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I just got back from a weekend staying at Sea Camp in Big Pine Key for a memorial of John Booker, who helped lead that camp for over 25 years. He was an incredible man who shared his love of the ocean with thousands of young people from all over the world. On Saturday morning my wife, her brother Andrew, his wife and 2 kids, and I went to Bahia Honda for a couple hours so the kids could play and the guys could fish.
Andrew has waded off Bahia Honda several times before and caught lots of fish, most notably a 10+ lb bonefish a couple years ago. Andrew had his 10 weight fly rod – I had my ultra light rod with 2500 Shimano reel with 10 lbs Power Pro and 20 lbs flouro leader. I had initially tied on a small artificial crab lure but as we were wading out Andrew spotted a small crab getting chased to the surface by a 3 foot Bonnethead. He rushed over and scooped up the crab knowing that it is candy to so many species down there. I luckily had a 4/o Owner Circle hook in my Plano box and quickly made the switch.
We waded out a little deeper toward the edge of the flat where Andrew had a few shots at a permit the day before. We kept our eyes peeled looking for a bonefish or permit, working onto the flat as the tide continued to come in. About 10 minutes passed and, after not seeing any fish, I decided to cast out the crab and let it drift right off the edge of the flat. Several minutes passed by and all of a sudden I feel the crab getting nervous and see the rod tip twitching. I open my bail and let it free line for a second and see the line start to move off, so I close the bail, lift the rod, watch the line come tight, the rod double over and then hear the drag scream out. I look to Andrew and he immediately says, "Permit!!"
After two very long powerful runs we settle into a stalemate where the fish would take some line then hang in an area for a bit. We made the decision to walk down the fish to try to regain some line. We walked across parts of the shallow grass flat, then across shoulder deep sand holes as we did our best to keep the fish close and out of the deep water of the channel. I tried to keep my rod tip as high as possible and maintain constant pressure knowing that I could not horse the fish since it was such a light setup. Andrew would run ahead and keep the line clear of grass and seaweed as it got on the line. The girls and kids took notice right away and knew we had a good fish on and followed along the beach snapping pictures as we battled the fish. After about 10 minutes we got our first good look - we saw the black forked tail and could tell it was a nice sized fish and the excitement built and so did the pressure.
We were starting to gain some line and had the fish back in shallower water when it decided to make one last attempt to flee and took us across some shoulder deep water again as it ran out to the edge of the flat. Once we got it close, we had a dance for a few minutes as I tried to lead the fish in one direction and Andrew tried to get a tail grab while the fish had other ideas. It must have been comical to watch as we shifted and shuffled around in circles until Andrew locked onto the tail and I could finally breathe again. We had it, my first Permit and a good sized one at that. Total fight time only 22 minutes.
We brought the fish back into the shallows, showed it off to the wives and kids and took a couple of pictures. The fish was in great shape after a few minutes and we got a nice video of the release as it quickly swam off.
It was such an amazing experience and one of those catches
that I will never forget. From seeing and catching the crab to the epic
fight, running all over the flat, to landing a big permit on such light
tackle was truly unforgettable. The fact that we have the entire process
documented and I was able to share it with Andrew, his family and my wife
topped it off and made an already special weekend a little sweeter.
few are pros, most are amateurs but all have a thing for fishing. They
aren't alone. More than 45 million Americans will try their luck with
a line in the water this year and more than 25% of them are women.
So, we went to the source (well, almost the source since fish don't give interviews) to find how they became "hooked" and gathered their advice ---just in case you might have had a thought of someday bringing your boat to the next tournament.
Wayne Hooper - Eliot, Maine
Advice for Tournament Fishermen: Have a spotter guide you until you are proficient.
Special Equipment Used: Since my son went overboard in early spring, we have an emergency bag of clothes for anyone who needs them.
Things I've Seen: Biggest thing I've seen when fishing tournaments is boats passing too close and forgetting to untie the straps at the ramp and, of course, forgetting the plug.
