On The Cover - Lewis and Cherlyn Arnold
FFM Christmas Cards
Tortuga Custom Rods
Readers Features and more
With a Special Tribute to
Capt Jeff Leonia
In This Issue
Lewis and Cherlyn Arnold pg 4
Bayou Barbie with Heather Smith pg 15
Against The Grain Charters pg 24
Issa Marie Pg 29
Special Tribute to Jeff Leonia pg 34
Southerland Outdoors pg 51.
Stephanie Lynn Pg 58
Hubbards Marina Reports pg 71
Self Discovery by Heather Smith pg 82
Readers Features pg 91
Wishing You all a Great Holiday Season
From Our Family to Yours
All in the Family
How long have you two been fishing together?
We have been together for 21 years this February. We started fishing together when we started dating, we would take random trips down to the Keys. We will never forget our first trip down to fish. We went to Kmart bought two ugly sticks and posted up on the seven mile bridge, we slayed the snapper. What a blast!
with Lewis & Cherlyn
Lewis & Cherlyn Arnold do an incredible job of highlighting all of the families who fish together throughout our "Sunshine State." This month, we wanted to turn the spotlight on them by learning more about where their appetite for fishing began and how they share their passion for the water with their children.
All in the Family with Lewis & Cherlyn
What do you love most about fishing?
Lewis: I love the thrill when I know I have a big fish on and the heat of the moment trying to get that fish on board, then getting it in the net and seeing my accomplishment.
Cherlyn: I love feeling that thump and knowing that it's about to go down, especially when I go to set the hook and I know there is something good on the other end.
What are your favorite fish to catch?
Lewis: Snook on light tackle.
Cherlyn: Snook are my favorite too. Such a hard fighting fish.
What is your most memorable catch/fishing experience?
We were out fishing this spot and Lewis seen this big snook coming through. Lewis casted to the fish and then I threw out my lure and the next thing we hear was my drag screaming. It was a great moment. We both had to work together to get this fish on board. The fish went around these two poles, Lewis had to drive the boat to the poles so we could get the line and fish away. The fish then took off for another long run and I remember Lewis saying "you got this, just keep doing what your doing". Then we realized I had hooked the snook in the eye socket which made things more nerve wrecking. I finally got the fish to the boat and Lewis netted it and that was my first overslot snook.
What fish is on your bucket list?
Cherlyn: I cant wait to catch a permit.
Lewis: Rooster fish.
Where is your favorite place to fish?
Our favorite place to fish is on the flats near the shoreline especially when the water is clear and you can see the fish either roaming or sitting and sunning.
Do your kids enjoy fishing with you guys?
The kids love to fish. The girls are back in school, so they dont get out much with us during the school year. Our son gets out with us during the week and he loves it. He loves to release the fish!
What do you do guys do when you are not fishing together?
Cherlyn: We have three kiddos that keep us busy. We are usually always fishing though. We would take fishing for a date any day over a movie or dinner. I'm also a home health nurse.
Lewis: I'm a stay at home dad at the moment.
Any brand names or companies you would like to shout out to?
We would love to give a shout out to Weedline Fishing Apparel. Thank you so much for your support and keeping us styling on the water. Eric and his family are awesome and we appreciate everything! We would also like to thank Fox Marine for keeping our boat on the water. Craig is the man! We would also like to thank No Live Bait Needed, Magic Bait, and Jason of Snookrd Jigs. And lastly Great big thanks to Robert Warner for his support. He is a big advocate for family fishing and that's what we are all about! Thanks for everything you do Robert! Thank you Florida Fishermen!Magazine.
Family Fishing with Lewis
and Cherlyn Arnold
Meet the Arnold Kiddos.
The kids have grown up on the boat since they were old enough to sit up on their own. We call them the 'playpen posse'. They grew up riding around in the playpen on the boat until we felt it was safe for them to be roaming around. They all have now graduated from the playpen.
Meet Coral, she is 5, sassy, and sweet. She loves catching fish. Her smile can light up a room when she is reeling in a fish.
Lyla Rose is 10. She is just like her mom and dad, wanting to be head of the pack. She was born prematurely at 27 & 1/2 weeks, she has always been a fighter. She loves to catch fish. Her favorite are big Jack's because they are strong fighters. When she grows up she wants to be a marine biologist. She cares about the environment and has a passion to save earth's rivers and oceans.
