie Guest House and Charters was born. One year later Johan bought a Cobra Cat 640 and I had the privilege of owning my own ski-boat which I used to take clients out for deep sea fishing trips. It soon became a part of me and I loved what I was doing. The “Seevarkies” became a familiar name in Sodwana and we enjoyed our new semi-retirement lifestyle.
Two years after Johan bought his boat, we also invested in a King Cat 2206, which replaced the Swift 575. I branded the boat in pink, purple and turquoise to stand out as a ladies’ boat. The business grew from strength to strength and we started participating in even more competitions.
One of my ultimate highlights was the Billfish 15 000 competition back in 2017. I usually have my chosen team that includes our son, Johann, and some of his friends who are almost like my own kids. That year our daughter, Leandri, who resides in New Zealand, visited in time for the tournament and filled in for one of Johann’s friends who was unable to join us. The vibe on the boat was unreal and we had endless fun.
On the Wednesday of the competition, we caught and released two striped marlin and one blue marlin before 10am. We were overwhelmed at the luck we’d had and were delighted to be crowned winners of the day and front runners in the competition.
Thursday was a blow-out due to bad weather, and on the Friday we launched in very rough seas, anxious to catch another one.
We were on the water for roughly 30 minutes when we hooked up on a black marlin; Leandri was in the chair. Twenty minutes later, we reported a black marlin released! Later that day we heard we had won the competition.
In all the years I’ve spent on the water I’ve caught and released 17 marlin and six sailfish myself, and since skippering my boat, anglers aboard have landed 103 marlin and 26 sailfish, most of which we safely released. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the faces of clients when they land a good fish. Some of the biggest fish caught on my boat were a 29kg tuna, 30kg wahoo and 23kg dorado.
Our passion for the sport also spilled over to our kids and now the grand kids as well.
Unfortunately, a recent shoulder injury has forced me to get an operation that takes a while to heal. This means I have to sit out for some time while my boat is being skippered by another enthusiastic professional skipper.
The injury reminds me to never take deep sea fishing for granted. I always stand amazed at the sights and experiences while on the water — billfish chasing tuna, sailfish surrounding a bait ball, whales, dolphins, whale sharks and even orcas close to the boat. It is, and always will be, a breathtaking experience to be part of our creation and enjoy what nature has to offer.
I want to encourage other ladies to try skippering; you may discover you fall in love with it. With the support of my husband and our mutual love of the sea and fishing, this was the best thing I could have done with my life.