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GOING H2O with TONY LUDOVICO – THE OCEAN GHOST

By Adam Rocke

Behind the lens of a low-volume mask, probing eyes stare down into the blue abyss. Those eyes have serious mileage on them, and have seen things most of us could only dream of—or be afraid to dream of! And yet here they are once again, on the lookout, scanning, searching, hoping…

In an instant, Tony Ludovico fills his lungs to capacity courtesy of a simple plastic tube, gracefully arches his back, and slides beneath the waves. Smooth, powerful kicks of his long, carbon fiber fins drop him twenty feet in less time than it took you to read this. Although his surroundings are considerably darker, there’s still enough ambient light to accomplish the task at hand — capturing the perfect image.

For air-breathers like Tony and the rest of humanity, the ocean is fraught with peril. Here, Man is not the apex predator he is on land, and all those who dare to enter do so with considerable risk, willingly becoming part of the food chain. However, in this beautiful yet unforgiving environment, toothy predators represent merely a fraction of the danger. There are many ways to die when blue sky yields to blue water.

Unfortunately, Tony doesn’t have nine lives—and the one he’s got has come damn close to being extinguished more times than a barracuda has teeth. But despite the innumerable hazards and mind-numbing uncertainty that go hand-in-hand with every descent, Tony couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

With a career spanning three decades, Tony Ludovico is among the world’s most accomplished professional underwater photographers and videographers. What separates Tony from the other elite aquatic shooters is that he’s the only one who plies his trade without benefit of scuba gear. Tony’s minimalist approach has nothing to do with machismo; it’s all about doing everything in his power to avoid being an interloper in a world where Man doesn’t belong. That requires Casper-like invisibility when he’s there, and leaving zero trace of his presence once he’s exited the brine. If he gets it right, the only evidence he was ever there will be the images he captured. If he gets it wrong, well, Poseidon tends to hang onto his trophies. Fortunately for us, Tony never gets it wrong. In that respect, Tony Ludovico is the rarest of the rare: a true aquatic unicorn. Or better yet, an ocean ghost.

Tony is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, honoring both his artistic eye along with his tireless conservation efforts. His work can be found in virtually every nook and cranny of the globe, in both commercial campaigns and private collections.

From Nova Scotia, where 1,000-pound bluefin tuna sped at him like finned Greyhound buses; to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where he hovered amid enormous bait balls as nimble sailfish sliced and diced their way through like scaled Zorros; to the Galapagos Islands, where he danced an underwater Waltz with majestic manta rays, and played tag with monstrous but gentle whale sharks; to the mangrove swamps of the Florida Keys, where air-depleted lungs forced him to surface into a barrel’s-eye-view of a drug-runner’s AK-47…
Awesome. Incredible. Unimaginable. Yet it’s all just another day at the office for Tony Ludovico.

Now, Tony’s opening up a secret door and inviting us all inside for a look at the amazing undersea world he knows so well—a world we know so little about.

Better hold your breath. It’s going to be an incredible journey!

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Shelby Callison: A ‘reel’ cowgirl

Although she just earned a BS in Agriculture (with honors, no less) from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), Shelby Callison (@ShelbyCallison_ on Instagram) wants to work in the marine industry.

“I’m planning on moving to South Florida in a few months, and I’m hoping to find something down there,” she says. “If I don’t find something in the marine industry, there’s a lot of agriculture in Florida, too.”

Although she’s from McDonough, Georgia — just south of Atlanta — and currently lives in Tifton, Georgia (where she attended ABAC), Shelby is no stranger to the ocean. In fact, a marine environment is her preferred environment.

“I grew up fishing with my granddaddy,” she says. “When I was real little I was just happy to be there with him, standing on a dock or the shore with my line in the water.”

It didn’t take long for her competitive edge to kick in.

“Then we started bass fishing, which was a little more challenging,” Shelby says. “But when I was 14, my daddy took me fishing offshore out of Daytona — and I’ve never looked back. It’s the only kind of fishing I want to do.”