Cannon is three years old. He can cast like it's no one's buisness. His favorite fish is a redfish. The first thing he says when he wakes up in the morning is "are we going on the boat".
"Hey Y'all, you made it!"
I looked up to see a petite blonde woman that was strikingly beautiful with a beaming smile. Her thick southern accent (Oklahoman with cajun overtones) instantly warmed my heart and so began my amazing fishing adventure with Lisa "Bayou Barbie" Crossen in Barataria, Louisiana.
Heather Smith with Bayou Barbie
The property was overwhelmingly gorgeous. Both the main house and the guest house were decorated beautifully. Lisa, a former contractor who moved to Barataria in 2011 from Oklahoma, had perfected every single little detail for every room. She even custom made the furniture and the decor for each room. My personal favorites were the boats she made into swings and the bar with boat cleats still on the counter top, pure genius and so elegant.
Her husband, Mike, was just as kind and friendly and I immediately felt at home with the wonderful cajun hospitality. I quickly noticed the dynamic between these two, so loving and supportive of one another. Mike, a very good guide in his own right, is very encouraging of her and her own adventures on the water
In the living room hangs a giant painting of a redfish with a heart for the spot on it's tail that Lisa named Bull Red Romance (Bull is Mike's nickname). She had it commissioned as a Christmas present for her husband. Which is now also the wrap for her boat, a 24' skeeter.
Being a female in a male dominated business is nothing new to Lisa. Before becoming a guide she was a female contractor. Her father was a golden glove boxer so she was raised with a fighting spirit and dominates gracefully in whatever arena she enters.
She earned her name Bayou Barbie running her boat up and down the Bayou with her blonde hair blowing in the wind. (She literally looks just like a petite Barbie doll.) The locals just started referring to her as Bayou Barbie and the name just stuck.
On the water Lisa (Barbie) is just as fun and laid back. I actually set a personal record fishing with her as we caught 5 species in one morning. The black drums, redfish, sheepshead and trout were plentiful. Even going live on Facebook we caught three species in eight minutes between the two of us. She isn't just a good angler, she is a fun angler. She has such a great sense of humor and it comes across in such a good way in everything she does. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in fishing we take it too serious and forget the fun part. We were laughing every second of the trip with Lynard Skynard playing in the background. She has finally been able to pursue her dream of being a guide and she is doing it with Bayou Barbie's signature style.
One particular thing that stood out to me. We were all sitting around and another guide came up and was talking about his trip the next day, a terrible cold front was coming in. She and her husband told the gentlemen where we went and what we caught at each location. That isn't something I hear every day, so I asked her about that later. Lisa told me she isn't trying to compete with other guides. She encourages, commends and respects them. She wants everyone to do well. "Being a guide is about the customer having a good experience, whether it's your customer or someone else's."
Getting to meet Lisa (Bayou Barbie), Mike and their friends was a wonderful experience. They truly love and support one another and are a very tight knit group. However, having the opportunity to fish with an amazing female angler with great integrity and a warrior spirit, now that is unforgettable.
By Heather Smith
Florida Fishermen Magazine
Charlie , Melanie and
Happy Holidays From all of us at
Florida Fishermen Magazine
My story is pretty basic. I’m just a normal girl who loves to fish. I started fishing when I was four in Miami. My mom used to take me all the time. Then once I moved to port Charlotte they got a boat and we got on the water any chance we had. We spent weekend after weekend fishing.
I married someone who wasn’t big into fishing. Long story short, it didn’t work out ( Who doesn't love fishing ) and I decided to catch fish not feelings ( Worked out better ). So I started doing what made me happy again and I’ve been fishing every chance I can since.
I’m just an average girl who genuinely enjoys the relaxation and calm of fishing. It’s peaceful. I take what I need. My pliers, a small tackle box with the basics, and my rod and find a place to fish and unwind.
Maxel Reels have been field tested under extreme conditions and worked hard at
Against The Grain Charters , Key largo Fl
Jeffrey R. Leonia
JULY 18, 1995 – NOVEMBER 18, 2019
Special Tribute To Jeff Leonia
Obituary of Jeffrey R. Leonia
Jeffrey Robert Leonia, 24, died November 18, 2019 as a result of a motor vehicle accident. He was born July 18th, 1995, the son of Keith and Teresa (Caruso) Leonia and brother to Kyle Leonia. A beloved member of Marco Island, Naples, and the Florida Keys communities, Jeffrey touched every person he met.
