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The fisherman is at least as prone as the next man to favoritism. And when his wishful thinking turns to fishful thinking, he's likely to imagine himself in combat with a striped bass, say, a swordfish, a steelhead or a bonefish—or whatever seems to him the most fit challenge to his skill and wile. For many anglers, armed only with pole, tin can and carefree heart, the unassuming sunfish may be antagonist enough. But for some, in growing numbers, the quarry is the tarpon.
The role of biographer to the tarpon represents for Terrell an excursion into an area where readers are not used to finding him. Since coming to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED four years ago from the Corpus Christi Caller, of which he was then sports editor, Roy has reported many sports, including football, basketball, track and baseball (now his regular summer beat). He cheerfully recalls a certain apprehension he had when he joined the staff: he was afraid that in this age of specialists he might be confined to just one subject.
With reporter's candor Roy describes his fishing talents as "fair to middling poor—but ambitious." The ambition rose to the surface some two years ago when he said he'd like to do a story on the tarpon. His reason was simple enough. To Texas-born Terrell, the tarpon, an honored denizen of the coast of his native state, was one he hadn't caught but would sure like to.
There were other reasons too. They are in his story and they add up to the fact that scientists and advanced students of this fish are still baffled by many of its facts of life.
When I asked Roy why he really wanted to do the tarpon, he said, "I guess most of all because he's such a wonderful all-round athlete. He's a high jumper, a broad jumper, a sprinter and a boxer. And as a competitor he makes anyone who finishes fighting him say, 'Whew, that was something!' "
Terrell has had occasion to say, "That was something!" many times. And many times he's also said, like all good tellers of fishing tales, "But it got away."
A lot of tarpon do. But this week I think you'll find that Terrell has caught them all.