Next time you're out and about, in one of the shopping malls with specialty stores and you see a superstore featuring fishing paraphernalia, take a moment and step inside. You will be flabbergasted!
There on wall racks, floor displays, counters and shelves are literally thousands upon thousands of rods, reels, lures, lines, rigs and gadgets all bubble and blister packaged in just about every color, shape and texture imaginable (all of that to catch a creature with a brain the size of grain of rice).
And if there then comes a subliminal hankering to join this world of angling, the question then becomes: where do you start?
The easiest way for immersion is to go to school on somebody else. Generally, the folks at those tackle shops would be more happy to show you the way as they fill your shopping cart. But then comes the day when you step to the water's edge and find it's different doing it with their equipment in your hands.
Or how about going fishing with someone that does that professionally and learn from them; like a charter captain.
Yours truly, has had the pleasure of several of those encounters over the years. It's not minutes after they board that they "confess" to three things. First, that they bought hundreds of fishing items they don't know how to use. Secondly, that they've fished several times with zero success. And finally they confess they are going to go to school on you that day.
One particular family from Scandinavia is remembered vividly in that regard. On a charter trip one fine spring morning a few years back, they coyly looked under, into and behind everything on the boat searching for some elusive something. I asked if they had lost something and they timidly responded. "We saw all those thousands of items in the tackle shop and bought quite a few of them ourselves, we were looking for yours."
I pointed to two small cases under the port helm chair and a few light tackle rods with reels attached; standing vertical in the rod racks. They said nothing but looked amazed. You immediately sensed that their learning phase had begun.
I explained that fishing is really a simple sport and all you really need is a few simple tools, a sensitive pair of hands coupled with some common sense, a tad of quiet patience and topped off with a smidgeon of good luck. They sat there with mouths agape and in dead silence.
We moved to our first fishing spot along one of the mangrove edges and I parceled out a rod to each. "These are what they call light action spinning rods. You will feel any touch to your bait with this equipment instantly and once the fish is "on" you will live with the line peeling out and the reel screaming as it discharges line emanating from the action of the escaping fish. It's all you'll need if you fish the backwaters and the nearshore.
We then went over the makings of the simple bottom rig that can be used exclusively for all bottom feeding species. Commonly known as a "lindy rig" consisting of a 1/0 hook on a 12" leader strung under a swivel that blocks the egg sinker weight from descending on the hook below. "This is basically the only rig you'll need in the shallow waters. All you have to do in deeper or shallower water is change the hook and weight size. The arrangement of the rig remains identical".
"Wow … we bought all that stuff and this is all we'll basically need?
The couple looked stunned as we loaded on some shrimp for bait and went through the rudiments of casting. Their first casting attempts were pitiful and we had them try it again a few more times. The woman had the first strike with a scream and we helped her with the first catch, explaining the process of holding the rod steady allowing it to do the work of keeping the line tight and the fish coming in.
Excitement was an understatement as they both paused for photos on their first catch. There were more that followed that morning and with each achievement they gained more confidence with the equipment as well as the technique for handing the rod and the catch.
As we finished working our third spot, I announced that we would move to one of the passes and work another type of tackle for what we categorized as pelagic fish; one's that are perpetually moving through the water column and not bottom resident feeders like we had seen earlier in the day.
I opened the second case of equipment and had them handle a feathered jig. Simply explained to them as a leaded hook with hair or bristle affixed over the hook itself. It is intended to be cast and then retrieved through the water in various patterns and then repeated. The fish that are anxious to tie into this offering usually strike with a vengeance and do everything possible to escape.
Target species for the feathered jig would be fish like mackerel, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish, jacks etc.
We rigged up two of the same light rods with a light fluorocarbon leader with jigs attached. Had them cast the bare jigs and practice a couple of different retrieval techniques; one speedy fast retrieval; one jerky stop and go retrieval and one technique of bouncing off the bottom.
And then we went live. Pompano had been running especially well on either side of the tide turn and we had timed our arrival in Capri Pass to coincide. We baited up two jigs and had at it.
It took a couple tries to get the rhythm of the jig retrieval down but once they did they got lit up with multiple pompano strikes and landings. They were all a flutter again when I suggested they take a couple of the pomps home for lunch.
As we turned for home, they were both brimming over with "thank yous" and then as we neared the marina mounted the sheepish question … "Do you think the tackle store will take back all that stuff we bought and didn't even open?”
"Try, maybe try to trade them in for some of the equipment that you learned about today."
Last I saw of them, they were heading to the superstore in Naples.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.