Save Alligator Light House - Captain Jeff Leonia
Click on the Lighthouse to donate in Jeff's name
Jeffrey settled in Islamorada, where he worked as an outdoor adventure guide. From an early age he loved to fish with family and friends, and he carried that love through his days working and playing on the water. Those who knew Jeffrey, even just a little, lost a shining light in their lives.
Jeffrey is survived by his parents Teresa and Keith of Naples and his brother Kyle. He also leaves his maternal grandparents, Augustine and Rose Caruso of Clinton, New Jersey. He is also survived by the love of his life, Stephanie Sirotzke and several aunts, uncles, and cousins.
The Celebration of Life was held on Saturday, November 23rd at 4:00pm, at the Marco Island Hilton Resort. In lieu of flowers, the family asks the you consider donations to the Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation (http://www.floridakeysreeflightsfoundation.wildapricot.org), Jeffrey’s favorite charity.
What's Kraken? Keys Fishing Adventures
November 19 at 6:04 PM ·
This morning we ventured our broken hearts out to the sea to say goodbye to an incredible captain, fisherman, & friend.
It’s unbearable to imagine that someone with so much life & joy will never fill our space with his love & laughter again, and our hearts go out to all of his closest family & friends for a life taken entirely too soon.
A true gentle giant, Jeff always went the extra mile to make you feel comfortable & welcome, and we will forever be inspired by his tenacity & kindness. We had the privilege of creating many priceless memories with him, our favorite and most recent being competing in the “That’s What She Shot” tournament together where he slayed this massive mutton snapper and showed Lou how to dance with a sea turtle. Though his legacy was just beginning, it is one that will definitely never be forgotten.
Fortunately, a spirit like Jeff’s is never truly lost. It will continue to shine on in all of the hearts & souls who were lucky enough to know him, as proven in this morning’s voyage; within minutes of us dedicating our trip to him, we landed a wahoo, the first fish I ever caught with him.
We love you, “El Jefe.” This picture is how we will always remember you: a smile on your face, a fish in your hands, forever young💙
My heart is completely shattered. I lost the love of my life and I still can’t wrap my head around it. His last text to me was “baby I’m heading home” and I keep texting him waiting for a response. We were getting ready to celebrate our 2 year Anniversary next week and we recently adopted a bundle of joy together, Mahi our island puppy. The day we rescued her, Jeff was adamant on naming her Mahi Leonia, his reasoning being that would be my last name soon too. Lately all we have been discussing was getting married and how she was going to be our flower girl. During one of his recent work trips to the Bahamas, he picked out the exact spot he wanted us to get married.
I was fortunate enough to find that once in a lifetime love at a young age and although gone too soon, we had an amazing 2 years together. Jeff taught me what it was like to be truly deeply loved by someone and we shared so many precious moments that I will keep with me forever. This man knew how to live life to its fullest and I will do my best to keep that same spirit for him. Not only was he kind, but full of life, hilarious, hard working and always had the most genuine smile on his face. I know you are up in heaven watching over us, catching monster swordfish and spreading your contagious happy energy with everyone. I love you with all of my heart and my life won’t be the same without you💙
The Following is a Reprint of Jeff's article in our last Issue of FFM
We spoke several times during the editing process, to shorten it enough to fit in the magazine he was diligent in hiis work , he asked for opinons, he wanted it to be a great article . It was .. Robert Warner editor - FFM
Special Tribute To Jeff Leonia
and Reprint of His Swordfish article
The family asks the you consider donations to the Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation , Jeffrey’s favorite charity.
Click or tap anywhere on this page
Save Alligator Light House - Captain Jeff Leonia
David and Family
This week brought us to the north side of Lake Griffin on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Feeding from the north side is the Oklawaha River. Lake Griffin is the only lake in the Harris Chain that is connected to a natural river.
