1. What is your favorite technique when guiding for tarpon?
I'm a visual guy and want to see the bite. Tarpon love chasing down a DOA Baitbuster soft-plastic swimbait and smashing it boatside.
I've smashed 120-pound fish on that 4-inch bait with a 7 ½-foot rod IMX-PRO Blue rod. That rod has incredible power. I've also caught several tarpon over the years on a fly, I love that too!
2. What's your favorite rod and reel set-up at the moment, and how does this gear differ from what you'd use for other species?
The power, sensitivity, and balance of the IMX-PRO Blue rods are unparalleled. I fish both live and artificial baits, and I've put the heat to those rods with big tarpon, and we have straight-up whipped them. The blanks allow my clients of varying degrees of skill to make super long casts due to the IMX-PRO Blue's soft tip. Still, it gives them every opportunity to calm the most aggressive tarpon.
I'll pair those rods with the Shimano Saragosa SW 6000 spinning reel spooled with a 40- to 65-pound test PowerPro braided line. This is the reel of choice l when those fish are amped up and trying to smoke that drag. I put too much time, effort, and sacrifice into hooking each fish to leave any element of my game to chance. My clients deserve the best.
3. How has the equipment you use today changed how you've targeted tarpon over the years?
The equipment has increasingly gotten better, which has helped me improve my game and protect the fish. The true game changer is the power in these rods: it enables my anglers to pull on the fish. I am not a fan of fighting fish for long periods.
If you're a "tarpon rookie" on my boat, I'll give you 30 to 35 minutes, but that second one is a different fight. We're using our equipment to pull on the fish to minimize stress to the fish, the fight time, and stress to the angler. At 92 degrees with 92% humidity, no one wants or should be fighting fish for an hour. We put a lot of pressure on the fish to get them boatside for the betterment of everyone involved.
Because of the gear, it enhances the excitement and health of the betterment of the angler as well as the fish's safety by protecting the resource to spawn another day.
The equipment today has made anglers much more efficient and successful. It boils down to having quality gear to make your overall experience that much better. It has nothing to do with a "cool gear factor". When you start breaking down the costs of boat, fuel, ice, and you roll out with subpar tackle, you're only setting yourself up for failure with gear you cannot trust.