Below is a re-cap of our fans' conversation with Tom Rowland in March, 2014.
Q: What would be a good Quantum setup to catch redfish in Louisiana?
Tom: 7-foot 12-20 medium-heavy rod and 40 Cabo...perfect setup. Lots of guys use baitcasters up there too.
Q: I'll be pier fishing off the Panama City Beach pier in a couple of weeks for kings and spanish makerel. What do you suggest for rod/reel combo?
Tom: I would get a Fin-Nor Tidal Powerlite rod and a big Fin-Nor Offshore 7500 reel.
Q: What's your favorite fly for beach tarpon, in clear water besides the toad?
Tom: Run around Sue.
Q: I love fishing Flamingo, but the reds always seem to elude me when I'm there. Any tips you can pass along to help me get my first Flamingo red?
Tom: Head to Snake Bight and pole into the no-motor zone. Use live shrimp and cast at the tailers.
Q: At what point did you realize that fishing was no longer a hobby, but something you would pursue as an occupation and enjoy doing it?
Tom: I went to Yellowstone to work when I was in college. As soon as I walked down the Yellowstone River and saw my first trout eat a stonefly, I knew. That was 25 years ago...I can't believe it, I feel really old.
Q: Have you used flutter spoons yet, and if so, are they better than normal spoons?
Tom: I have used them. I still like the regular spoon for searching, but I have not been doing a lot of that kind of fishing recently. Mostly tarpon and offshore.
Q: When fly fishing, how do you guys set up your leader and tippet? Do you tie tippets together and end in a taper, and if so what sizes do you use for tippets when fishing the flats?
Tom: I tie my leaders. I just did a video on this for our YouTube channel. Basically I use the 50% rule.
Q: What reel/rod would you recommend for surf fishing for reds?
Tom: Van Staal is by far the best, you can use that thing UNDER water! The rod depends on the baits you are throwing and the fish. But stick to Van Staal if you're serious about surf fishing.
Q: Where is your favorite place to fish and what is your favorite species to fish for?
Tom: My favorite spot is probably the Florida Keys, and my favorite fish is the permit.
Q: Do you have any tips for redfish in Biscayne Bay, like what bait to use?
Tom: Live shrimp on the flats, Gulp shrimp if there are tons of pinfish around, and if you know where they are around the bushes, there's nothing better than 1000 pilchards!
Q: My wife says I own too many rods, how 'bout you? And what should I tell her?
Tom: We have way too many! Buy everything in black...she won't notice the new ones.
Q: What's the best bait for snook in the Punta Gorda area?
Tom: Live bait works best, mullet and pilchards.
Q: What would be the right size Cabo PT to use for redfish, trout and snook?
Tom: It depends on the size of your redfish. One of my favorite rods has a 20 on it for small tailing fish. Day in and day out a 40 or 50 is perfect.
Q: Are you ever likely to run into snook on the flats? And if so, what would you use to catch them?
Tom: Sure, around the Flamingo area it happens regularly. We use soft plastic jerk baits and Gulp shrimp on a jig a lot.
Q: I know you do mostly saltwater fishing, but what do you like to fish for if you're freshwater fishing?
Tom: I was a trout fishing guide for about 7 years in the Rocky Mountains. I love trout fishing and also really like to fish for large and smallmouth.
Q: What is your go-to bait for king makerel?
Tom: Kings eat all kinds of fish. A big blue runner is good, but my best days have been when I have a well full of pilchards.
Q: Using the 12-20 medium-heavy, have you ever gotten into a fish that you were under-equipped for?
Tom: Oh sure! Sometimes we are fishing for small tarpon when a 120-pounder decides to join in. With light tackle, you can land him, it's just not ideal. We have to chase them with the boat a lot.
Q: What do you think the best size braid is for targeting permit on the flats?
Tom: I like 20-pound braid. It lets you cast a long way and is super strong. I will often drop down to 10 to get longer casts in calm conditions.
Q: When you're fishing an area for the first time, what types of things do you look for to help find fish?
Tom: Certainly the tide and wind are the most important two things. I also look for bait and bird activity, and get as much local information as possible.
Q: When is the best time of year and best time of day to tarpon fish in the lower keys
Tom: Tarpon are somewhat nocturnal, so I like to fish in the early morning just as the sun is coming up. Best time of the year has gotten earlier each year, but March, April and May are all very good.
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