Once we were there, we instantly noticed that the weather man was wrong. Instead of 7 mph wind, it was more like 27!!! The morning started off kinda chilly at 61 degrees, so we started fishing the main lake targeting grass flats in about 6ft of water. We tried spinner baits, crankbaits, rattle traps, poppers, swim baits. All without success. My co-Angler Austin Filmer then picked up a watermelon red senko and BAM!!! Fish On!!! He casted out again, and another decent fish. In the fall the bass will run in schools. Normally feeding on baitfish, but today we had to slow roll worms.
Florida Fishermen Magazine
If You have a story to share with us contact Rick Here
Report with Southerland Outdoors
Next spot we wanted to fish was the Emerald Marsh. The Emerald Marsh is a conservation marshland and has a tendency to hold some bass. Again we went through the arsenal of baitfish resembling Lures without success. Even the watermelon red worm didn’t produce, so I tried the Junebug colored ribbon tailed worm and BANG!!!! Fish On in the first cast!!! Once again I casted with the Junebug color and again another fish. We found another school, but would ONLY bite the Junebug color. Austin was casting beside me with the watermelon red without a single bite, while I pulled out four bam bam bam!!!! He Changed to Junebug and he caught a couple out of the school.
Next, we tried some residential canals. Both colored worms didn’t work, spinner baits didn’t work. Then I broke out, you guessed it, the Storm Rattling Chug Bug popper. I targeted the shade areas in the canal, and there he was!!! A little dink, but still fun to catch.
As I kept going down the canal I had a couple more strikes and the I tossed alongside a giant boat on the shaded side BOOM!!!!! There he was!!! A nice 2+ lber!!
Link to Southerland Outdoors
My conclusion is in the fall the bass will be in schools and all over the lake. From the main lake areas to marshland to canals. They will bite a different pattern at each area sometimes, so change your approach and baits. Try different techniques and get out in the outdoors. Southerland Outdoors
In the spearfishing community, the wahoo is one of the most coveted fish. Landing your first wahoo by spear is an accomplishment you remember for the rest of your life! Winter time means its wahoo season. When the temperature drops and the water cools off, the spearfishing community bundles up and gears up for targeting these torpedo fish.
I got a call from my good Mexican friend Pepe a couple weeks ago. He told me that the wahoo had started to show up off the coast of Baja in numbers. As soon as I hung up, I made a call to my go to dive crew and within 2 days we had flights booked and the four of us were headed to Baja! I had checked wahoo off my bucket list a year ago in Panama, but my three friends (Sabine, Morgan and David) were all dreaming about their opportunity at one.
Winter Means Wahoo Season
By Stephanie Lynn
After a full day of traveling, we arrived at Magdalena Bay right after sunset. We packed all our gear into a panga, took a 30 minute boat ride and arrived at our own private island where we had a beach side camp site already set up for us by Pepe. The next morning we woke up before sunrise to the sound of the waves and the hope of shooting first wahoos.
We loaded up the panga headed 2 hours out to some of the most remote banks off the coast of Baja. The conditions were right and we spent hours drifting the banks, throwing our flashers and diving to retrieve them in hopes of seeing a wahoo swim up. After almost 6 hours of diving with no action, we decided to change our plan and go for yellowtail. My friend Sabine, who just speared her first fish a month prior, made a drop down to 45’ and, after about 30 seconds of admiring some bait fish, was surrounded by a nice school of yellowtail. She lined up and got a strong holding shot! After a short fight, Sabine landed her second fish ever! One by one we took turns making drops in hopes of being schooled by yellowtail. With each drop and the increasing pressure the fish pushed deeper and deeper.
David was next to land his yellow tail and then Morgan both landing their fish past 70’. With three fish on the boat, it was my turn to get a fish. I made my drop and started to see a school of small yellowtail around 50’. As I kept diving slowly down I noticed a bigger school about 20’ below me. Being patient with my dive, the school of bigger yellowtail gained confidence and began circling me at 78’. I lined up on the biggest fish and made a solid holding shot. With 4 fish on the boat, David made one more dive and landed a 5th fish that we would donate to the panga driver.
Day 1 was a huge success! Even though we did not see our targeted species, we all landed our first yellowtails and had an awesome day on the water! We wrapped up the day with a hot dinner on the beach under the most stars we had ever seen! We all climbed into our cots set up in a big tent overlooking the ocean and were asleep within minutes.
