Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I’ll write in detail about the places as we fish them, but expect to see us in the Bahamas, New Jersey, Louisiana, North Carolina, Fort Lauderdale, Maryland, Sarasota, the Florida Keys, Cayman Islands, and several other great saltwater fishing destinations.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
What would you do to catch a trophy fish? If you’re like me, the answer is simple: just about anything. And, now, I can add swimming with alligators to that long, colorful and adventurous list.
I was enjoying Spring Break in Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida, a quiet, peaceful city some 35-miles northwest of Orlando, and in the country. The home is on Little Lake Harris, one of the Sunshine State’s top bass lakes. Now, I’m a saltwater guy inside and out and only dabble with freshwater fishing, mostly for a change of pace.
On this particular day, there was a mother gator and at least 14 baby gators sunning themselves on a sandy burm some 20 feet from the dock. This is not unusual, for every spring a large gator lays her eggs here, and watches over the hatchlings for a bit. I walked by the gator, got in the boat and scored a couple small bass on the lake. I brought the boat back to its lift, got up on the dock and proceeded to walk back to the house, until I spotted a “bright” area underneath the sitting-area section of the dock. I stopped and peered into the water; it was a bass bed - with a monster bass on it!
Now overwhelmed with excitement, I fetched a spinning outfit – fresh with a purple Mann’s Jelly Worm, and tried to catch the bass – to no avail. I caught and released the smaller (maybe two pounds) male bass twice, but couldn’t even get the big female to acknowledge my worm. I switched up and dropped a plastic lizard, a jig, and even a swimming lure – nothing. The bass just kept swimming around that nest. I needed a live bluegill for bait.
After rigging a small spinner with a hair hook and baiting with a tiny dough ball, I attempted to catch a small bluegill. To my surprise, I caught a big shiner! This was as good as “gold” and a virtual guarantee I would hook that bass.
I ran the shiner back to where the bass was bedding, hooked it to a 12-pound test spinner, and dropped it down from the dock. The shiner saw the bass and went crazy. I had all I could do to keep the now scrambling shiner out of the thick weeds. For fear of losing the bait in the weeds, I reeled up and tried to reposition myself for a better angle to drop it onto the bed. The problem was, in the excitement, I walked right off the opposite end of the dock, caught ten-feet of air and ended up in the lake. Immersed in water and thick weeds, I quickly looked for that big gator, which had left its burm. There was a ladder some 40 feet away by the boat, but being down in the water and weeds, it might as well have been in Bimini; I was concerned over swimming through those weeds and encountering any moccasins or gators.
I swam to the closest dock stanchion, but its cross member was too high to reach. I swam through the weeds to the next one, where its cross member was low enough to access. The cross member here was indeed within range, but at an angle that made it very awkward to get onto without contorting my body like a pretzel. I managed to lock both feet into the cross member and lift myself from the water, to where my rear end was about two feet above and facing the lake. I kept watching for the gator. I needed to get up on that dock pronto, but didn’t have enough solid footing to thrust myself up there. I had to try. I gave it my best effort and ended up, chest down, on the edge of the dock and several inches away from reaching the opposite side with my hand, to where I could have pulled myself up.
Feeling myself slipping, and knowing I didn’t want to fall back into the lake, I made one last thrust and got a grip on the dock. I proceeded to pull myself up. I’d like to say I did this in grandiose fashion, but I actually resembled a walrus sloppily rolling up onto the dock. I made it! Dejected and a bit upset, I walked to the house to get a warm shower. My cell phone was ruined, my money was soaked, my sunglasses were lost, and my pride was bruised, but I held onto my Penn rod and reel combo. Priorities!
After showering and calming down for a half-hour or so, I walked back down the dock. I looked at the bed, and that bass was still there! I took the small rod and another dough ball, and caught yet another large shiner. Once again, I felt that excitement coming on. However, this time, I made sure to slow way, way down and keep my cool. One dip into the lake was enough. I pinned the shiner to the hook on the larger spinner and dropped it down to the bed. The big bass went crazy, chasing it all over until she inhaled it. I set the hook, and the big bass went nuts. I’m not sure how I navigated that big bass through all the weeds and down to the end of the dock, where I could get to her, but I did. I caught the bass!
Thinking ahead, as I did not want to harm the bass, I quickly put the fish on a stringer and secured it to the end of the dock. The fish was doing fine here. I had jogged back to the house to get my camera, and saw that my wife and youngest daughter had just returned. I asked Edie,my wife, to take a few pictures. I removed the bass from the stringer, weighed it quickly on the Boga Grip scale – it registered eight-pounds, three-ounces, held it for a few pictures, and then promptly released it back over her bed. Later than afternoon, I walked back down, and she was still on her bed.
Talk about an event-filled day! I scored my largest freshwater bass to date, and even went swimming with wild alligators. I felt like Tarzan.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
To top off the final stop on the tour, and at the conclusion of the seminar day, we drew for the Bimini Sands Bonefishing trip. The winner was one “Phil McCrackin”. The announcement of his name a couple times was met by nearly deafening laughter. If I didn’t read the name myself, I would have thought it to be a joke. It wasn’t! Red-faced, Phil M. made his way to the stage and claimed his trip certificate. I doubt he would have set forth from his seat and endured that laughter had the prize been a spool of fishing line!
Though it takes a bit of effort to get that first seminar stop under your belt, it seems that by the second or third seminar, you’re on a fast-moving train and blowing right by the seminar cities. At the end, you’re wondering what happened to January, February and early March! Mentally, it feels as if we knocked out Atlantic City, Ft. Myers, Virginia Beach, Wilmington (NC), Savannah, Palm Beach, Biloxi, and Boston in one week, rather than over eight individual Saturdays.
