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February 2023: Visiting Old Friends in New Homes – Exploring the Florida Keys Wreck & Backcountry with buddy Capt. Brandon Nelson

Let’s see if I remember how to do this. And by this, I mean fishing and writing alike. I’m ashamed at how long it’s been since I’ve scribbled in this here journal and although not nearly as large a gap as writing, the incredible journey into dad life has kept me off the water for several months. 

But we’re back! Kicking it off with one of the most all-time ways possible – visiting the Florida Keys with good friend & overall stud human Capt. Brandon Nelson. So to keep things fresh here, I want to slightly switch up the format from past years. Keeping it short by hitting the key takeaways + lessons learned then tell the story visually. Because pictures are worth 1000 words, I want to reserve those valuable word slots into hopefully practical, usable tips to take with you.

For this one, I intentionally tried to pick Brandon’s brain on “what’s the secret to your success on the water?”. That cracking the code of how some of the fishiest anglers & captains all seem to have. Spoiler alert, there is no shortcut or easy “secret sauce” to share but what I can share is: 

  • There’s absolutely no substitute for logging time on the water. I know, I know. I’ve said it before and I’m 1000% far from the first to say it. But when quizzing Brandon, over and over the common denominator is always putting in the time. Being intentional about that time on the fishing grounds and learning something new every single day. Trial and error mixed with some good old-fashioned note-taking (mental or actual) go a long way. 
  • Being methodical about your preparation + rigging + gear + equipment. This one isn’t just from this trip and is something I’ve always observed about Brandon’s program. His shit is incredibly dialed in. The boats are clean and well-equipped. The gear is like new (despite lots of charter use) and always well cared for. The prep is methodical attention to detail, and a lot of time spent setting up before stepping foot on the boat. I think this is arguably one of the most powerful takeaways every single angler at any stage of their progression can use. Learn the knots. Keep your gear (entry or high-end) in pristine shape. Rig and dial in your tackle well before the trip. It’s one less variable you will have to think about or deal with while out there. 
  • Leverage the tools available. YouTube is one hell of a powerful tool. Brandon, like many of us fishing nerds spends countless hours on YouTube watching and learning from the vast content & tips already on there. For example, we watched a Florida Sportfishing episode with Capt. Mike about fishing trophy mutton snapper. Mind you this was after we had just come in with a box full of stud muttons ourselves that same day. But as we watched, I noted that Brandon was comparing what we did and had success with vs. what they were running through in the episode. “Oh, I see what he’s doing there. I’m definitely trying that on the next one.” The same concept goes for other tools such as charts and electronics. “I got the go-to Florida chart for this area and then just starting going to those spots and running over them with my transducer. Trying to figure out exactly where the structure was and where the fish were on it. Each trip the puzzle pieces make a little more sense”. 
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