Things I've learned from Fishing: It's taught me patience, courtesy and the importance of getting kids involved. If they are fishing with you, they aren't doing drugs and they are enjoying the time with their parents.
Upcoming Tournaments: Sebago Lake, September 15-17. It's a big one.
Derek Jones - FLW Pro, Chicago, Illinois
Advice for Tournament Fishermen: Fishing is a game of educated guesses. This is my first year going pro; I'm a former commodities broker and was a member of the National Guard Fishing Team. The opponent (the fish) is always changing so you are making choices and figuring out what nature is going to throw at you at a particular moment on a particular day. Like everything else in life, preparation is the key so spool your lines the night before, have the lures you are going to use tied on and know what rods you are going to use (I have had as many as 20 all rigged with different lures in tournaments). Of course, if things are going well, you're only going to use a few rods and lures. On tournament day don't take up time at the boat ramp unloading equipment from your truck---do it before you get to the water's edge.
Special Equipment Used: I have a Ranger Z19 and a Ranger dual axle trailer. Get polarized sunglasses. They allow you to see different covers in the water. Have water and ice. Getting dehydrated is a miserable feeling and you can't focus on fishing.
Things I've Seen: The thing I love about tournaments is the excitement you can feel and see in the morning. There are no limitations; for example you don't have to be able to bench press 400 lbs to be doing this. It's a mental thing and a guy like me in his rookie year is competing with guys I've followed for the past 20 years.
Things I've learned from Fishing: Living in the city, you begin to take nature for granted. Fishing will keep that from happening.
Upcoming Tournaments: Lake Champlain June 24/25.
Sondra Rankin - Co-Angler FLW Tour, Paducah,
Advice for the Tournament Fisherman: If you are co-angling on someone else's boat, slip them $20 for gas at the end of the day. After a few times out, you can feel when it's time to talk just as you can feel when it's time to be silent (and I will tell you when you are catching fish is usually when there's talking). I learn something new with every tournament I fish.
Special Equipment Used: I make an effort not to carry too much tackle. In a tournament I'll have no more than 5 rods including a Crankin' Rod and a 7'6" Fenwick Techna AV Flippin' Stick rod with a heavy action tip. I carry granola bars, potato chips and if I'm fishing an early morning event, I have pop tarts. Dress warmer than the day calls for because you can always remove a layer. Put your cell phone in a zip lock bag.
Things I've Seen: Fishing too close to another boat is usually what will start an argument. I've seen a fisherman fishing in a boat along the bank and another boat pulling in front and cutting him off. You don't do that.
Things I've learned from Fishing: Fishing is such a sport that you can be on top of the world for one instant but in the next, be the lowest in the field! A very humbling sport, indeed.
Upcoming Tournament: Lake Champlain NY June 24/25
Keith Lambert - Marina del Rey, California
Advice for Tournament Fishermen: Get there early, be patient waiting to launch, once your boat is in the water, move it down the dock so the next person can begin launching, park with reasonable consideration for fellow fishermen because you and your rig might be taking space that could be used by just one more truck and trailer and this makes a difference on tournament day and be willing to lend a hand to the next guy and his boat. If you are doing the right stuff while fishing one of two things will happen: 1 you will have a good time. 2 you will catch fish. In the end it is the fish that picks the winner more often than not.
Special Equipment Used: Some of the boats on the water may not be in good repair (they get out less often) so be ready to lend a hand. Someone may need a jump so bring that long set of cables. Someone may need a tow so that extra line can go in the storage compartment up front. Someone may need a bit of oil so don'y leave the jug in the car. Put it next to the boat toolbox (you do have a boat toolbox don't you?)
