Skip to main content

A Guiding Life: Stories from an Okeechobee Bass Guide and Pro Angler

Note from an Editor to a Digital Audience: Not all the great fishing stories are printed in the pages of Florida Sportsman Magazine, nor are they posted in the many Forums at Florida Sportsman online. Around our state, you'll find outdoorsmen like Mark Shepard (photo at left) quietly chronicling their observations of fishing days with wit and wisdom. Sometimes those compilations make it to the press. Shepard recently published a book through Erewhon Press, with contributions by writer Phil Fragasso.  I haven't had a chance to read the entire book yet, but was happy to relay the following excerpt, sent to Florida Sportsman this week by Mr. Fragasso.  Shepard is a Lake Okeechobee fishing guide in Clewiston and longtime competitor on the B.A.S.S. and FLW tournament scenes.  

  --Jeff Weakley, Editor

From A Guiding Life: Living, Fishing and Hunting the American Dream

One hot summer day I was out with a young husband and wife from New York. We were catching some pretty good-sized fish, and the wife hooked onto one that looked to be about three pounds. Well the fish jumped up in the air and threw the bait. The wife hardly had time to be disappointed because as soon as the bait hit the water a six-and-a-half-pounder grabbed it, so she effectively doubled the size of her fish. I've been fishing my whole life so I had seen that happen before. But I'd never seen it happen twice in the same day. But that's exactly what happened. The husband got a three-pounder on the line. It jumped up, threw the bait, and when the bait landed back in the water it was hit by a six-pounder. Like I always say, every day on Okeechobee brings a unique adventure.

My most unique guiding experience happened a few years ago, but to really provide a sense of just how crazy it was I have to go back twenty years. I was fishing up on Blue Cypress Lake with my childhood buddy, Walt. Blue Cypress was absolutely beautiful. Like its name suggests, there were Cypress trees everywhere. The lake offered every conceivable type of fish habitat. There were stumps and grass beds, deep open water and shallow marshy areas. It had the look of a place where you'd get a bite on every cast, but looks can be awfully deceiving. We fished there all day and never got so much as a nibble. So the day was winding down and I was idling through some stumps, and Walt suggested we call it a day. “There's no fish in this pond,” he said. Well, on the souls of everyone I've ever known and loved, as soon as he said there weren't any fish in the pond, a five-pounder jumped out of the water and landed right between us. It was flipping and flopping all over the deck and Walt and I watched it in total shock. Then we started laughing so hard we could hardly breathe. We put the fish back in the water and headed home, realizing there was nothing else we could do to top that.

So fast-forward twenty years. I was fishing in the Everglades with one of my longtime clients, Allen. Allen was an ex-Marine, a true gentleman and a ball to fish with. He came down just about every year to fish five or six days at a time. This particular time we were fishing down in the Everglades and we were having a really good day catching nice-sized bass on top with poppers and the like. Allen turned to me and asked, “Mark, have you ever had one of these big old boys jump in the boat?” I started to laugh and was about to tell him the story about Walt and me when a fish about four pounds jumped right in the boat. We were up against a saw grass edge, and the fish must have been chasing something it wanted and jumped just a bit too high. Well Allen just about had a shit fit. He went nuts, laughing and carrying on, just not believing what had happened. And I was kind of in shock that such a strange thing had happened to me twice in my life. I guess it proves one of two things – either largemouth bass or God has a good sense of humor.




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

How to Buy and Rig a River Fishing Kayak

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Power or Paddle? Bonafide PWR129

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

It's a Skiff, It's a Kayak: Bonafide SKF117

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Hobie Mirage Lynx to the Next Level

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight Packed with Features

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Extend Your Range in the Salt Marsh

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Florida's Capital Fishing

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120 FULLY RIGGED Fishing Machine

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Mounting Forward-Facing Sonar on A Kayak: Mounts, Scanning Applications and More!

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

On The Water with Old Town: Bass Fishing at PRIVATE GEORGIA LAKE

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

DECKED-OUT Old Town Sportsman BigWater ePDL+ 132 Complete WALK-THROUGH

Kayak Fishing Fun Senior Editor Thomas Allen is joined by Old Town's Brand Evangelist Ryan Lilly to work some magic in b...
Videos

Dreambuild: Old Town ePDL Gets Rigged to the Hilt

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use