Keys to Happiness
I have traveled around the world in search of the best fishing location and I have definitely found it! My criteria for the best fishing location would include a wide variety of species, weather that allows year-round fishing, and a wide expanse of both inshore and offshore habitat to explore.
The Florida Keys has all of that criteria covered and more. We routinely fish for more than 70 different species, from shallow, brackish water for redfish and snook to 2,000 feet for swordfish and everything in between.
On the upper end you have Biscayne Bay which is full of bonefish, permit and tarpon. To the north lies The Everglades, to the south the reef, and beyond the reef the water drops to over 2,000 feet and is home to a host of deep-dropping species. Then to the west lies Key West, the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas National Park. There is enough territory that anyone could spend a lifetime exploring it without seeing or experiencing it all. The weather is good enough and there are enough species that we can fish any or every day of the year with the exception of during a hurricane.
No spot is exactly perfect, and hurricanes are a potential hazard, but in all my exploration, the Florida Keys are about as close to perfection as I have found. – Tom Rowland, Co-host of Saltwater Experience
Off the Beaten Path
There’s a place I filmed last year and it was my first time fishing there. It’s a shallow, rocky river in the Midwest that is filled with big smallmouth bass. The fish are big and plentiful, but the water is shallow and rocky. This is no place for my Nitro with a Mercury Pro XS, it’s much better suited for my 65 Jet. I’d tell you where it is, but it’s just too good a spot! – Ott DeFoe, 2019 Bassmaster Classic Champion
The Place a Legend Became a Legend
When I talk about my favorite waterways, the 46-mile stretch of Pickwick Lake here in Tennessee always rates No. 1 with me! It's where I caught my biggest smallmouth, an 8-pound, 4-ounce brown fish, and learned valuable bass fishing lessons such as structure fishing, operating a bass boat, pattern fishing, the use of electronics, fishing shallow and deep water, learning seasonal bass habits, and fishing deep, clear, moving water. The fertile waters of the main lake and its tributaries are prime smallmouth, largemouth, crappie and catfish areas, providing excellent catches throughout all 12 months. It offers basically three lakes in one with shallow to much steeper ledges, deep and shallow feeder creeks, gravel bars, bluff banks and excellent water quality found throughout. Pickwick should be on every angler’s bucket list. – Bill Dance, Bill Dance Outdoors
Lake Michigan Smallies
I’ve had the good fortune to fish all over the U.S. and in many other countries around the world. If I had to pick just one place, though, I have to go with Lake Michigan out of Traverse City, Michigan, because of the giant smallmouth bass! I’ve caught multiple fish over 7 pounds in that area, and a buddy of mine has taken several over 8. Those are fish of a lifetime. The third or fourth week in May is the perfect time to go, and there are lots of ways to catch them. They’ll eat a jerk bait, a tube or a goby imitation on a dropshot, but my favorite method is to fish a 3/4-ounce spinnerbait with small blades — to keep the lure down. I’ll burn that bait through the clear water and hang on tight. Those big brown bass will absolutely hammer it! – Hank Parker, host of Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine and On the Water with Hank Parker
Ontario Musky Haven
Without question one of my favorite places to fish muskies is Lake of the Woods (LOW) in northwest Ontario. The lake is huge and relatively shallow, with thousands of islands. The overall fertility of this water supports a tremendous musky population where you have a realistic opportunity to encounter a 50-inch musky every trip. That’s why it’s known as Lake of the Muskies.
Islands, reefs, bays and shorelines with character – including rocks, sand, points and emergent vegetation – typically hold muskies. One of your best tools to locate muskies on LOW is your eyes. If you catch muskies from a structure on LOW most likely you’ll notice some type of emergent vegetation, rock or sand along the shoreline. Then it’s a matter of looking around and locating similar areas. It’s amazing how often you can pull up to a similar spot and catch muskies. LOW is a place where reproducing the pattern is relatively easy and with the huge musky population multiple musky encounters and catches each day is common. Combine the great musky fishing with the incredible scenery and wildlife and LOW is a musky hunter’s dream destination. – Jim Saric, The Musky Hunter
It’s Not About the Fish
I’ve loved fishing all my life. I hear the most amazing stories while fishing: stories about people’s lives – things that really matter to them – their struggles, their triumphs and tragedies, how they came to be who they are and what makes life worth living for them. It’s as if, in that unhurried time on open water, people open up.
I’ve fished all over the world but one my favorite places to fish is right here in Florida: Florida’s Adventure Coast in Hernando County. It has exceptional fresh and saltwater fishing, but the big attraction for me is the scalloping. The Florida Bay scallop is one of Florida’s best summertime activities for residents and visitors of all ages, and it’s a great experience from the boat to your plate. A few summers ago, I had the privilege of scalloping with my wife for a few hours. I’d describe it as an underwater Easter egg hunt, but the eggs are the scallops that flounder through the water on occasion.
The second half of my day was fishing for redfish with my brother Rogerick. Targeting redfish requires stealth, changing tactics and understanding the tides. The most popular fishing areas for redfish are shell bars, grassy shorelines and shallow flats. The grassy bottom in Hernando County makes for some of the best fishing along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Now, I could tell you about this massive redfish we caught while we were out but, truth be told, it was an ordinary day. That’s fishing. But my brother and I shared family stories and that’s what I’ll remember. – Ronnie Green, Host of A Fishing Story with Ronnie Green
As you can see, no matter what kind of fishing you crave, there’s a Mercury Pro angler who can tell you where to go for a great experience. Even if you can’t get to one of these beloved fisheries, there’s a chance the descriptions will make you think of a similar hidden gem in your area perhaps you’ve overlooked. And if you happen to stumble across Ott DeFoe’s smallmouth honey hole, he’ll appreciate it if you’d keep that information to yourself.