But offshore fishing is not all she does. She’s also a competitive barrel racer.

“That’s the reason I’m thinking about the West Palm Beach area,” Shelby says. “The equestrian center is there, and there’s a competitive rodeo circuit.”

If she doesn’t find what she’s looking for right away, she has a back-up plan.

“I suppose I could always just crash with Hunter in Key West,” Shelby says, referring to marine photographer Hunter Ledbetter.

She was recently trapped with Hunter on Key West when Tropical Storm Alberto blew through on Memorial Day weekend.

“I was there to fish the tournament, and I wasn’t about to leave,” Shelby says. But, with no flights off the island, she caught a ride with a friend to Port St. Lucie, Florida, rented a car and drove back to Georgia from there.

Tournament fishing is something that Shelby is particularly excited about.

“It feeds my love of fishing and my competitive spirit at the same time,” she says.

At this point, though, there’s nothing she likes better than fishing for mahi mahi (dolphin).

“When I fished my first Dolphin Derby, we went out and caught nothing but this little peanut of a fish,” Shelby says. “It was the hardest fish I ever worked to catch.”

But that did nothing to dampen her enthusiasm for mahi.

“They’re my favorite fish! I love them,” she says. “I prefer to run and troll than to just sitting there waiting for something to hit.”

She caught her first bull mahi fishing with Skye Stanley and Blue Heaven Charters off Islamorada.

“It was last summer and it was such a fun fight,” Shelby says. “That bull was jumping and when we got it to the boat, I saw it go through its color changes. Mahi are such beautiful fish!”

Along with fueling her competitive nature, fishing also feeds her soul.

“I love the beauty of fishing,” Shelby says. “No matter what you’re targeting, you never know what you’re going to catch. And you’re just out there enjoying nature. The ocean is magical…”

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GIVEAWAY!!! w/ Flyfishing Flygirls

 

Like our page and follow flyfishing Flygirls for a chance to win. And tag your friends in this post…that’s how you will get followers

Enter to win below!!!

 

 

 

 

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Secret Texas Bass Fishing Paradise with T Roy

There is a lake with massive bass somewhere in Texas. I mean, we are talking 14 pounders. T-Roy got an invite and he, in turn, invited us. He didn’t land the 14 pounder but with a 30+ pound haul for the day, he’s not complaining. And neither are we.

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Jay Yelas: Delivering the Joy of Fishing with C.A.S.T. for Kids

In spite of his Oregon upbringing, Jay Yelas managed to discover bass fishing.

Right after he finished college at Oregon State, Jay started fishing tournaments as a pro. Now in his 31st year of tournament fishing, he hasn’t looked back since.

And with a Bassmaster Classic title and two FLW Tour Angler of the Year awards under his belt, he hasn’t had to.

“Fishing bass tournaments is the most challenging thing I’ve ever experienced,” Jay says. “It’s like a big chess match where you have to outsmart the bass and the other guys fishing at the same time.”

In 2005, his success as a pro reeler earned Jay an invitation to sit on the board of directors of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation. The foundation has several programs, but its primary goal is to host events in which folks who are facing their own unique life challenges are paired with volunteers who take them fishing.

The Foundation’s main program, C.A.S.T. for Kids, offers children with special needs the chance to get out on the water and enjoy a day of fishing, camaraderie and fun in a way that they may not otherwise experience in their day-to-day lives.

The Fishing Kids program seeks to engage kids in cities and urban areas in the sport of fishing. The events are open to anyone who is interested. The goal is simply to get “more kids fishing, more often.”

Finally, the Take a Warrior Fishing program pairs vets and active duty military personnel — particularly those assigned to Warrior Transition Commands — with volunteers who help them get outdoors and reconnect with natural world. Family involvement is an important component of the program, as well.

As for Jay, he served on the Foundation’s board for a decade. Then in 2015, he stepped into the Executive Director position.