Despite all the long and hard hours and traveling involved with the Seminar Series, I still thoroughly enjoy doing it. You meet neat people and, of course, you’re working on stage with some of the nation’s very best saltwater anglers; you can’t help but learn new tricks – even up on stage! Next year, it’s the 25th Anniversary for the Seminar Series, and we will plan some neat things for the tour.
March won’t be nearly as busy, and it’s when I try to relax a bit by getting away with the family for Spring Break, fun fishing, readying the boat and tackle for the new season, etc. Come April, it’s back to shooting television episodes for our 2012 season on VERSUS. Between April and November, we travel to 13 angling destinations to fish and shoot shows. Given good weather and no reschedules (almost a rarity in this business), we might wrap up the shooting by October. The shows are then edited and sent to VERSUS, where they air beginning on the first Saturday in January.
I think there’s some Central Florida freshwater bass fishing in the cards for me in the next week or so (strictly for fun). If I score, I’ll post a picture or two!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
The new MARC VI, set for the Miami Boat Show
I’m now well into that “groove” where we travel each weekend with the Salt Water
Sportsman National Seminar Series. Out of the eight stops, we’re down to the final three: Palm Beach (Feb. 12), Biloxi (Feb. 26) and Boston (March 5).
The “home town” South Florida seminar is awesome. No airports, rental cars, hotel
rooms, or snow! Best of all, there are so many friends here, it’s like an annual reunion. And you can bank on the door prizes being “extra heavy” for this seminar. It’s tradition!
I’m also looking forward to the Biloxi seminar, which will be at the IP Casino Resort& Spa. The casino seminars are always a blast. Plus, this could very well be the most important seminar in recent Seminar Series history, as there’s so much to get into as far as what’s going on species-wise, environmental-wise, etc. after that oil disaster. Then, there’s Boston - the final stop on the tour. I always seem to get into that “last day of school” mood for this one! For when it’s over, it’s time to get back to fishing, rather than just talking about it!
In between each seminar, we spend about three days tearing down the courses and visuals from the previous city, and rebuilding the courses and visuals for the upcoming city. Each city has its own unique topics and, therefore, visuals. In addition, I work closely each week with my television show producer, Kevin Tierney, editing a television episode for VERSUS. And then I compile and write my monthly column for Salt Water Sportsman. Trying to find spare time now is as hard as finding the proverbial needle in a hay stack. But, I’m not complaining; Quite the contrary.
The big excitement here is my new boat – a 2011 Mako 284 center console, powered by twin Mercury Verado 300hp outboards. The boat will be on display at the Mako booth inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, during the Miami International Boat show February 17 – 22. That Friday, Saturday and Sunday – from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., I will be in the boat signing and giving away my television T-shirts. So, stop by and say hello!
The boat just came in on February 7, giving us a whopping three days to “fine tune” it for the show (rig the outriggers and teaser reels, fabricate the weather enclosure and have it lettered). Today (2/8), Drew Caterson, from Action Canvas in Marathon, drove up to Broward County to take measurements for the enclosure. He will have it completed and on the boat in the next day or two. I registered the boat this morning and then rigged the outriggers, center rigger and teaser reels. Image Graphics 2000 did the lettering and will apply it tomorrow (2/9). On Friday (2/11), Mako takes the boat to the Convention
Center for their move in day. How’s that for cutting it close?!
Elec-Tra-Mate Teezer reels
E-box with twin Lowrance VHF radios
The control center
Four Shadow-Caster Marine underwater LED lights - Bimini Blue
Thursday, January 20, 2011
burning dragster seeking a record-breaking run. That’s because our first
television episode of the new year airs the first weekend in January, and
generally that first or second Saturday in January finds us taking the Salt
Water Sportsman National Seminar Series on the road for its annual eight-
stop pilgrimage. Our first VERSUS episode aired on Saturday, January 1,
at 11:30 a.m., and our first National Seminar Series stop was at Trump’s
Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Saturday, January
8. But, despite the hecticness, it’s all good!
As is tradition when the Seminar Series goes to Trump’s, I flew in on
Thursday morning, with production team members Swede Greene, Mr.
Miller, James Hanrahan and Lou Volpe. We like to spend extra time going
through gear, visuals, hall set ups, etc, since it is the first stop on the tour.
Typically, we fly to a venue early Friday morning, and set-up after an early
lunch. On Saturday, we conduct our seminar, and then fly out Saturday
evening. The Jersey stop had us there from Thursday until Sunday.
Joining us in Atlantic City was a solid team of regional experts that
included Trey Rhyne, Tyler Fruits, Scott Newhall, Tim Tanghare, Jack Shea,
and Joe Trainor. Our national faculty for this show was comprised of Dr.
Mitchell Roffer and Bouncer Smith. My co host was fellow Salt Water
Sportsman writer and noted New Jersey angling authority Gary Caputi.
For me, one of the neatest things about these seminars is hanging out
and talking shop with our faculty teams, on stage, and off. And when you
realize just how much angling knowledge exists within such a group, it’s
really impressive. And, of course, having the opportunity to chat with some
of the attendees during your breaks is enjoyable.
This is how our weekends will be, until after we wrap up the 2011
Seminar Series in Boston on March 5. Again, it’s a lot of work for a very
short period of time, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Check out: www.nationalseminarseries.com