Monthly Archives: May 2017

My Quest to Catch Bass on Fly

how to catch bass on fly

Debbie Hanson with a nice bass from a kayak. (Photo Pamela Mess)

My story from Hatch Magazine.  This is an unedited excerpt from the original piece.

By Mike Hodge

It’s the start of summer in Northeast Florida, a tad too early for tarpon and a bit too early for flood-tide redfish. Given the break in the angling calendar, it’s time to take inventory of every species I’ve caught with a fly rod.

So far, I’ve conquered three types of freshwater trout along with a handful of bluegill; in the salt, I’ve landed reds, seatrout, snook, jacks, bluefish, ladyfish and tarpon.

I’ve caught a few bass, but none of them were worth bragging about. True story: The biggest bass I ever caught was more than 40 years ago on a small mountain pond in North Carolina. The fish probably weighed 5 pounds or so. Catch-and-release was not part of my young, boyish mindset back then, but the bass had the last laugh.

I put my quarry on a stringer and pushed the stake into the muddy shoreline. Big mistake. Moments later, the sturdy green fish gathered enough strength to pull the stringer out of the muck and swam off — along with two panfish destined for the frying pan.

I’ve yearned for redemption ever since that summer day. But I’ve never mustered a big bass on a fly rod. To help fulfill that quest, I called upon two anglers who have kicked a little bass: Debbie Hanson, a guide, women’s sport fishing advocate and blogger (SheFishes2.com); and Shaw Grigsby, Jr., a professional bass tournament angler. Hanson has caught more bass than I’ve dreamed about, on foot and out of a kayak near her home waters in Fort Myers, Fla. Grigsby, from Gainesville, Fla., has surpassed more than a two million dollars in career earnings with conventional gear, but his true passion is topwater bass on fly. Below are a few of their tips that should help you land a big bass on fly.

For more info check out the link below.http://www.hatchmag.com/articles/largemouth-bass-fly-tips-pros/7714386

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A Bow to the Florida Largemouth Bass

I have never caught a largemouth bass. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve caught a few yearling-sized largemouth, but nothing worth bragging about. Hell, these fish weren’t even big enough to warrant lying about to my buddies over a beer.

Not that I’m a bad fisherman. I’ve caught a tarpon, three or species of freshwater trout, bluegill, seatrout, redfish, jacks, snook and even a peacock bass or two. All on fly.

The closest I came to catching a respectable largemouth was 40-something years ago when I was youngster summering in the mountains of Western North Carolina. On friend’s farm pond, I landed a nice, fat largemouth, probably in the neighborhood of 4 pounds. Using a small spinning reel, a bobber and a mealworm, I pulled the big green fish up to the edge of the sand and heaved him over toward the grassy bank. As far as smooth landings go, it was not pretty. Turns out, the bass got the last laugh.

I had also caught two bluegill. I had them on a stringer, which was loosely staked to the muddy bank. I unhooked my quarry, put him on the stringer and mashed the stake of the stringer into the sand.

I thought the fight was over, but it wasn’t. Moments later, the big bass pulled the stringer — stake and all — out of the soft ground and swam off with two bluegill.

Technically you could say I caught that bass, because I unhooked him and had the fish under my control, but since the fish left under its own power on its own terms — and not mine and evaded the frying pan — I consider it a draw. That’s the last decent bass I’ve caught and I’ve spent brief stretches of each fishing season trying to attain some measure of poetic justice, but I’ve never caught a largemouth that bent the rod quite like that fish.

Given that bit of unfinished business, I’ve decided to spend part of this summer trying to catch a bigger-than-average largemouth. My quest is largely personal, but there are some darned good reasons to spar with the largemouth.

You can find them in just every piece of freshwater in Florida. And if you don’t catch a largemouth, you’ll catch some sort of species of bass. Florida, after all, is home to seven different species of native bass — the spotted bass, shoal bass, striped bass, sunshine bass, Suwanee bass, white bass and the venerable largemouth. For see the link below.

http://snookfoundation.org/content/florida%E2%80%99s-forgotten-fish-bow-largemouth-bass

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The Thomas & Thomas Exocett Delivers

My story on the Thomas & Thomas Exocett for the Blackfly Outfitter in Jacksonville.

Thomas & Thomas’ motto is “the rod you will eventually own.” Their belief is by the time you try other fly rods, you, the customer, will want the Thomas & Thomas brand.

T&T’s quality consistently shines brighter than the competition. After all, the Massachusetts-based company has been making fine fly rods since the late 1960s. They do so one rod at a time, with painstaking attention to handcrafted detail, from the butt section to the tip.