Things I've Seen: There's a line at the bait dock before the tournament and
one guy keeps talking and isn't aware it's his turn and he's holding up everyone else and then realizes he doesn't have his money with him or he forgot his sunglasses and wants to run back to his truck while everyone waits. I once got towed into the weigh-in dock by Vessel Assist one year and still placed 5th with a fish I had caught.
Things I've learned from Fishing: Fishing the tournament is fun and all but the real experience is getting out there and enjoying the challenge of fishing hard for two days and doing your best. Later you will appreciate the experience as a whole. Some of us like to be challenged. I do. And this does
Website: www.mdranglers.com and www.halibutderby.com
Robin Babb - 2005 Women's Bass Fishing Co-Angler
of the Year, Livingston, Texas
Advice: The advice I have for a first timer would be DO IT! Don't be intimidated. Contact a tournament angler to ask questions and get advice (also, two websites that have excellent info for women anglers are www.ladybassfish.com and www.ebassfish.com---Both have helpful articles as well as very active forum boards). Everyone had to have a first tournament! Also, it can be very comforting to know that even the best pro's on the circuit get backlashes and hangs up.
Special Equipment Used: I always have rain gear, sunscreen, water, 4-5 rods/reels, a small bag filled with baits, lures, a pair of pliers and scissors or clippers.
Things I've Seen: I believe the most common mistake people make on the water is not being prepared for weather changes...not having the proper fowl or hot weather clothing. If you are not comfortable while fishing it is very difficult to concentrate, and bass fishing requires a lot of concentration. Also, I've seen anglers get in such a hurry or get so focused on getting to their honey hole that they don't pay attention and become unsafe on the water.
Things I've learned from Fishing: Patience and relaxation. I know it's difficult to believe that a competitive tournament angler can say that my type of fishing can be relaxing, but having to concentrate solely on the task at hand is refreshing.
Upcoming Tournaments: Mercury marine/ESPN Women's Bassmaster Tours--July 27-28 Lake Norman, Huntersville NC, August 24-26 Lake Dardanelle, Russellville AR and Sept 14-16th Bull Shoals Lake in Theodosia, MO.
Ken King - American Bass Anglers District 36,
Advice for Tournament Fishermen: The biggest mistake is simply not being ready. Be prepared when you arrive at the ramp, things move along quite quickly on tournament morning. With most tournament trails a mistake you do not want to make is forgetting to put your PFD on before the boat is put into gear - this could be cause for disqualification. Be prepared, know the rules of your tournament trail. Be considerate of other boaters. Have your boat untied and ready to go into the water when it's your turn at the ramp. And, if your boat has one...don't forget to put your drain plug in!
Special Equipment Used: Any bass tournament angler is going to have rain gear stashed away. Non-boater competitors should bring rain gear also. Most bass boaters have a towel also, but not to hold a fish. Fish should never be held with any dry fabric because it removes their protective slime. Fish should also never be placed on the carpeted floor of a boat, and for the same reason.
Things I've Seen: The most common problem is probably inexperience. New trailer pullers should practice backing up every chance they can. This will make them much more comfortable on tournament morning and help to avoid that panicky feeling when hitting the ramp straight seems impossible, and there's a long line of boaters waiting to launch.
Things I've learned from Fishing: The simple answer is an appreciation for nature.
Upcoming Tournaments: June 24, 2006. Shirley Reservoir, Lunenberg, MA Shady Point Boat Ramp. July 8, 2006, Charles River, Brighton MA
Brandon White - Administrator www.tidalfish.com,
Advice for Tournament Fishermen: The most common problem is that people do not clearly understand or know the rules. Make sure that everyone on board gets briefed as to the rules of the tournament that you are fishing. Different tournaments have different rules.
Special Equipment Used: Personally and from having run tournaments a few things that might not be on the normal list for tournament fishing or fishing specifically in the Bay:
1) Two towels, one to wipe your hands on and another to soak in the water and lift the fish with. The towel helps you not touch the fish which can wipe off its protective coasting, protects your hands from any lesions or anything the fish might have and also if you are having trouble de-hooking a fish you can put the wet towel over the fish's eyes which usually calms the fish down.