Although he still does some tournament fishing, these days Jay is very involved with day-to-day operations of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, which is headquartered in Seattle.

With satellite headquarters in Alabama and Texas, the foundation is now the largest fishing charity in the United States. Today, they host events in more than 30 states. In 2017, they hosted their 1,000th event, and over the foundation’s history, they’ve helped more than 100,000 kids spend the a day fishing.

Under Jay’s tenure, 2017 was the foundation’s biggest year to date, and he and the board want to see it keep growing.

Testimonials from anglers and their families demonstrate the impact that the foundation has had on participants.

“It’s more than fishing,” Jay says. “Fishing is just the venue to bring people together, share a day and share some joy with one another; to create something that’s different from the challenges the kids face everyday, whether it’s a foster home or a disability.”

To help support the foundation, they host an annual celebrity fishing tournament in conjunction with a C.A.S.T. for Kids event. This year, they’ll be fishing Lake Waco, in Waco, Texas.

“We want to keep helping people put on fishing events, so they can share the joy of fishing with kids in their community,” he says.

 

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Re-centering with Kristin Fischer

When I spoke to her, Kristine Fischer was organizing her home, getting ready to head out to Paris, Tennessee for the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky Lake. She planned to fish the lake for a few days before the tournament, locating the holes and structure that attracted the bass and figuring out what patterns they were hitting.

Kristine (@midwestfischergal on Instagram) did not win $100,000 at this year’s Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship. But she qualified for the tournament, and for someone who has only been competitively fishing for bass from a kayak for a few years, that’s pretty damn good.

The Nebraska native has been fishing all her life, and has traveled North America to do so. As a girl, Kristine would travel with her family to the Boundary Waters, on the Minnesota/Canadian border, to camp and fish in the summers. They would fish, catching smallmouth bass, lake trout and walleye, for their supper.

She had a bump in the fishing road, though, about the time she reached middle school, when peer pressure convinced her that fishing was not cool for girls. By this time, Kristine had amassed a collection of fishing lures and tackle that she’d earned by doing chores around the house. Tragically, she sold off her entire collection.

But after a couple years, she came around and realized what she had missed out on.

”I realized that this is what I want to do. The outdoors is everything,” she says.

Kristine still participates with her family, as she did as a child, in the annual Governor’s Cup walleye tournament. It not only keeps her connected with family and the outdoors, it also feeds her competitive spirit.

Now, Kristine fishes competitively for bass from a kayak. But bass are not her favorite quarry. All things said and done, she’d rather be chasing muskies.

But they don’t have a competitive kayak muskie fishing tournament, yet. So, she chases muskies whenever she can, and fills in the spare time with kayak tournaments and ice fishing during the winter months.

To chase muskies, Kristine travels as far as Eagle and Moose Lakes in Ontario. She also enjoys the incredible muskie fishery that Lake St. Clair, on the Michigan/Ontario border, offers. But her favorite U.S. destinations for muskie fishing are Cave Run Lake in Kentucky and the Virginia stretch of New River.

Kristine fishes year-round, no matter where or what water is available to her. Like any pro, she follows the moon, the hatch and variables such as weather and air pressure. Yet, her most reliable muskie lure — regardless of conditions — is the Medussa swimbait from Chaos Tackle.

For bass, however, she prefers a Texas-rigged shaky head with a creature bait. Kristine likes the finesse approach to boating big bass, and so far, it has worked for her.

Whether it’s competition or bait choice, it’s all part of Kristine’s plan to embrace an outdoor lifestyle. She initially started on the retail side, but realized that, although she was connected with outdoor products, she was spending most of her time indoors.

So, she took a leap. For the last five years, Kristine has been a Pilates instructor who takes reelers on guided kayak fishing tours and hunters on guided turkey hunts. And she hasn’t looked back.

”There’s beauty and positivity embodied in being outdoors, but I’m worried that we, as a society are losing it,” she says. “It’s so important. Being out in a kayak, for example, you can be alone with yourself and get back to what matters. You can re-center your life.”

