Steve Speranza felt a light tap on his fishing line.
It felt familiar. The kind of tap a striped bass makes when the bait he takes is a live eel.
Steve lowered the tip of his rod and set the hook.
The fight was on.
Steve and fellow fisherman Capt. Norm Whitten have been fishing for striped bass in Swampscott waters for 75 years, between the two of them.
Two weeks ago aboard Steve's 20-foot center-console boat the two fishermen caught two of the biggest striped bass of their lives. They caught their fish within 30 minutes of each other in different locations.
The fish came in first and second in the Swampscott Yacht Club's season-long 2012 striped bass tournament.
They were hung from a scale and weighed at the back of the Fish House.
Norm's fish: 42 lbs. 6 oz.
Steve's fish: 42 lbs. 2 oz.
Norm caught his fish first, 10 feet from shore among rocks off Marian Court College.
He caught it not far from where he fished as a youth — off the shore of Preston Beach.
He has been fishing for 53 years. Since he was a kid in Swampscott. Just like his five brothers and their father.
"I got hooked on it," he said.
As a teen he worked aboard a Lucky Williams' mackeral boat but he has always fished for striped bass, a beautiful and good tasting sport fish.
In his life he has only caught three stripers larger than the one he caught at dawn two weeks ago.
Thirty minutes earlier on that morning Steve caught the largest striper of his 25 years fishing for striped bass.
They were off Nahant.
The bass's light tap was followed by a 10-minute tug of war.
"It was like pulling a bathtub off the bottom," Steve said.
The fish made a few runs and hunkered down, trying to rub the line to the point of breaking against a rock.
Steve typically releases the big ones.
This one went home with him.
It fed Steve's family and two other families.
Striped bass is a good eating fish. The meat is thick and firm and tastes good.
Cap'n Norm loves it.
He donated his prize-winning fish to a nursing home in Marblehead.
It fed 38 residents and the staff.
The striped bass fishing season is winding down but Steve said he'll be fishing another two weeks.
There are still some big fish out there.