We’ve received word that master saltwater fly fisher Billy Pate died early yesterday morning. Pate was a important pioneer in landing big saltwater fish on fly rods and was particularly dedicated to tarpon fishing, although billfishing was also a passion. His 1982 188-pound tarpon world record on 16-pound tippet remained unbeaten for 21 years, and he was the first person to catch a blue marlin and a black marlin on fly. He was also the first angler to catch six billfish species on a flyrod. Pate was also an ardent conservationist; he was instrumental in the creation of the $50 tarpon tag system in Florida and was a founder or board member of the Everglades Protection Association, Trout Unlimited, Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited, the Don Hawley Foundation, and the Pate Foundation.
Billy Pate partnered with legendary Florida Keys guide George Hommel in 1967 to create one of the first destination angling companies in the U.S., Worldwide Anglers, which they sold in 1995 to Bass Pro Shops. In 1976, Pate got together with Tibor Reels’ Ted Juracsik to design the first readily available anti-reverse tarpon reel, a reel that later went on to help catch 225 world records. He was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame in 2003.