So it is with the Exocett saltwater series. If you want a rod that’s sensitive enough to cast well for all skill levels, but strong enough to handle everything from tarpon to tiger fish, the Exocett is for you. Trouble turning over those bushy tarpon patterns?
The Exocett can help you punch through that afternoon wind — without wear and tear on your shoulder. Furthermore, the Exocett has proven its durability world-wide, slaying giant trevally and monster tuna in the Seychelles.

The Exocett is known for its performance, but it has a sleek, sexy design as well. The 9-foot, four-piece setup features a matte blue, low-friction finish.

For more info, check out http://www.flyfishingworldheadquarters.com/?p=1496

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Grand Slam Wins Custom Shootout

Grand Slam was on the move during the 2017 Shootout last weekend.

My story for FishTrack.com on Skip’s Custom Shootout.

A shade of irony passed over the Bahamas last weekend.

The winning boat in the Custom Shootout pulled ahead of the field by releasing a grand slam. And the name of the winning boat?

Grand Slam.

Buoyed by a strong second day, the captain and crew aboard the New Smyrna Beach, Florida, vessel won the Custom Shootout, amassing 1,800 points in the three-day event, edging out Gina Lisa in a tiebreaker based on time.

The event, part of the Abaco Diamond Series, was restricted to 61 custom boats in an all-release billfish affair at the Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina.

It was Grand Slam’s second big win of the year. In January, Grand Slam owner Wallis Higginbotham and crew earned top honors in the Pelican Yacht Club Invitational in Fort Pierce, Florida.

“This one’s special when you consider the caliber of the teams and boats in this tournament,” Higginbotham said. “You had some of the best fishermen on the planet. It was a great group of fishermen to fish against. We were fortunate enough to come out on top and we’re extremely happy and pretty thrilled.”

Grand Slam was built by Forbes Boat Works based in Wanchese, North Carolina, a small town that is home to several of the world’s primere custom boat builders. The boat strung together back-to-back quality days in the Shootout, totaling five billfish releases, including three blues, one white and one sail. That output was enough offset a fishless effort on day three. The Gina Lisa logged more fish with a total of seven releases and tied for the top spot in points, but Grand Slam ultimately prevailed because it amassed its points first.Grand Slam’s grand slam proved to be the pivotal point in the tournament. The combo of the sailfish, white marlin and blue marlin generated 400 additional points, the equivalent of one blue marlin in the Custom Shootout’s scoring system.

Higginbotham caught the sailfish and the blue. Larry Gross caught the white. There were only three one-day grand slams generated among the 224 anglers.

For more go to http://www.fishtrack.com/features/grand-slam-shines-in-custom-shootout_147314

 

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So Long Gander Mountain

This sad on so many different levels. Gander Mountain wasn’t a big fly fishing store, but it still hurts when an outdoors retailer bites the dust. We have a store in St. Augustine. I wonder how much longer that operation will be around.

http://www.artofanoutdoorsman.com/2017/05/gander-mountain-begins-to-liquidate-all.html#.WRN8JyJGULU.facebook

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Time to Reel for Kids and the Gainesville Boys and Girls club

It’s less than a month away for a great event and a great cause. It’s Doug Johnson’s Reeling for Kids Saltwater Challenge, June 1-3 in Steinhatchee. Proceeds benefit the Gainesville Boys and Girls Club. See the link below for registration info.

http://www.reelingforkids.com/

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Glover Wins 45th Annual Bluewater

My story for Fishtrack.com on the 45th Annual Bluewater tournament in St. Augustine.

Ken Glover’s two loves are baseball and fishing.

Attributes from both of his passions came into perfect harmony last weekend at the 45th Annual Bluewater Tournament held in St. Augustine, Florida.

Using a blend of patience, perseverance and impeccable timing, Glover and the rest of the crew on Double Play III won the Billfish Division of the Bluewater Tournament, landing the only blue marlin of the three-day affair.

The blue marlin release earned them 500 points, well ahead of the second-place finisher, Miss Laddy, which tallied 250 points. In the Game Fish Division, ReelXcape II beat out Sea Genie by a narrow 25-point margin.

The tournament fleet endured mostly rough conditions with 20-mph winds on the final day of the event. But the crew on Double Play III took advantage of the calmest day of the tournament and Glover’s wife, Debbie, was the lucky angler to land the event’s only marlin.

“We’re not professional fishermen, we’re not professional tournament people,” said Glover, who owns Double Play III, a 61 Viking. “It’s fun when you can do something like this. We like to be competitive. We like to win.”

Glover, his captain Ryan Rodeffer, first mate Joey Nowicki and Debbie were on top of their game early. They boated a few mahi before running down their blue marlin after a 60-mile run, east/southeast of St. Augustine Inlet. Their strategy: Have a plan, but be flexible.

For more … http://www.fishtrack.com/features/winning-ways_1

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