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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides


I fish and I photograph and write about outdoor things, so my life is pretty much one big adventure.   Lots of that is thanks to sponsors and the events they plan, but there are also many self-directed (or self-imposed!) adventures that occur in the process of writing books, fishing reports, fishing forecasts and magazine stories.

Gander Mountain Academy, Lake Mary, FL, February 8, 2011.

I just attended the press event announcing the opening of the new Gander Mountain Academy in Lake Mary, near Orlando.   This is the  most advanced, professional firearms training academy in America. With its unique combination of highly trained instructors, live range and exclusive, state-of-the-art simulation technology, no other firearms training facility compares with Gander Mountain Academy.

Gun ownership is serious business. Gander Mountain is committed to enhancing your shooting experience and to making your ownership of a firearm safe.  The combination of classroom with both simulated and live fire give participants the necessary skills to handle their personal firearms safely.


180-degree simulators at Gander Mountain Academy put shooters in a real-world situation.

D.O.A. Lures 2010 Writers Festival, July 18-20 at River Palm Cottages, Jensen Beach

This year’s D.O.A./River Palm Writers Festival was exceptional, especially since it didn’t rain!  Mark’s moving it to July was smart, as that’s a better time to avoid the rain, and with less rain, there’s less runoff from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River.  That makes for better fishing all-around.  While this year’s catches included the usual snook, big trout, tarpon and even a few small reds, I was happy to be aboard a boat that caught a 6.5# flounder.  All those other species are ‘usual’, but a big flounder is always ‘unusual’.  We were fishing docks in the middle of the day just north of the 10-cent bridge when the whopper hit Charleston Capt. Jon Irwin’s C.A.L. lure.  Just more proof that simple lures catch big fish!  A special thanks to Capt. Richard Martinique and all the D.O.A. guys for a great time!

Florida Outdoor Writers Association Conference, Ocala, August 26-29, 2009

This year’s FOWA Conference was a huge success in that, desite the economy, we managed to keep our ‘numbers’ up.  Total attendance was about 100, including representatives from our Corporate and Tourism Members.

This year’s Craft Improvement seminars featured John Byram, Editor-in-Chief of The University Press of Florida, Crystal Dollahon, partner at Dollahon PR in Tulsa (agency for Zebco, Sebile and Gene Larew) and a two-fer on ‘New Media’ by Sandra Friend and Mike Richards.  Sandra is a well-know blogger, outdoor travel writer and director of the SATW Travel Writers Workshop, held each winter in Orlando.  There’s some interesting information on her Web site, New Media Basics. Mike is partner with wife, Pam, in Reedy Creek Studios in Frostproof and is well-known for his expertise in the mechanics of Web site design.  He and Pam are also partners in Castalia Outdoors, distributors of the new Sharkfin reels, liquid braid line and liquid steel leaders.  Based on the flurry of emails from FOWA members I’m receiving, I think there are lots of folks changing things on their Web sites and blogs as I write this!

Other events included a fishng tournament, sponsored by Pat and Donna Needham at Buck ‘n Bass Outfitters in Salt Springs, a shooting event at the FWC Conservation Camp and a paddling trip on the Silver River.

The last two days of the Conference consisted of a successful auction at which we raised over $5000 for our Scholarship Fund and an Awards Banguet, featuring the 2009 FOWA Excellence-in-Craft Award Winners.

We’re looking forward to next year’s Conference in Tallahassee!

Toyota Tundra Keys Adventure, February 2008

Capt. Earl Waters and I towed Dennis Smith’s Young 20 down to the Miami Bass Pro Shops and met up with other writers from all around the southeast and with an assortment of Toyota PR folks and a fleet of new 2008 Tundra trucks.  There, we abandoned my truck, hitched up to a 2008 Tundra and headed for Islamorada.  The trip was a easy one, as the Tundra, with its 10,000-pound towing capacity,  hardly ‘noticed’ the boat in tow.  With a winter cold front on the way, we hunkered down at the Cheeca Lodge for a while, but after the rain passed we had a great day of fishing the backwaters and nearshore Atlantic waters.   Earl, Capt. Ray Markham and I caught a variety of species and had a chance to put the Young 20 through its paces in some choppy waters and stiff winds.  We also had the opportunity to try the Tundra at the steep, dogleg-approach ramp at Worldwide Sportsman in Islamorada.  The combination of the truck’s powerful engine and transmission paired with a backup camera made the tasks of launching and loading easy ones.


The Toyota Tundras are made for work, but are styled for comfort.  In fact, they have been such a success that the 2009 Sequoia SUVs  have been redesigned on the same frame as the Tundra, with the same towing capacity.  I had a chance to drive one in Punta Gorda at the Florida Outdoor Writers Association Conference in September and wanted to drive my old clunker Suburban off a dock!

