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Super Yachts at boot (newsletter)

World class fishing awaits

by National Professional Anglers Association 18 Nov 16:29 UTC January 5-7, 2024
World class fishing awaits © National Professional Anglers Association

The upcoming 2024 "Passion to Profession" NPAA Conference in Fort Myers, Florida, January 5 - 7, 2024, will not only provide attendees with incredible career-building, educational and networking opportunities, the location couldn't be better for nearby inshore saltwater and freshwater fishing.

There are opportunities before the conference begins each day and after it closes to hit shore access spots where anglers like St. Croix Rod's Marketing Director and NPAA Corporate Partner, Jesse Simpkins, says he had "one of the finest days of snook fishing ever"—and less than an hour's drive from last winter's conference.

Pat Neu, NPAA President commented: "The opportunity to take advantage of Southwest Florida's fishing opportunities and beautiful beaches was a key factor in choosing our conference location. If you have never visited Southwest Florida, you owe it to yourself to make this week a family event."

Nearby fishing opportunities

For more information on where to fish within a short drive (or walk) from the NPAA Conference, reach out to the folks at local bait/tackle dealers like Master Bait and Tackle right on Bonita Drive—recommended by local guide and NPAA member, Captain Debbie Hanson. Tell them you're attending the NPAA conference, stop in and buy some bait and local lures, and chances are they'll give you the scoop on easy-access, bridge, beach, and canal bites, including mangrove snapper, seatrout, and the occasional snook or redfish.

But there are charter and guided options available, too, especially if you book soon—with fellow, well-known NPAA members!

Florida-Strain Largemouth Bass & Peacock Bass with Captain Debbie Hanson

NPAA member Captain Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, local radio host, freshwater guide, and owner of SheFishes2 Guide Service, living in Estero, Florida. Debbie's fishing articles have appeared in publications including Florida Game & Fish, Boat US, USA Today Hunt & Fish, and Gulfshore Life. She is also a weekly blogger and content-producer for Additionally, Hanson has appeared on countless nationally-televised saltwater and freshwater fishing shows.

Captain Debbie also serves on the board of Fish Florida, a non-profit organization which helps people—especially children—learn about fishing and Florida's environment via proceeds from the sale of the state's specialty sailfish auto license plate.

Captain Debbie excels at putting clients on freshwater fish on the lakes and canals of Southwest Florida, whether that's big Florida-strain largemouth bass, bluegills, or peacock bass. If interested, she also offers fly fishing trips. Debbie is a USCG licensed captain.

"There are two primary freshwater bites during January that I focus on," says Captain Debbie. "We either trailer down to Naples for peacock bass or up to Cape Coral canal system for largemouth bass—both on conventional or fly tackle."

"I specialize in running half-day trips," says Captain Debbie. "And in four hours we typically catch lots of fish, starting around 7:30 a.m. and returning to the dock at 11:30."

Deep Everglades/10,000 Islands action with Captain Ray Van Horn

NPAA member Captain Ray Van Horn is a longtime TV fishing personality, champion guide, and consultant to several top fishing and boating manufacturers, and ambassador for Florida's awesome West Coast angling opportunities. Fishing for tarpon, snook, and redfish from Chokoloskee to Cedar Key, and spending lots of time in Boca Grande, Captain Ray will show you how he catches the big ones and can help make your own fishing trip a Florida vacation to treasure.

The tarpon is the ultimate light tackle fish. Ray fishes for tarpon with both fly and conventional tackle. At Boca Grande pass, fishermen are usually fishing either live bait and drifting or fishing jigs on conventional tackle.

Anglers who book a trip with Captain Ray can expect a true fishing adventure of a lifetime.

"We take people back into the deepest parts of the Everglades, places that only Google Earth has been to, quite frankly," notes Captain Ray. "We typically arrive early in the morning and these areas are full of fish—everything from "juvenile" tarpon reaching 50 pounds and snook to 20-pounds, as well as redfish and seatrout."

Specializing in artificial plug and fly techniques, Captain Ray says he especially enjoys the teaching aspect of his profession, turning non-anglers into lifelong enthusiasts.

"We can take someone who has never picked up a rod in their life and they can be productive in this environment because the fish don't get any pressure. And you won't see the part of the Everglades we fish in any Chamber of Commerce videos; we take the road less traveled. It makes for great fishing and a picturesque experience, too," concludes Captain Ray.

Inshore action with Captain John Campbell

NPAA member and Iowa native veteran walleye pro and fishing educator, Captain John Campbell, competed at the highest level of walleye tournament fishing for nearly three decades. He has lectured at hundreds of outdoors sports shows and conventions over his career as well appearing on countless TV and radio shows along the way.

While guiding during spring and summer months in Iowa, Captain John spends winters putting clients on fish in the Marco Island, Florida, 10,000 Islands region chasing snook, redfish, and seatrout on the area's inshore waters.

"For NPAA members visiting the upcoming convention in January, we could be on good, fishable water in 45 minutes," notes Captain John. "During that time in January, there will be exceptional fishing for snook, redfish, and seatrout, which we can catch casting swimbaits or jigs."

"What's great about the 10,000 Islands region is there are lots of islands, bays, and some great scenery," adds Captain John. "My approach is typically to pitch shorelines, which provides a lot of action and consistently puts fish in the boat."

Book a half- or full-day guided fishing trip with Captain John via (239) 860-0976.

Plan to arrive to the conference early and stay after it ends. Worried about the additional expense? Don't be. The NPAA has secured the special room rate of $169/night (double occupancy) at the 5 Star-rated Gulf Coast Crowne Plaza in Fort Myers, Florida, also home to the entire conference. The room rate is available for three days on either side of the event (pending availability), so come early and stay late to enjoy the beautiful Southwest Florida weather, world class fishing, and some of the best beaches in the country.

Airfare rates have also dropped significantly in recent months and the hotel is only 5 minutes from the Southwest Florida Regional Airport (RSW). Book your airline tickets now to receive the lowest rates and don't forget to try specialty airlines like Sun Country, Frontier, and Allegiant for airfares as low as $300 roundtrip.

Become an NPAA member today

Become an NPAA member if you aren't already—and pre-register now to attend the 2024 "Passion to Profession" NPAA Conference in Ft. Myers, Florida, January 5 - 7, 2024.

The 1,400-member non-profit sportfishing trade association, NPAA, is asking guides, captains, tournament anglers, industry reps, sales/marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, educators and other recreational fishing professionals to join its cause, reaping the rewards of a united front and becoming part of a support organization that exists to benefit its members and partners.

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