The next morning was the same plan: up before the sun and a day full of chasing wahoo. Except today was rough, cold and rainy! We all poured hot water into our wetsuits and suited up before leaving the beach. After 2 long hours on the panga, we arrived at the wahoo spot to find that the conditions were not right: viz was >20’, the current was off and no bait was present. So we made a decision to head in to the reef and target Broomtail Grouper and Pargo. We pulled up to one of Pepe’s “secret spots” in about 65’. The bottom had a bunch of rocks with cracks and crevasses. Pepe instructed us to do our dive and at 30’ stop kicking, moving and just drop slow and still. Dave was the first diver of the day. On his first drop he came to the surface with a big smile and a nice 40lb broomtail. Next up was Morgan, she dropped down and came up screaming in excitement! She had shot a solid 80lb broomtail grouper! Pepe’s secret spot proved to be as amazing as he promised! After two fish were boated, we decided to change locations.
The next spot was a nice rocky spot in 70’ depth. Sabine dropped down and got a shot on a nice Pargo that rocked up in a cave at 67’. After about an hour of working the fish, it ended up tearing off. We decided to go back to our original spot and try for a couple more grouper to donate to some of the local villagers. Sabine made a drop and came up with a nice 40lb grouper. I was the 4th and final shooter for the day. After a couple drops and not seeing any fish, I saw a nice grouper in a deep cave. I decided not to take the shot for fear the fish would rock up, ruin gear and tear off. With three fish on the boat, I was about to call it a day but my crew insisted that I make one more drop. I got a nice breathe up and made a slow, relaxed dive down to 60’. Without moving a muscle, I noticed 4 nice broomtail grouper approach me curiously. I slowly raised my gun and got a shot on the biggest one of the group. He immediately swam into a cave but with the help of David, I was able to pull the grouper out of the cave and successful land the fish. Another day of all 4 of us landing a fish and checking species off the bucket-list!
The third and final day we were set on finding our wahoo! We made a long drive over to La Paz where Pepe was getting reports of good conditions and wahoo sightings! We decided to try for an afternoon mission to let the morning rains pass. However, the morning rains were stronger than expected and ended up washing the boat ramp out. We waited until about 2pm and were finally able to get out on the water. After 30 minutes of diving in bad viz and rain, the panga captain told us he had reports of a “Mexican Hurricane” approaching our area. It was unsafe to continue to dive so we headed in. After a very wet 3 hour drive in, we made It back to shore. However, the rain did not dampen our spirits! We were 4 great friends who had two of our best days of spearing the days prior and we were together doing what we loved!
We packed up our coolers to bring fresh fish home to our family and friends and left plenty of fish for the local villagers. Two days we went 4 for 4 on some awesome fish and the last day we went 4 for 4 on no fish but awesome memories!
By Stephanie Lynn
The good news is.. its still winter and its still wahoo season:)
Capt Austin and Brittany
Link to website
My Islands Adventure Charters
Full moon was 12/12 so this weekend’s bite should be pretty good on the back side of the full moon. Plus, with the full moon we have larger tides and more water moving around creating more action and more feeding opportunities. Look for that water flow in the passes, rivers, points or pockets of the inshore fishing areas to find the best area to catch plenty of fish inshore. Also one great tip is looking for actively feeding wading birds. These wading birds on the flats are a great sign that there will be some predatory fish ready to eat your lure or live baits.
The snook bite is going well up in the bay around the mouths of the bayous or rivers. Pinellas point area, south shore of Tampa bay and upper Tampa bay and the inner side of the intercostal are great areas to find these guys ready to eat. The snook, trout and redfish are all feeding better later in the day after the sun gets a chance to warm up the local waters a little bit to get them more active and ready to cooperate.
Redfish bite has been going very well around the residential docks in our back bay areas, around the upper bay area shorelines, oyster bars and grass flats. They are loving smaller live pinfish, cut bait or slower moving soft plastic lures. Gold spoons are a great option for these guys too, but remember to work them as slowly as possible. Keep an eye out for schools of mullet around the seawalls, oyster bars or grass flats often a few nice redfish will follow these guys around. Mostly the bite is best during mid-day or later afternoon but a few of them have been found overnight too.