D.O.A. Lures/River Palm Cottages Writers’ Festival, July 2008

Each summer, Mark Nichols and Rufus Wakeman sponsor a get-together for writers at River Palm Cottages in Jensen Beach.  Mark brings in guides from all over that state and we fish, eat good food, and try the latest D.O.A. lures.  This year D.O.A. introduced a smaller version of the B.F.L., which should be on the market in early 2009.   This lure promises to be a ‘killer’ for big trout, reds and even tarpon.


The highlight of the weekend for me was the opportunity to fish a day with Vic Dunaway, Senior Editor of Florida Sportsman magazine. Vic’s lots of fun–and an amazing repository of fishing knowledge and tall tales.

Each year, Mark invents somthing new and exciting.  I can’t wait to see what this summer brings!

Young Boats Owners Tournaments

The first annual Young Boats Owners Tournament was held in May of 2007.  Owners from all over the south turned out at Crystal River for a great day of fishing.  I captained Dennis and Julie Smith’s boat (I know the water there–they’re from St. Augustine.) and we managed to win First Prize for redfish.  We also got some great photos of a selection of  Robb Young’s custom boats on the water.


The 2008 event was moved to May of 2009, as Robb’s dad, Brad, had knee surgery and couldn’t ‘work like a dog’ setting up the event.  This year promises to be bigger and better–and hopefully there will be more fish caught!

May 2, 2009:  As promised by Brad Young, the 2nd bi-annual Owners’ Tournament was a blast.  Perfect weather and tides high enough to keep the visitors off the rocks!  Owners came from as far away as Alabama and it seemed everyone caught fish.  I fished with Doug Speeler and his son, Doug Jr., from St. Pete in their Young 20 and we had a great time catching just about every species found in the Gulf of Mexico.  Everything, except big reds, trout or cobia!  Anyway, we gave it the ‘old college try’.  The day ended with a nice awards ceremony and some fine BBQ.


Award winners included Maggie Crouse from Spring Hill (4#-10oz trout), Jimmy Jones from Hernando Beach (5#-10oz redfish) and young Stephanie Truman from Tallahassee (14#-9oz cobia).  I was amazed at the quality and number of prizes won in each category….everything from fancy Garmin units to Stiffy push poles to Bob’s jack plates!yb24-running-early72

ICAST Comes to Orlando, July 2009

I’m sure everyone’s heard about the big ICAST Fishing Tackle Show.  It’s mainly a show for retailers to look at new fishing products, but it’s also a huge press event.  Of course, all the ‘biggies’ are there–Pure Fishing, Shimano, Daiwa, PRADCO. Loomis and Plano.  But to me, the fun part is looking at all the little things that I always wonder just why I didn’t invent them.  Some of the fun (and practical) things I saw were INOX Lubricants, DuraSafe Locks for electronics, InvisaSwivels, DriGrip Sunscreen, and Cablz Sunglasses Holders.  These are the kind of things that make me glad I’m not an outdoor retailer–for sure I’d be the ‘As Seen on TV’ equivalent of Bass Pro Shops!

I guess I’m jaded about my reels and did try a new one a few years ago, much to my dissatisfaction.  Now that same reel has been re-introduced, in it’s original German design, by Castalia Outdoors, a company owned by my friends, Mike and Pam Richards.  In additon to the Sharkfin reels, Castalia introduced Liquid  Casting Braid and some pre-packaged wire leaders that should work well on toothy Spanish mackerel and bluefish.  castalia

Mike’s supposed to get me one of these reels to try.  They’re much nicer than the ones that were on the market a few years ago and if they work as advertised, the days of ‘braid boogers’ will soon be over!

D.O.A. Lures/River Palm Cottages Writers’ Festival, August 2009

This year’s D.O.A./River Palm event was a bit later, and a bit hotter and windier than in previous years.  But, despite the ‘hardships’, it was great to see (and fish with)old and new friends.  One of the big highlights (besides the fishing!) was a big dinner of fried Mississippi snapper (catfish) by my friend, neighbor and fishing buddy Joey Landreneau.


As I said, the wind really hurt the fishing, but several big snook were caught, all on D.O.A. lures.  The ‘big’ lure of the trip was the new 5.5″ BFL mullet lure.  What a great plug to see in the mouth of a 30-pound snook.  I didn’t get anything quite that big, but had my 8-pounder, caught with Capt. Scott Lepping (and photographed by James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine), been in-season, he’d be dinner.  I don’t kill many fish, but a slot-sized snook is mighty fine eating–and the Indian River is chock-full of them this time of year.


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