 

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This Skye Has No Limit

Skye Burkhardt is worried about Mosquito Lagoon. The Florida reeler’s backyard fishery has had a tough year.

The lagoon, along the inshore waters of Florida’s Space Coast, is an estuarine habitat whose mangroves and sea grass are relied upon by inshore species like snook, redfish, and black drum for structure, camouflage, and a place to breed. But an excessively hot summer, followed by Hurricane Irma destroyed much of the sea grass. And a cold snap this winter is killing off snook, a tropical species that’s super-sensitive to temperature fluctuation in the water.

“I love Mosquito Lagoon. I care about our fishery and the species in it, the mangroves and sea grass. When I walked out and saw the dead snook up against our wall, I had to go back inside. I hate to see that,” Burkhardt says.

Better known to her many Instagram fans as @brassyhooker87, Burkhardt has turned her lifelong love of fishing into a force for good. Her passion for the Space Coast fisheries fuels her many charitable ventures, as well as her nascent guide service, Inshore Adventures with Skye.

“When I think about being out on the lagoon, crossing marshes, and the river, and putting in the work to find the fish, feeling the fish on the end on my line, with my drag screaming… well that’s the reward for all the effort. And I’d love to share it with everyone else,” she says.

From Fish to Fish to Fish

Burkhardt started fishing as a young girl. One of six children, she’d go out with her dad, reeling for bass. And as soon as she got her own rod and reel, Burkhardt hit the lake behind their Central Florida home almost every day after school.

She continued to chase bass even after moving to Altamont Springs and getting her own apartment. On nearby Lotus Lake, Burkhardt hooked her first alligator — using an artificial! After that she even did some catch-and-release gator hunting.

Burkhardt’s catch-and-release ethic served her well when she went with her husband to Daytona, where she caught her first snook using a  paddletail jig. She caught two more in the next ten minutes, and she was hooked.

“Snook are my favorite fish,” she says.

Eventually settling in New Smyrna, Burkhardt did a lot of night fishing, chasing the big snook on Florida’s Atlantic side. But she and her husband had children, circumstances changed, and she had to stop fishing at night.

Always prepared with her rod and reel, she stopped one day between causeways and tossed in a line. She caught a small snook and a big redfish. And she was hooked again.

Burkhardt did all she could to learn how to go after redfish. Now she paddles out on her own and sight fishes for them on the skinny waters of Mosquito Lagoon. She’s caught redfish of almost all sizes, including 50-pounders.

“But I like slot reds better than the big bulls. They’re just prettier, she says. “Every part of it feels amazing. From the paddling to the sighting, and trying to stay quiet as I work my bait past a redfish. And then hooking it and knowing I did it all myself, and by myself. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Working for the Lagoon

As Burkhardt fell in love with the lagoon, a burgeoning number of followers expressed interest in what she was doing.

“They started asking me for autographed pictures, especially this one from Gaff magazine. But, it’s expensive and time-consuming to respond to all the requests, so I figured there must be a way to make it a win-win.”

Burkhardt approached the Marine Discovery Center, and they struck up a partnership. Her fans can now get an autographed picture, the cost of printing and mailing is covered, and the Marine Discovery Center gets a donation.

Educating people about the importance of marine ecology and conservation is important to Burkhardt, as well. She is spearheading a project called Fish Skoolz, along with Captain Jamie from Yellow Dog charters. Over two days, the kids will learn to cast a net for bait, to fish, how to get their license, get a pair of Danco pliers — one of Burkhardt’s sponsors — and then tour the Marine Science Center, which will benefit from the proceeds.

She is also working with Reef Savers to promote and fund removal of lion fish from Mosquito Lagoon. The fish devour the eggs of the native species that breed in the lagoon.  Folks who donate $25 or more can win a sailing chart with Burkhardt or any of the other lady reelers who are working with the program.

