TAMPA — Jim Lemke sat quietly in the captain's chair of his flats boat waiting for the tide to drop. He scanned the surface of the water for the telltale signs of tailing redfish.
"Sometimes you just have to wait it out," he said.
Lemke, a Tampa-based charter boat captain who has been guiding on local waters for 25 years, has learned a few things about red drum.
"Rule No. 1," he said, "is patience."
There's no shortcut to catching fish, Lemke said. And when he shares his decades of hard-earned knowledge with fellow anglers, as he will this weekend at the Florida Sportsman Expo, he pulls no punches.
"You have to put your time in on the water," he said. "There are times when I motor around the flats and don't even pick up a fishing rod. I am just looking, trying to find patterns, so next time I am out there I know."
Fishing tips from veteran anglers are hard to come by. That's why the expo, sponsored by Florida's oldest and most respected fishing magazine, has beefed up its seminar series.
"Fishermen are always looking for good information," said show organizer Doug Kelly, author of Florida's Fishing Legends and Pioneers. "That's why we try to bring in veterans like Jim."
Lemke had a career as an electrical engineer after graduating from the University of Florida. After nearly a decade, he grew tired of working in corporate America and switched professions, though he never lost his attention to detail.
"You can't underestimate the importance of tackle," Lemke said. "I fish with 7½-foot rods with extra-fast tips and smaller reels to get that extra distance when casting."
Lemke likes to keep his distance from large schools of redfish. The longer you cast, he said, the less likely you are to spook the fish.
"These reds get so beat up," he said. "They are smart. They know when you are there.
"You can't be afraid to wade," he said. "The best way to approach a school of redfish is slowly and on foot."
Lemke likes to stake out a spot midway through the tidal change and wait for the end of the outgoing or beginning of the incoming tide to start fishing. "That is when the fish move up on the flats," he said. "Redfish love to root around in the shallows, when the flats are dry. The lower the water level, the easier it will be to see the fish."
If you want to learn more, head to the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa at 1 p.m. Saturday or Sunday to hear Lemke speak about his favorite subject in his seminar, Sight Fishing for Bull Reds.
But Lemke won't be the only expert talking about fishing. The Florida Sportsman Expo will also feature Sarasota fly rod aficionado Rick Grassett and Mark Nichols, founder of D.O.A. Lures. Seminar topics include: Extreme Tactics for Monster Snook, Targeting Inshore Snapper, Top Methods to Fish Bridges and Piers and the ABCs of Kayak Fishing.
Other show highlights include a 100-foot indoor casting pond, hands-on rigging tables, free fly- and net-casting lessons as well as the latest tackle, gear and boats.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will have a 500-gallon fish tank on display and if you are curious about reptiles, check out the new Burmese python exhibit.