Lure maker Patrick Sebile was already an avid fisherman at the age of 16 when he picked up a fishing magazine and found an article with a list of record big fish catches in France.
"I realized I had already beaten most of the records," says Sebile. "For instance, the record for an eagle ray was 16 or 17 pounds. I already had one that was 60 pounds. So I went to my spot in Arcachon Bay, which is on the west coast on the Atlantic side of France, fished with squid and hooked a 23-kilogram (50.7 pounds) eagle ray. I did everything requested to apply for a record and sent in the form. The catch was a new French record."
Not only did Patrick get the French record, he bested the European record by 4 kilos. This was the beginning of a record chase that has accumulated 363 International Game Fish Association, European and French national records of his own. (Not to mention records won by his guided clients â€“ some of which were quite prestigious such as an All Tackle IGFA world record Tarpon of 286lb 9oz.) By all accounts, that is the most records by a single international angler.
"I ran into a man from the Guinness Book of World Records and he told me there are all kinds of records, including a record for the most records," notes Sebile. "He said I should apply but I never did. I loved fishing tournaments â€“ I had already won 50 â€“ and fishing for records seemed to me very much like a tournament. Many times my record fish came when I was just fishing, fishing for big fish, and I would catch a record. So I ended up being the man with the most fishing records in the world."
Chasing big fish and, consequently, records soon led young Patrick Sebile out of France. Why?
"The answer is simple, fishing sucks in France," says Sebile. "We have three mountain chains and many streams, but many take everything they catch home to eat. They allow commercial fishing during the spawning season for our seabass. There are no big fish. White seabass are the most popular fish in France. I caught my first one when I was 14; it was nothing big, about 4 pounds. I always dreamed of fishing Africa, in the fishing magazines my parents gave me I would see photos of the big white seabass caught there - called there Courbine or Corvina."
While Africa is only an hour and a half flight from Paris, such a trip was out of reach for Patrick. A chance meeting would eventually put Sebile in the sportfishing business.
"Luckily I met a guy who told me every year on vacation he would buy an old car, drive from France across Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal, then sell the car and buy an airline ticket back. He told me he could see people catching fish off the beach in Morocco when he drove by on the cliffs," he adds. "Now that I had an idea that it could be done cheaply, I started planning and found that there was cheap transportation to Morocco, trains and buses leaving France every day to pick up workers. It was very cheap, 200 francs, about 40 bucks and at that time you didn't need a passport if you were from France."
Sebile went away to school when he was 18 and soon "got sick." Equipped with a backpack loaded with a very small tent, surf rods and reels, lures and salted squid, he was on his way to Morocco.
"Traveling the Sahara Coast is crazy! You have the desert behind you with no life and it reaches the ocean in one of the most full-of-life places in the world. I arrived there and it was like you're a kid on Christmas morning. I was there for two weeks; my first fish was a 60-pound guitarfish, very powerful. I did end up catching a 24-kilogram white seabass. It was the most incredible time of my life, fishing virgin waters with very little pressure."
Back home in France he showed his pictures to his friends. They were amazed at the quality of the fish and insisted they join Patrick when two months later he "got sick" again. So he guided them to his most productive spots. Then the friends of his friends heard of the great fishing and wanted to go.
"I couldn't charge my friends money, but their friends were not my friends so I figured I could charge them expenses so I could do the trip for free," says Sebile. "Now you know I am very competitive when it comes to fishing. For the first time I realized because I gave the directions and the information, it was a very good feeling. I felt proud of my ability to help people catch fish."
Sebile would own three fishing lodges in Africa over the next 17 years. One of those was the perfect location for setting records: the Archipelagos Bijagos islands offshore Guinea-Bissau in West Africa.
"Guinea-Bissau is known to be the number one place in the world for giant tiger sharks and is also the number one place for huge tarpon," notes Sebile. "We were beating records by 30 kilograms fishing from 17-foot flats boats. The largest tiger we caught was 856 kilos, but that was caught by two anglers so it was not a record. That fish was as long as the boat. A dozen times, seven times I myself, other times with customers, we hooked fish five feet longer than the boat, so 22 feet long â€“ absolutely over a ton and maybe 3000 pounds. I had several to the leader on my own."
Perhaps needless to say, the largest fish Sebile has caught was a tiger shark. Patrick Sebile's African travels quickly afforded his first record on a Sebile lure, a cubera snapper that fell for one of his topwater plugs when he was 22 and fishing the Ivory Coast. Patrick first caught a fish on one of his creations when he was just eight years old.
"What all of us have is something that motivates us; living conditions, money, success, there are many things," says Sebile. "We all have our own point of view. To me, fishing has always been first. I wasn't trying to catch records, I was trying to catch big fish."
The passion, travel and innovation continue and you can look to these pages for exciting lure introductions in the spring of 2016 from Sebile.