Thomas M. Evans, Jr.




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2015 Inductee

Born in Pittsburgh in 1938, Tom’s earliest memories are of outdoor adventure. Childhood summers spent clamming and crabbing in front of his family’s seaside cottage made way for duck hunting forays and the beginnings of his enduring passion for fly fishing. In those formative years, he honed his skills by stalking trout and salmon, but when he caught his first tarpon, a 56-pounder, with Jimmy Albright at      Long Key, Florida in 1968, Tom embarked on the determined big fish angling odyssey he has now pursued for nearly half a century.

He began fishing with IGFA Hall of Fame guide Captain Steve Huff in 1969, and from then on grabbed every opportunity he could to fish amid a hectic career at the New York Stock Exchange. In 1976 at the suggestion of Lefty Kreh, Evans and Huff ventured to Homosassa, Florida, drawn by the first whispers of large schools of tarpon. The pair more than proved the rumors, and during early trips they encountered unbelievable giant tarpon fly fishing that pushed skills and tackle to the limits and beyond. This steep, hands-on learning curve undoubtedly helped Tom develop the fish fighting techniques for which he became renowned.

After the first Homosassa trip with Huff, Tom teamed with John Emery to design and build a reel that would enhance leverage and retrieve. The result was the first large arbor reel, a reel that would be responsible for the capture of an estimated 400 tarpon of around 150 lb and larger. It was the precursor to the large arbor reels we know today.

On Memorial Day, 1977, while fishing with Huff, Tom caught his first world record- a 177 lb tarpon on 15 lb tippet. A string of fishing achievements followed, including half a dozen tarpon world records while fishing with Captains Dale Perez and Al Dopirak. Throughout the next decade, he would trade records back and forth with Billy Pate and Joe Robinson. He broke Pate’s 21-year-old record on 16 lb tippet with a 190 lb 9 oz tarpon that took him only 35 minutes to catch. On May 10, 2010, Tom landed possibly the greatest fly fishing record of all time – a 194 lb 8 oz tarpon on 12 lb tippet off Pine Island, Florida.

In the early 1970s, Tom embarked on his first experience fly fishing for marlin while at Tropic Star Lodge in Panama. He rekindled this interest in 1991, and over the succeeding years has travelled to locations including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu in his quest for big marlin on the fly.  In 2001, Tom began fishing with guide Dean Butler in Australia, starting a great new chapter of both fishing and friendship. Over the next 12 years with Butler’s various crews on trips to Pacific destinations, Evans has landed world record black, blue and striped marlin on 12, 16 and 20 lb tippet classes (with the exception of the 20 lb record for black marlin.) Tom is the only fly fisherman to have held seven world records for tarpon on four different line classes over five decades, starting in 1977 and the last in 2010.

In recent times, Tom has relocated his game boat Blue Dog (named for his favorite bird dog) from the southern hemisphere to Panama, from where he can enjoy more casual trips, while still hunting that elusive record black marlin on 20 lb.  For pioneering techniques on how to land big game fish on the fly and in respect of his great skills and numerous world records, the IGFA celebrates Tom Evans.