“If they wanted, I’d probably just take them fishing, though.” And as soon as Inshore Adventures with Skye hits the water (later in 2018, she says), Burkhardt will happily take you fishing, too.

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They Wish They Waz Fishin’: Chris and Kelly Hollingsworth

You know what they say: A couple that fishes together, well… fishes together.

And that is certainly true with Chris (@wishiwazfishin) and Kelly (@misswishiwazfishin) Hollingsworth.

The California natives — Kelly, Northern; Chris, Southern — have found a happy middle ground in Auburn, California.

“Above the fog, below the snow. Very fortunate to call this place home,” says Chris.

Both Chris and Kelly are lifelong reelers. Kelly started fishing with her Dad when she was a little girl. Chris has tested his fishing limits since he was a kid.

“I have fished my whole life. In Texas out on the piers in Galveston, [I] taught myself to fly fish on a family trip to Oregon. Bought a complete kit at K-Mart,” he says.

These days, he doesn’t have to travel as far to find an awesome fishery.

“We have a lake across the street. Pretty amazing,” Kelly says.

“It’s actually pretty embarrassing. We drive a golf cart to go fishing,” adds Chris.

But there’s nothing embarrassing about the fishery, itself. According to Chris, the lake is home to “Big bass, healthy sunfish population, and the word on the street is massive catfish.”

“I’ll let you know about that later this summer,” he says.

When he’s not out on the water, Chris and his company, Seven Seas Industries, produce and announce outdoor events like triathlons and endurance runs. Well, he tries to.

Asked what she finds most challenging about their home fishery, Kelly responded, “Getting my husband to go to work.”

Chris does not deny that it’s a challenge. “What she said…”

Actually, Chris and Kelly add to the challenge by heading out on their Tahoe SUP or Fish Stalker inflatable. Chris prefers sight casting for bass.

“I hate throwing blind. I like to see what I’m fishing for,” he says.

Sometimes a Kalves Creek Custom Jig fits the bill, but when he’s casting, Chris likes to throw plastic baits from Deep Creek Lures.

“They make so many awesome critters, I can’t throw them fast enough,” he says. “I’ll throw a Texas Rig to bounce along the bottom to cover some water, but my favorite is sight fishing and throwing a Neko Rig right on the fish’s nose. About three feet seems to be the magic number. Close enough to see it but not spook them.”

“I seriously just cast whatever Chris has been catching fish on. He fishes way more than me and I’m super competitive. I’m not ashamed one bit to say I copy what is working,” Kelly says.

But if she had to reach into her own tackle box and pick a go-to, Kelly would go with a wacky-rigged finesse-style worm, with a split or drop shot.

“Just because I can catch fish fast: When you’re a Mom of six children you don’t have a lot of time to change lures and mess around,” she says. “I just like catching fish. Someday I’ll work on different techniques, but right now I’m just happy to get out on the water.”

To make sure that she’s not wasting any time, Kelly keeps two Okuma rods rigged whenever they go out.

“I change if It’s not working,” she says. “Not really patient when it comes to fishing.”

Kelly also relies on Chris to be her fish finder.

“I just ask Chris where he saw them when he went diving,” she laughs.

“Kelly isn’t kidding when she says I dive,” Chris adds. “I love swimming around and really taking notes. I’ve always said, ‘you might have a fish finder… I am a Fish Finder.’ I try and think like a fish. They are predators but they are always fighting to stay alive. Learning about currents, food sources, light, shadows, cover, it’s a fun puzzle to build.”

But the Hollingsworths appreciate far more than the challenge that chasing fish represents.

“I love being outside and it is seriously the only sport [in which] I can compete with my husband on the exact same level,” Kelly says. “We can fish side by side and the fish have no idea what gender we are, or the fact that Chris is six-five and I’m only five-four. We can fish with our children, and even our Grandson. I challenge anyone to find an activity that is so inclusive.”

“Kelly answered it best,” Chris adds. “Fishing brings our family together… I also love the fact that it is a lifetime of learning. There is no finish line. The record catch can always get heavier. The best day might be better tomorrow: I love the journey.” 