2) Hand sanitizer or anti bacteria wash. With all the talk about mycobacterium in the Bay it's better to be safe then sorry, so after handling fish just have a bottle of sanitizing gel onboard to wash your hands. It's probably a smart practice anywhere in the county
3) Bring rain gear! I do not care what the weather man says, storms can brew up on the bay in a heartbeat and you cannot always outrun them. You'll not only get wet, but the temperature often drops and even in the summer you can potentially get hypothermia with a sudden temperature as often happens with the storms that pop up on the bay.
4) Bring extra clothes, even if you are fishing in the summer, a rainstorm can make you chilly, so bring extra layers. You always take things off, but if you do not have them to put on then you might be pretty cold.
5) A good pair of pliers with a long nose to use to remove hooks.
6) A good pair of scissors. Not something that is often talked about, but if you use braided line or even mono, scissors make it a lot easier to cut line then pliers. I used a pair of Kliene electrical scissors that you can buy from generally any hardware or electrical store.
7) Tape measure and your own scale. Just to check on fish that you catch.
Things I've Seen: Make sure you are proficient at launching and putting your boat on the trailer. Take the time to practice if you are sort of new to having to launch under pressure. Often times tournaments use one ramp and if there are a lot of boats its important for people to be able to get his/her boat in and out of the water quickly. A lot of tempers can get heated. Have a partner, one guy who can take the boat off the trailer and another who can park the car once the boat is launched. That way things move quickly for everyone.
Things I've learned from Fishing: Even when you are fishing a tournament and going after that grand prize, whatever it may be, money, prestige etc, do not lose sight of the fact that you are fishing and that is it supposed to be a good time. Sometimes we get so caught up in going after the prize that we forget to enjoy the journey to get there. A day out on the water is a pretty cool thing, enjoy it.
Upcoming Tournaments: Listed on the tidalfish website
Karen Savik - FLW Pro Angler, St. Louis Park,
Advice to the Tournament Fisherman: You are going to be nervous the first time in a tournament. It's expected. But the more you do this, the more confidence you are going to have. I finally figured it out though: it's not between me and everyone else-it's between the fish and me. So go out a couple of days before and get a sense of what depth works best and what color lures work best.
Special Equipment Used: If allowed, don't forget to bring a net. And when you use the net, have it ready for every fish. Don't set it and the fish on the top deck because you can lose both very quickly---instead place both fish and net on the floor of the boat where you can measure to make sure it's legal. Have a scale to check the weight and for the same reason, do the weighing on the floor of the boat..
Things I've Seen: I was trolling along a shoreline and two guys in another boat pass by and I could hear one yelling to the other over the roar of their engine "Did you see that? It's a woman and she's fishing in a boat!" Some folks just aren't used to seeing that.
Things I've learned from Fishing: I tell my kids this-never give up. There are so many times when you want to quit and walk away-it could be a bad hook set or a missed fish but it is you who is beating yourself up and I've finally knocked some sense into myself. Keep going.
Upcoming Tournaments: Minnetonka Classic June 3rd
Steve Niemoeller, Central Floria
(St. Johns River) Fishes tournaments when not working as a
professional fishing guide.
Advice to the tournament fishermen: Be prepared the night before. Don't try to get ready the morning of the tournament. Keep count of your fish so you don't throw one back and then not have a limit to weigh in.
Special Equipment: It is always good to take raingear ,,froggtoggs are good choice they take up very little space and in case of rain or if you need dry clothes you can wear them
Things I've Seen: Guys get to the ramp late and then are in a hurry.
Things I've learned from Fishing: It has shown me how to go out and enjoy life and since I'm a guide, I get to have a lot of days on the water with a chance to experience the thrill some of my customers have by just being out there with them and teaching/helping them catch fish.
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