When Adam Paul ’06 was 12 years old, he stood up in front of his seventh-grade class and told them he was going to catch a marlin. They all laughed.
“The teacher told me I was crazy,” he says.
But a few months later, after relentlessly driving his father up the wall to take him deep-sea fishing, Paul found himself off the coast of Jamaica reeling in a 200-pound blue marlin. Now, as he recounts the story, he’s the one who’s laughing.
“If I didn’t have it mounted in my office, I’d say it weighed 2,000 pounds,” he says.
Not long after that life-changing experience, Paul met Gene Grey, a retired forestry professor, who taught him every aspect of freshwater fishing. From there, his path in life began to take shape.
First he entered – and was competitive in – dozens of national fishing tournaments. Then he tried his hand working on fishing boats. After graduating with a degree in studio art, he entered the corporate world doing field research for Sufix Fishing North America Inc. That wasn’t enough for Paul, who, in his own words, “wanted to do something more for all the fishermen out there.”
So in 2007, with his own money, he started GillznFinz.com, a website devoted to helping fishing enthusiasts not only become more skilled, but have more fun while doing it. Not long after starting the site, Paul took a hard look at some of the fishing shows on television.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘God, these are so boring.’”
So he decided to make his own. His would be different in that it would blend fishing with his own personal passions: music, food and joking around. While taping the first show, he and his crew hit the jackpot, catching the proverbial “grand slam”: a sailfish, a swordfish and a white marlin all in one outing. It was like when he was 12 all over again. From there, things started to take off, with the show’s first season being picked up by several major networks and becoming syndicated in 30-million-plus households. Within a year, those numbers quadrupled.
Today, Paul’s GillznFinz show can be seen every week on the VS. Network. Each episode features Paul kicking back and fishing with the likes of Widespread Panic, Snoop Dogg and Kevin Costner. This season he’ll team up with Darius Rucker, Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, just to name a few. But his fondest memory since starting the show has nothing to do with celebrities.
Two years ago, while in Kona, Hawaii, Paul was challenged by some locals to try something they called “hand line fishing” – that is, to fish with nothing but a rope, hook and your bare hands. Much to their surprise, Paul was able to haul in a 150-pound tuna. Later that night, back on dry land, he and his new Hawaiian friends threw a luau to celebrate.
“It brought me back to the roots of fishing – the friends, the fish, the hunt, the whole thing. I was totally blown away.”
It’s experiences like that that force Paul to pinch himself every now and again.
“If you told me I’d be doing this two years ago I would have told you you were out of your mind,” he says from his Johns Island, S.C. home. “It’s been one big crazy-ass ride.”
But through it all, he’s never lost focus of where it all began: him on the open water, looking for that next fish.
– Bryce Donovan ’98
Check out Adam Paul’s fishing show and past episodes at www.gillznfinz.com.