Follow the Hollingsworths’ fishing adventures on their YouTube Channel.

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Andrew Nordbye: Fishin’ with a Mission

Living in extreme northwestern Missouri, Andrew Nordbye could fish the mighty Missouri River. But he prefers his home waters of Mozingo Lake near Maryville. Boasting 26 miles of shoreline, the lake is a fairly recent (1994) 1,000-acre impoundment of the eponymous creek.

Nordbye particularly appreciates the quality of the bass he boats out of Mozingo, where he regularly releases largemouth of four pounds or bigger. As an angler on the Costa FLW tour circuit, weight matters quite a bit to Nordbye.

“I used to see five-pounders all the time,” he says.

Nordbye says that as word about the lake got out, fishing pressure has increased and reduced the number of trophy hogs in Mozingo. Bassmaster listing it among the country’s top 100 bass lakes didn’t help, either.

Nordbye is a native of Northwest Missouri, where he grew up fishing with his dad, Tom. He remembers fishing as early as age three and says that he’s wanted to be a pro bass angler since he was five years old – and now he’s living the dream.

Getting to the dream, though, took a lot of hard work. He fished as often as he could, learning the tricks and techniques that would entice big bass to bite his bait.

During college, at Northwest Missouri State, Nordbye was president of the Northwest Fishing Club and fished competitively on the FLW collegiate circuit. In 2015, he finished fourth in the field at the YETI College Fishing Open and netted an invitation to the YETI College Fishing Championship in 2016.

After fishing three tourneys as a pro in 2017, Nordbye finished in 31st place overall in the Costa FLW Series Central division. And he’s looking forward to boating bigger bass in 2018.

When he’s fishing a tournament, Nordbye likes to arrive a week or so early to pre-fish the lake or river where the competition will occur and get a feel for the fishery. He studies the structure, currents, wind patterns over the water and tests different baits to see what the bass are biting.

Nordbye targets structure and cover, like rocks and weeds. Some tournaments take place in lakes that have flooded old strip mines or quarries, where he targets the ledges and drop-offs where the largemouth lay in wait for bait.

His go-to bait is a shaky head with a finesse worm that he’ll bounce slowly off the bottom until the bass can’t take it anymore. Sometimes, a top water hollow-bodied frog can be effective, too.

Later this year, he may have to switch it up though. Fish Hog Tackle, out of Camdenton, Missouri, plans to release “Nordbye’s Finesse Spinnerbait,” which Andrew helped to design.

When he’s not fishing tournaments, Andrew guides and is very involved with his faith – of which he believes fishing is an extension.

“Fishing is a passion God has instilled in me,” he says. “It’s my mission to share the love of Christ with others through fishing.”

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Reelin’ in the New Year!

We here at Reelerz hope the new year finds you with warm hearts and tight lines. This week, we’re giving the fish a break, but then we’re going hard over the next couple months.

Starting the week of January 8, 2018, we’ll get back to our weekly fish features. The January-February line-up looks like this:

Week of January 8: Blue catfish

Week of January 15: Snook

Week of January 22: Walleye

Week of January 29: Bonefish

And the whole month of February will be dedicated to bass.

As always, we’ll need a little help from you. We’d love to hear from guides or reelers who dedicate their Instagram page or YouTube Channel to chasing blue catfish, snook, walleye, bonefish, or bass — and maybe even profile them on Reelerz.

Got some awesome fish pics? We’d love to see them — especially action shots. Find us on Facebook or Instagram (@Reelerz) and DM or tag us, or just use the hashtag #reelerz on you photos.

If you’ve got a great story about your fishing adventures, particularly if the adventure involves a big blue catfish, a scrappy snook, a wily walleye, a beguiling bonefish, or a badass bass, send it our way. Fish tales are the best!

We can’t wait to see your fish and hear your stories.

Here’s to a fantastic 2018, and happy reeling!