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When you have the opportunity as a northerner to head south and fish in the wintertime, you jump on it. So, when Josh Thomas asked if I could come down to help shoot the promo footage of the much-anticipated Shearwater 125, I did not balk at the idea. The trip was scheduled to take place the 2nd week of March, which would mean that I would fly to Florida, shoot, fly back to Maine, then pack up to drive to the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Guntersville. The logistics of these 2 back to back trips were a bit daunting to begin with. Then something happened…
Covid-19, you may have heard about it. At this time, the pandemic was just starting to spread its way across the country, minor shutdowns were beginning to happen, international flights were still going out but only to certain countries. With our plans/permits locked in with the National Parks Service, flights booked, a lot of money spent on the adventure, we were apprehensive but hopeful. A bunch of long messenger conversations and email chains later, it looked like we were a go. I packed up my backpack, and camera gear, a little tackle as prescribed by our guide Kevin “The Machine” Hughes, camping gear, and enough batteries to jump start a small village.
Walking through Logan International Airport at the start of a global pandemic is like a clip straight out of a Stephen King movie. No one was looking at anyone else, everyone was quiet, and there were 0 lines to speak of. 5 minutes through TSA, a quick explanation that the Pelican case I carry on is indeed full of camera gear and a drone and nothing dangerous, and into the empty terminals. Eerily quiet.
A quick 3-hour flight where the closest seatmate I had was 4 rows down across the aisle, and I was in Miami. Stepping off the plane in Florida after spending a whole winter of sub-freezing temps and snow, is always surreal. Suddenly my thin flannel shirt felt like a sweater. But I made it! What’s up Florida! Baggage claim was fast, and a quick call to Erica DeLana and we were on our way! Of course first I had to run up some stairs because Josh Thomas only reads the signs he wants to read and was waiting for me at departures rather than arrivals.
Quick greetings, and we are headed south… wait... south of Miami? To the Everglades! But first… we need to go to Bass Pro because Josh needs some new rods, apparently his keep breaking spontaneously, odd. Anyway, this is a good chance for me to grab some last-minute tackle, and then completely forget to buy sunscreen until we are in line at the checkout, Erica is a saint for running to grab some. Back to the car and I am really regretting not changing into some Florida attire by about now.
A few missed turns and some aggressi…er defensive driving later, we are on the straightest, flattest road I have ever seen, and entering Everglades National Park. Was that a panther crossing sign?! Dang, I am in the jungle! About 45 minutes of straight road driving later we arrive at our campsite, where we can see the rest of the crew! But for some reason the person in front of us at the gate must be asking about every animal that can be found in the park because we sit here for about 30 more minutes.
When we finally get out of the car, it is time for a beverage and some catching up. I still needed to set my tent up, and definitely needed to get rid of that flannel shirt. By the time I am set up and changed the crew is hanging out around the campfire, getting tackle ready for our early morning the next day. ~30lb braid, 40lb flouro leaders, and spinning gear. Zman Jerkshadz on a Mustad grip pin hook, and we are good to go! After getting set up, the crew took to the campfire to relax and tell stories.
With a 4am start looming, midnight is a great time to crawl into the tent for the night, but first a quick check for the Everglades notorious croco-spiders, one can never be too careful. Tomorrow we fish!