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Shelby Callison: A ‘reel’ cowgirl

Although she just earned a BS in Agriculture (with honors, no less) from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), Shelby Callison (@ShelbyCallison_ on Instagram) wants to work in the marine industry.

“I’m planning on moving to South Florida in a few months, and I’m hoping to find something down there,” she says. “If I don’t find something in the marine industry, there’s a lot of agriculture in Florida, too.”

Although she’s from McDonough, Georgia — just south of Atlanta — and currently lives in Tifton, Georgia (where she attended ABAC), Shelby is no stranger to the ocean. In fact, a marine environment is her preferred environment.

“I grew up fishing with my granddaddy,” she says. “When I was real little I was just happy to be there with him, standing on a dock or the shore with my line in the water.”

It didn’t take long for her competitive edge to kick in.

“Then we started bass fishing, which was a little more challenging,” Shelby says. “But when I was 14, my daddy took me fishing offshore out of Daytona — and I’ve never looked back. It’s the only kind of fishing I want to do.”

But offshore fishing is not all she does. She’s also a competitive barrel racer.

“That’s the reason I’m thinking about the West Palm Beach area,” Shelby says. “The equestrian center is there, and there’s a competitive rodeo circuit.”

If she doesn’t find what she’s looking for right away, she has a back-up plan.

“I suppose I could always just crash with Hunter in Key West,” Shelby says, referring to marine photographer Hunter Ledbetter.

She was recently trapped with Hunter on Key West when Tropical Storm Alberto blew through on Memorial Day weekend.

“I was there to fish the tournament, and I wasn’t about to leave,” Shelby says. But, with no flights off the island, she caught a ride with a friend to Port St. Lucie, Florida, rented a car and drove back to Georgia from there.

Tournament fishing is something that Shelby is particularly excited about.

“It feeds my love of fishing and my competitive spirit at the same time,” she says.

At this point, though, there’s nothing she likes better than fishing for mahi mahi (dolphin).

“When I fished my first Dolphin Derby, we went out and caught nothing but this little peanut of a fish,” Shelby says. “It was the hardest fish I ever worked to catch.”

But that did nothing to dampen her enthusiasm for mahi.

“They’re my favorite fish! I love them,” she says. “I prefer to run and troll than to just sitting there waiting for something to hit.”

She caught her first bull mahi fishing with Skye Stanley and Blue Heaven Charters off Islamorada.

“It was last summer and it was such a fun fight,” Shelby says. “That bull was jumping and when we got it to the boat, I saw it go through its color changes. Mahi are such beautiful fish!”

Along with fueling her competitive nature, fishing also feeds her soul.

“I love the beauty of fishing,” Shelby says. “No matter what you’re targeting, you never know what you’re going to catch. And you’re just out there enjoying nature. The ocean is magical…”

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