Trout fishing is really good this time of year they are really excited with the cooler waters and we are seeing some truly monster trout for our area being caught right now. They are biting really well during the day but through the night time too the trout bite has been really hot too especially with the full moon casting more light around the inshore waters. They love live shrimp or live greenbacks but the artificial paddle tails or soft swim baits work well for these guys too. Like the redfish and snook you have to remember to slow your retrieve a little since the local waters are cooler.
The flounder action around the area is starting to pick up but its not really hot quite yet. The best place to find them is definitely the more sandy bottomed areas adjacent to grass flats or any structure that will hold bait or crustaceans like docks, seawalls, bridges or jetties. They are ambush predators that hide on the bottom to surprise passing baits so whenever you are targeting these unique looking great eating fish you want to work your bait super slowly or use some light weight on your live bait to ensure its sitting on the bottom.
Sheepshead are biting very well this time of year too like the trout the cooler waters make them super prolific and aggressive around the structures like docks, bridges, piers, jetties and anything that will hold oysters, barnacles or crustaceans. They love to eat cut clams, cut oysters, barnacles, fiddler crabs, or small pieces of shrimp on lighter tackle with 2ot hooks.
Triple tail are super thick right now around the bay and along the beaches around the markers, buoys and floating debris. Hitting them in the early morning before they get bombarded by multiple anglers trying to get them to eat. Earlier you get out there the better luck you will have getting them to eat your live shrimp on light tackle.
Near Shore –
Hogfish bite has been HOT lately around the near shore waters from around 40-70ft of water. They are doing very well on our 5 hour half days, 10 hour all days and the near shore private fishing charters in that depth range for hogfish. Live shrimp are the best option for the hogfish for plenty of action and hogfish bites. Some really do well with those Nekid ball jigz around 1-2oz putting a live shrimp on them while targeting the hogfish. Christina Fernandez, from Orlando, went out on a 5 hour half day and caught a full day’s limit of 5 hogfish during that 5 hour half day using the 1oz green Nekid ball jig tipped with double shrimp. I like using a knocker rig style set up for the hogfish with a 1oz egg sinker and a 3-4ot hook with a live shrimp for bait. Others enjoy using a jig head set up for the hogfish with live shrimp too. Any of these three methods will give you a shot at a nice hogfish near shore this time of year.
Grouper fishing has been going pretty well near shore as of late. Around near shore waters the red grouper seem to be pretty active from around 50-100ft of water to our west and south west. While to our north and around the mouth of Tampa bay the gag grouper seem to be biting and cooperating best. Either species really are going after the friskier live baits right now but as waters continue to cool those smellier and oily dead baits become more and more effective.
Mackerel and kingfish are still around right now but its definitely starting to cool down near shore. They love the clearer waters and areas that are holding live baits like bigger rock piles or artificial reefs. The best way to target them in bulk is by trolling around with some planners and spoons with 12-18ft of 60lb test between the planner and spoons or the bigger rapala xraps to specifically target those kingfish while trolling.
Right now the grouper fishing out deep is going very well past around 120ft of water out to nearly 200ft of water we are seeing very active gag grouper and a few red grouper and scamp grouper too. The gags are the big news lately though as they are closing soon so we are working hard to primarily target them but after they close end of December we will be switching gears and tactics to target the red grouper more. Right now the gags are on the ledges and we are seeing more of the red grouper on the potholes and flat hard bottom areas. However, occasionally you will find a few of each in the same area or same piece of bottom. The big live baits like the near shore waters are the top pick for grouper baits as of late.
The big mangrove snapper are cooperating very well offshore right now on the smaller live pinfish or the cut threadfin plugs on the double snell rigs. We are using a little heavier mangrove snapper tackle than normal to ensure we have a shot to land the occasional gag grouper that may bite while you are targeting the mangroves but typically it would be around 40-50lb test leader while this time of year we typically would start using 60lb to target the mangroves in case a bigger fish grabs your mangrove snapper bait.
We are seeing some nice blackfin tuna around lately as well on the flat lines, occasional on the troll and many on the vertical jigs. Great time to get out there and have a rod ready if you spot the tuna action while offshore fishing!
Link to Hubbards Website , Book your trip or take a tour
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My name is Brian Mackenzie and I’ve been a avid follower since I was a young boy. It has always been my dream to catch a trophy fish and have it published in your magazine. And I’ve finally caught a trophy fish in which I believe is credible enough to be in the magazine. I caught this 20lb mutton snapper while fishing in key west and I At least pray my best achievement in my fishing for 39 yrs now gets in the magazine.
