Florida Big Bend Weekend Fishing 4Cast

Homosassa to Steinhatchee
Includes Homosassa, Crystal River, Yankeetown, Waccasassa Bay, Cedar Key, Suwannee, Horseshoe Beach, Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach

July 25-27

It’s Those Little Things That Excite Me

I’ve returned from last week’s big international tackle show (ICAST) in Orlando and never really want to see another hook, jig, plug, rod or reel (for at least a day or so!). This is the big show of the year, and we’re lucky to have it in Orlando this year and for the next two. Hundreds of exhibitors, big and small, use the event to show new products in hopes of attracting interest (and sales) from retailers, distributors and in hopes of getting reviews from members of the outdoors press.

I spent two and a half days on the show floor, and feel I saw at least every booth and offering. Of course, I was impressed with the “big stuff”, but I’m always on the lookout for smaller, innovative products and products from small “mom and pop” vendors.

While Big Bend fin fishing has been good, and the weather is holding, life on our waters is still all about the bay scallop. Steinhatchee is doing well, despite snorkeler pressure, and the easiest catches are coming from Citrus County. Wakulla County and points west (to Mexico Beach) are spotty. But anglers are really missing good chances for early morning reds along the shoreline and sea trout in deeper waters. Offshore, cobia and grouper are plentiful and amberjacks are back on the “keeper” list after August 1. In any case, whether you fish far or close, consider splitting your day and spending the high noon hours snorkeling, when the scallops get close to the grass tops.

As promised, here’s my list of (mostly) little things that impressed me from my ICAST trip last week, followed by an official list of the things that were voted “Best Of” by members of the outdoor press and retailers:

Castalia Outdoors: “Jiggy Hooks”, a 4/0 red hook with a loosely attached head (in green pumpkin color). Great action for the flats. Available in ¼, 3/8 and ½ ounce models. www.castaliaoutdoors.com

Tactical Anglers: You know that I’m a true believer in “Crazy Alberto” Knie’s Tactical Angler Power Clips, and the new 75-pound version is a welcome addition to the line. But don’t forget about his new line of CrossOver lures, available as poppers and stalkers. www.tacticalanglers.com

Cablz Eyeglass Retainers: All are now adjustable, and a new 18-incher is available for those of us (me) who like to keep “cheater” glasses handy. www.cablz.com

Rat-L-Trap Lures: New holographic inserts and saltwater versions with cadmium plated hooks. Also some new long-casting, easy to see “Rocket Bobbers”. www.rat-l-trap.com

Hobie Cat: The new 17-foot Pro Angler tandem fishing boat is extreme, but what sold me was the octagonal rail. Why hasn’t anyone done this before? Imagine clamping accessories and NOT having them rotate and flop around! www.hobiecat.com

Wild River: Their tackle bags have evolved from a successful line of work gear and bags. You’ll find bags with LED lights, USB outlets, solar chargers and even stereo speakers. And when available, the “Rigger” bucket will be popular on offshore boats. (I did notice a few Wild River bags at the Sea Hag in Steinhatchee the other day—check them out.) www.gowildriver.com

TTI/Blakemore: Randy’s Swim ‘n Runner and Bass Buffet have evolved from the popular Road Runner lures. Available in November, these lures have great flats potential for seatrout and reds. www.tticompanies.com

Daiichi: The “Shrimp Shaker” hook has been popular in Texas, where anglers target trophy seatrout in sandy holes. Dropshot techniques are popular in fresh water, so why not salt? These forged needle point hooks are sharp, too! www.tticompanies.com

Z-Man: The 5-inch Pop Shad floats and has a concave front, making it perfect for weedless rigging and fishing floating or heavy grass. Look for this one soon and get some before they sell out! www.zmanfishing.com

MirrOlure: New Paul Brown Colors are available and now’s the time to stock up for winter seatrout season, when they’re “killers”. There’s also a Paul Brown Soft-Dine in an “XL” size and I can’t wait to try the 5-inch Provoker Twitch Bait! Finally, the Lil’ Jon XL twitch baits are now available in a tray-lined pouch, allowing them to stay straight until they’re needed. www.mirrolure.com

Reel Adrenaline: The “Docktail Bar” makes serving drinks on the boat a breeze. These innovative tables fit into rod holders and are perfect for parties at the dock after a long day of fishing. www.reeladrenaline.com

Sunsect: Sunscreen and Insect Repellent. Used and trusted by the US military, and made locally (in Tallahassee), this patented product combines sunscreen and DEET. I’m taking some kayak fishing in Wakulla County this weekend! www.sunsect.com

RokLees: A simple, but very effective (and easy to use) fish descending device. From the far west coast (California) but with great Gulf of Mexico potential. www.roklees.com

