For a few tense moments last Thursday, Allen Templet wasn’t sure if whatever was on the end of his line 400 feet down in the Gulf of Mexico would be there much longer. 

The 29-year-old Pierre Part native had just dropped a live hardhead down to the bottom at a rig north of the Green Canyon, and almost instantly felt the tug of a fish on.

“We backed off the rig once we hooked him, and I started cranking him up, keeping tension on him. But we ended up getting hung up in the rig,” said Templet, an instrument tech for Enterprise Products in Belle Rose. “We eased back to the rig keeping tension on the line, and then you could feel him start tugging once we were out and free.

“Then I just started cranking. You start reeling and you gain a little ground at first, but when he started kicking in, he pulled some drag and then the fight was on. It’s just all weight. At some point, they stop tugging and it’s just weight on the line.”

He didn’t know it then, but the massive weight he was reeling in was actually a 287-pound, 14-ounce Warsaw grouper — a new division record for the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, and if certified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, the new No. 6-ranked Warsaw in the state record books. 

“I knew it was a big fish. It definitely felt bigger than anything I’ve ever hooked onto,” Templet said. “But to say that I knew it was that big when I hooked up, or if I was thinking it was definitely a winner and all that — it never crossed my mind. 

“As soon as I started cranking, I knew it was something big and I was just trying to fight the fish and get it in. That was the main goal — get it in as quick as possible before something else ate it.”

Templet was fishing with Brandon Alleman on Alleman’s 31-foot Contender, along with Sean Blanchard and Austin Buxton. The men had headed out of Fourchon early that morning, and initially stopped closer in for some mangrove snapper action. 

The big grouper bite came around midday, Templet said. 

“It was definitely a team effort,” he said. “I did catch the fish, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of the crew.”

After the 40-minute battle, the fish — which measured 71 inches long — was finally on the deck of the Contender. Templet used an Avet 50-wide reel, a Billfisher rod and 300-pound Jerry Brown braid to land the monster.

“We were taking pictures, and on the way in we were like, ‘What do y’all think he weighs?’ Templet said. “We were all guessing around the 200-pound range, but it exceeded all our expectations. We’ve caught some 80-pound, 100-pound grouper, but they’re hard to judge sometimes.”

On the Sand Dollar Marina’s certified scales Thursday, the big fish weighed-in at a whopping 287 pounds, 14 ounces — a new rodeo record and easily the 2016 rodeo's No. 1 Warsaw grouper. 

“When we got to the dock, it definitely exceed my expectations, and actually was a state record,” he said. “I just never anticipated it. I never gave it that much thought, I guess. I was expecting a grouper — that was our target. But sometimes you end up pulling up other stuff, an amberjack or something.

“We were expecting a grouper — but we never expected it to be that big.”

The men fished on Friday and Saturday, when Alleman’s father Grady caught another grouper that weighed 44-4 — good enough for 3rd place in the rodeo and the perfect finishing touch for three special days of fishing.

“It was definitely an experience, that’s for sure,” Templet said.