Thank you so much for your time. Tight lines.
Sincerely Brian Mackenzie
Sometimes self discovery isnt just about what lies within you. It is what is all around you and how that brings out the better parts of yourself you have yet to see. After my mom's passing last November, I relocated to the Piney Woods of East Texas to take over our family business. I went from living in the the 4th largest city in the country to living in a National Forest, 30 miles from what I deemed civilization essentially overnight. Between the culture shock and the high emotions from the situation I failed to initially see that I had landed in what one may call God's country.
The Ultimate Destination
By Heather Smith
I had always wondered what made my mother abandon the city and move out to such a remote location. I was going thru big changes internally as well, so I reached out to Angie Escobar and joined Team Venom to focus on improving my health and fitness and become a better version of myself. If not only for myself, but because my kids needed me now more than ever and we are all we have left of our family. My morning runs thru the trails around Lake Sam Rayburn, quickly turned into curious hikes alone deeper and deeper into the quiet and majestic forest all around me. More than once leaving me a little terrified after coming face to face with either a bobcat or a mountain lion, zero phone signal and way beyond the point of being heard if I screamed. I discovered Artesian Springs, a spring fed swimming hole and campground where my children and I could swim and float while a band played on the stage in front of us. As I grew stronger everyday, so did my love for the beauty around me.
One day while hiking the waterfalls at Boykin Springs, another hidden gem here, I overheard a group of people talking about the McDonald's tournament (aka The Big Bass Splash) and how chaotic our town of 223 was about to be. They anticipated over 15,000 people coming for this one annual fishing tournament. Mind you, my graduating high school class had over 1300 people, so I thought nothing of it
The next morning driving my children to school, I had never seen so many bass boats on trailers in my life. Not only bass boats, if you could fish out of it, I saw it. Over 7500 anglers were participating in the tournament. I had been to several saltwater tournaments, but this was like nothing I had ever seen. I spent the next few days at the event, watching the hourly weigh ins, checking out the boats and showing my children the fish in the live wells. It was fascinating. It was at that point I also realized I felt very protective of the place I now call my home.
I had just returned from Marlin fishing in Cuba, so I still had fish on the brain. Having befriended several guides and bass pros that are locals, a day later I was on the water learning everything I could possibly absorb and then some. Best way to learn to catch bass is to catch bass. Charlie King, Clifford McCarty, Bob Sealy and Glenn Blanchard took me under their wing and started mentoring me. A bass boot camp if you will, every day without fail and I couldn't believe how this became more and more exciting every single day. When they spoke, I listened, and they were never wrong. My first tournament came and by 6:36 am I had hooked a six pounder and I was hooked from that moment on
I am so happy to have Heather here as a part of the FFM Family, she is one of the few people I have talked to that understands my vision for this magazine . She is Smart, creative and a pleasure to work with
A major network found me on social media and reached out to me for one of their shows; I wasn't interested. Then an outdoors show contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in cohosting a few episodes. A week later I was put in contact with Robert Warner. After one conversation with him I knew I wanted to work with Florida Fishermen's Magazine. Then I teamed up with Vector Hooks and was honored to become one of their pro staff. All the while, I just kept fishing. I found in bass fishing what i had been missing my whole life, inner peace
While doing a photoshoot at Tiger Creek Fishing Lodge on Sam Rayburn it all hit me at once. From the top of their terrace with their breathtaking sweeping views i had my grand epiphany. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with the loss of our loved ones, it takes a minute to realize the heaven that is all around us. Thru my discovery of the Piney Woods, I discovered who I am and where I was meant to be. My story isn't the journey to the destination, but the journey of the destination
***I want to give special thanks to:
Hookspit Performance Rods
Reel Wicked Apparel
Over the Horizon Fishing
Bob Sealy Outdoors
The Ultimate Destination
By Heather Smith
Photo Credits - Marissa Puckett
Much More to come from
Writer Heather Smith
Florida Fishermen magazine
Lindsay - Magazine
Proceeds will benefit "Tackle Boxes not Xboxes " and
" For our Veterans and First Responders "
Catch U Later
Heather Smith writer/ editor