Lit Coolers: Roto-molded coolers, like everyone’s making, but with LED lights. Why didn’t I think of this? www.litcoolers.com

Logic Lures: Venom rattle tail baits are good, but I was quickly drawn towards their super-sharp Ceramix Braid and Fly Universal Cutting Tool. These “scissors” are a must-have! www.logiclures.com

Fishing Ammo: Likely the smallest single product at the show, but fun. Shotgun shells are for much more than shooting! www.fishingammo.com

…and finally, Yeti’s new Soft Cooler is magnificent. But it’s $300. Not a qualifier for the low cost end of this list, but I still want one! www.yeticoolers.com

ICAST 2014 Overall Best of Show Category Winners

Best of Show – Freshwater Rod – Duckett Fishing
Product – Micro Magic Pro

Best of Show – Saltwater Rod – Shimano American Corporation
Product – Terez Stand Up

Best of Show – Fly Fishing Rod – G. Loomis, Inc.
Product PRO4x Short Stix

Best of Show – Freshwater Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.
Product- Abu-Revo Beast

Best of Show – Saltwater Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.
Product – PENN Battle II Spinning

Best of Show – Fly Fishing Reel – 3TAND, LLC
Product – TF-70 Sealed Fly Reel

Best of Show – Hard Lure – SPRO Corporation 
Product – BBZ-1 Rat

Best of Show – Soft Lure – Okuma Fishing Tackle Corporation
Product – Savage Gear 3D PVC Crab

Best of Show – Lifestyle Apparel – Pelagic, Inc. 
Product – 4TEK Fish Finder Boardshort

Best of Show – Technical Apparel – STORMR
Product – Fusion Bib

Best of Show – Boating Accessory – Johnson Outdoors 
Product – Minn Kota Ulterra Trolling Motor

Best of Show – Boats – Johnson Outdoors Watercraft 
Product – Predator XL

Best of Show – Combo – Lew’s Fishing Tackle
Product – American Hero Baitcast Combo

Best of Show – Electronics – Johnson Outdoors
Product – Humminbird ONIX 8SI

Best of Show – Eyewear – Costa
Product – Hamlin – 580P Mirror Lenses

Best of Show – Fishing Accessory – Lit-Industries, LLC
Product – Lit Coolers

Best of Show – FishSmart Tackle – Cuda Fishing Tools
Product – Cuda Grip & Scale

Best of Show – Fly Fishing Accessory – Plastica Panaro SRL
Product – M2300 – Fly Caddy

Best of Show – Footwear – Columbia Sportswear
Product – Megavent PFG

Best of Show – Giftware – Helter Skeletons, Ltd.
Product – Authentic Skeletal Articulation

Best of Show – Kids’ Tackle – ZEBCO Brands

Product – ZEBCO Splash Combos

Best of Show – Line – Pure Fishing, Inc
Product – Berkley IronSilk

Best of Show – Tackle Management – ENGEL U.S.A.

Product – UC30-RH

Best of Show Terminal Tackle – Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle
Product – TroKar TK619

Recent Fishing Reports

Homosassa: Capt. William Toney

All is well in Homosassa. We have a great community and look forward to our friends who visit us during scallop season. Just want to say that I grew up in one of Florida’s best coastal towns and we have a great bunch of folks here that are my best friends and family. Scalloping continues to be good although I believe that it is not as strong as last year but people are getting their limits. Remember to plan your scalloping trip on the low tide. I did see good numbers of scallops south of Homosassa but again to get them without blowing out a lung go on low tide and it should be about five feet. Look for short grass and sand.

On the inshore waters the best bite is still for redfish on the incoming tide. To find redfish on the incoming tide it is crucial to find mullet. One good way to find mullet is to see them jumping along the shoreline or watch for porpoise, they will show you the way. If you see these mammals crashing schools of mullet let them do their thing and give it a few minutes before you try to fish the spot. Floating grass has been a problem so getting a lure down to them has been tough. Live shrimp and cut pinfish on the bottom are working well.

There is a trout bite south of Homosassa near Bird Island on the Chassahowitzka Channel on the bars. If it is calm a 1/8-ounce D.O.A. chartreuse jig head with a MirrOlure bourbon Lil’ John is very good but if there is a little breeze the D.O.A. Deadly Combo with a glow 3-inch shrimp is the best bait. Mangrove snapper continue to be on the shallow rocks and will bite if there is moving water. Look for good new moon incoming tides around mid-morning this weekend.

Crystal River: Capt. Marrio Castello

This week has been another “hot” week for fishing and scalloping in Crystal River.

We have been finding the scallops in a little bit deeper than normal water southwest of Gomez Rocks in anywhere from 6 feet all the way to 9 feet in some areas. If you are not a good swimmer, I would advise you to keep away from the deeper areas and focus on the shallows. The current can easily carry you far from your vessel faster than you think.

