I spent the last nine days fishing in Florida — not for bass, but pretty much for everything else. My family, along with the Martens family and the Howell family were in Boca Grande for the World's Richest Tarpon Tournament and the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic. We figured we caught 20 different species of fish on the trip altogether. My son Mason caught 15 different species all by himself.
I believe catching all these different species will be beneficial to my bass fishing. Seeing the different ways the saltwater anglers do things opened my eyes to some new ideas. While bites are similar, most of the time in saltwater we weren't setting the hook in a conventional manner. Instead we would use the reel to set the hook. That took some getting used to. Fighting big fish on light line is a good way to sharpen your skills, too. Anytime you can go fishing — regardless of the species you're targeting — it will help you become a better bass angler.
It was also great to see the conservation efforts that were being used for tarpon. Just like most of us bass fisherman, the tarpon guys are 100 percent catch and release. In fact, the tarpon are never touched. We'd get them close enough to the boat to be considered a catch and then snap the leader line. The hooks left in the fish will rust out quickly. They say that's less stressful on the fish than fighting them all the way to the boat and then removing the hook.
Over the past twenty years there's been a similar conservation effort made for goliath grouper. I remember when it was rare to catch a goliath grouper, now they seem to be everywhere. There seem to be so many, in fact, that they're actually a nuisance because they'll eat the fish on your line before you can land them. While that's sometimes frustrating to the local anglers, it's great to see the goliath grouper has made such a strong comeback.
It was also great to take some vacation time with the family, but I just can't sit on the beach and relax. I need to be trying to catch something, so that's what we did.
I'd like to give a special thanks to Captain Sandy Melvin, who has fished many professional bass tournaments including the top levels of B.A.S.S. Doing the saltwater thing is his regular job, and bass fishing is his hobby and passion. Randy, Aaron and I, along with Captain Sandy Melvin and his two partners made up a team for the tournament. Following our tournament, the kids fished in the kid's event which raised over $27,000 for the Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute and All Children’s Hospital.
We had a great time, but now I'm eager to get back to Kansas and prepare for the Mississippi River.
Remember, anytime you get to go fishing — regardless of the species — you'll make yourself a better angler.