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Reel Time: Planning a successful fishing trip

Planning any fishing trip can be a challenge given the peculiarities of weather and the idiosyncrasies of fish. Add a few thousand miles, a different language and an exotic species or two, and some serious planning is advisable.

Chances are you’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time and finally, you’ll have the opportunity to do nothing but eat, fish, sleep and repeat for a week or more. More than likely, it’s taken a tremendous amount of time and money to get this opportunity so it makes good sense to develop a plan to assure that you have the best possible chance of success.

Deciding where to go and when are the first decisions you’ll make. While it’s not impossible to book your own trip, knowing the best time, tides and lodging can be daunting. In addition, juggling the details of plane reservations, transfers, accommodations and guides can increase the challenge of putting together a self-guided trip.

A knowledgeable outfitter or travel host can provide you with the experience and insider information that will allow you to immerse yourself in the experience instead of the details. Even when using an outfitter, you’ll need to do some research to assure you’ve matched your angling needs and expectations to your chosen destination. There are a lot of resources online, including some great groups on Facebook, but you’ll need to vet those sources.

On recent trips to the Bahamas and Montana, I traveled with groups hosted by Capt. Rick Grassett of Sarasota. While I’ve planned my own trips around writing assignments for years and am familiar with many of the destinations I’ve traveled to with him, having all the arrangements, including air travel, coordinated by someone else is a big asset.

When choosing an outfitter or destination host, be aware that knowing what you want from your trip and asking the right questions is important to fulfilling your expectations. Some of the best fishing is available at sites that have the least amenities. If you require a certain level of service or are traveling with non-fishers, you’ll want to research locations that offer specific conveniences as well as good fishing. While you won’t want to plan your trip based on secondhand information, you’ll find it can be helpful to talk to others who have made the trip you’re planning. Ask the outfitter or host for several references and question them carefully. Make sure they have been to the location recently and at the time of the year you plan to visit.

In foreign countries, (the Bahamas is a foreign country) you’ll be hard-pressed to replace items you forgot to pack, particularly fishing tackle. This is one case when it’s probably better to pack more than you think you’ll need, within reason! Making a packing list and checking it before your departure will pay dividends. Most destinations provide lists that you can use to make sure you don’t forget anything important. While their recommendations are a good place to start, customizing your own travel list can help ensure that you have what you need while streamlining the amount of baggage you take.

Many tropical fishing destinations are very near the equator, so anglers need to pay special attention to the sun. Long-sleeved pants and shirts with sun protection are advisable along with a high SPF waterproof sunscreen. Polarized glasses with glare guards and a fishing hat with a dark under brim are mandatory and a second pair of each should accompany you. For years I’ve used a full-face mask and gloves for sun protection. Recently, I started wearing a fishing hoodie with thumb holes that protect my face, hands and wrists. I find hoodies much more comfortable and invested in several that have bamboo (very comfortable) fibers woven in. Invest in a good pair of flats wading boots and a sling or fanny pack with a water bottle holder and you’ll be good to go.

The success or failure of any fishing adventure will vary due to conditions beyond your control but being mindful of the things you do have control over can make or break your trip. Be prepared, do your homework up front, ask good questions of knowledgeable sources and be flexible. The time and effort you expend in planning the trip will pay in dividends of tight lines and lasting memories.

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