Snook fishing has still been consistent near rocky shorelines and large oyster bars around the high tide. If you catch the high tide in the early morning you can catch them on topwater baits. If you fish a mid-day high tide you can catch them on suspending baits or with a jig and soft plastic like the DOA Cal Shad Tail. Natural colors have been working best for both. Most of the snook have been 30 to 35 inches with a few big girls mixed in.

Homosassa: Capt. Rick Burns


This week I’ll share one way of how to go about catching our sometimes sluggish, summertime fish with live or cut bait.

I love the thrill and challenge of fooling fish with plugs and artificial lures. But, when these hot period times can render most fish “lockjaw lethargic,” you sometimes have to revert to live or cut bait fishing, or what I call chunking. (Chunking chunks of dead bait to em.) And, especially right now, these holes, depressions, and channels, can hold fish that are trying to find a more “comfort” zone. Say, from 8-to 25-feet. And tossing something natural to them can be more productive.

Here’s the reason being: When you have fish that are trying to stay cool or just survive, they aren’t wasting a lot of energy by moving a lot. Instead, they wait for the tide to bring it to them; they still have to eat. Most fish a lot of times, especially at ideal conditions (72 to 78 degree water temps) are happier and more active, and strike or bite artificials out of instinct, reaction, or curiosity. Yes, you’ve caught fish simply because they wanted to check out that weird color, “electric chicken” or “root beer,” nothing wrong with that. I’ll keep tossing it to ‘em.

But for now, we’re talking about fishing brutal summertime water temps. So, one of the best setups for bottom fishing is a “Carolina Rig.” This simple but effective rig has been utilized for years and won a lot of money, catching a lot of fish in the bass world. Working worms, lizards and crawdads off the bottom is a standby, also fished a lot in saltwater situations. Most all of my bottom grouper digging I utilize this setup. But naturally, you don’t go bottom fishing for grouper with one rig, they’ll send ya’ home. We had at ready several rigs that we pre-tied the night before a trip.

You can have at ready, several rigs tied up in various lengths, tests, and hook size, safely wrapped and secured on a piece of cardboard or wrapped around a piece of 1 ½-inch PVC about 12-inches long and secured with a rubber band. With the capped PVC application, (accessible at one end of course), you can even have extra swivels, beads and hooks stowed inside the tube ready at your disposal.

However, this particular rig can be utilized from everything from sharks, cobia and grouper to trout, reds and flounder. Just try to size your rig according to the depth and species you intend to target.

Its effectiveness comes from putting your bait in the strike zone, being near the bottom. Sometimes above the grass, or fluttering with the tidal movement. The egg sinker application allows near zero resistance, which coupled with braided line, allows you to detect the very slightest nibble.

Here’s how. First, slip on an egg sinker (The weights with the hole in the middle), or, a bullet weight in (3/8, ½, or 1-ounce), depending on depth, to your running line. Rule of thumb, don’t use something too heavy for too shallow. It just needs to get to the bottom, not anchor your boat!

Next, an orange bead is optional but a good idea. It simply protects your knot, rather than the weight pounding on it.

Then, tie on a good barrel swivel to your running line. (I like the “Sampo” ball bearing swivels.) It keeps your line from twisting all up.

Next, tie on 18-to 24-inch of fluorocarbon leader. I always like to have my leader a little less test strength than my running line strength. Reason being, if I get snagged, it will break down at the swivel, losing only my leader rig, instead of breaking off up by my reel.

(Keep in mind; I’m using braid, which may be 8-pound diameter, 30-pound test.)

Now, at the end of your leader I like to tie on either #1/0, #1, to even #2 “Kayle” live bait hook depending on species. If nothing else, just tie on a #1 “J” hook and let’s go. “J’s” are what’s used for jigheads and they’ve caught plenty of fish. Circle hooks work as well. (Some people try and split hairs, when the main mission is to just catch fish). I could write a whole article on just circle hooks. Get out and get fishing!

Capt. Tommy Thompson’s website {352-284-1763} captain@twotree.net

Inshore Light Tackle and Fly Fishing

Steinhatchee, Florida

  • Jib Killian

    Capt. Thompson,

    is there anyplace local that has the Tactical Angler Clips? Have gone on line and the only dealers on their web sight are in NY, NJ and RI. Would like to do business locally around Gainesville if possible.


    Jib Killian

  • Tommy SPHS66

    Jib…"crazy Alberto" is trying to get some dealers set up, but so far no luck in our area. Ebay seems to be the best bet. I recommend the 50-pound version for inshore fishing. TT

  • Bob

    Can anybody out there provide the FWC scallop count in all the count areas, especially St. Joe Bay and Steinhatchee. Can’t understand why FWC won’t release the count when the season opens Saturday.