TIERRA VERDE — Rob Gorta had his work cut out for him. He had to catch a trout, redfish and snook before 3 p.m. to score a coveted inshore slam.
"Anybody can find trout and redfish," he said. "But a nice-sized snook is hard to come by these days."
The legendary linesider, an elusive prey even in the best of times, has been hard to hook since a series of hard freezes decimated the local population. But Gorta, one of the Tampa Bay area's most successful tournament guides, had a plan.
"You go for the hardest fish first," he said. "And once you catch it, stop fishing and move on. You can't waste the whole day trying for a bigger fish."
Most inshore contests, including the upcoming Grand Slam Celebrity Fishing Tournament, a two-day event headquartered in downtown St. Petersburg to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, hand out prizes for the largest in each species. But winning the slam — the highest number of total combined inches for three species — takes strategy, skill and lots of luck.
More than tournaments
While some anglers fish for food, others for trophies, many pursue the sport just for the thrill. If you're looking for a challenge, try catching multiple species in one day.
Every geographic region of the state has its own "slam." For example, if you catch a red drum, snook and tarpon in the same day here in Tampa Bay or in Charlotte Harbor, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and apply for a West Coast Grand Slam certificate.
Once you have that honor under your belt, head out to the state's other regions and add to your fishing resume.
North Florida Slam
Start in the northwest part of the state at St. Joseph Bay near Port St. Joe, where you will have no trouble catching spotted seatrout and red drum. But cobia, the third member of the North Florida Slam, is far more difficult to find. This species is caught by anglers who "sightcast" to individual fish as they swim along local beaches. A good fishing guide will increase your chances of success.
Florida East Coast Slam
This slam can be filled in the Indian River Lagoon, one of the state's most celebrated fishing grounds. Anglers come from all over the globe just to try to catch a world-record spotted seatrout or red drum.
But, if you want to catch a tarpon, the third member of this slam, you will have to time it just right. They're only in the lagoon for a few months of the year. Tarpon are wary, and only the most skilled anglers succeed in catching this species in shallow water.
South Florida Slam
Now it's time to head to warmer waters and tackle the South Florida Slam, probably the hardest of all the slams to get in one day.
Miami and the Florida Keys are responsible for more world records than most states and even some countries. But bonefish and permit are notoriously angler-shy.
Still, a good guide who knows the water will help you catch a tarpon at first light, and then you can spend the rest of the day hunting the other two. It will take some work, but the reward is well worth the effort.
The record book
Florida is the place to go to catch world-class fish. The International Game Fish Association, the organization that maintains the book of world record fish caught, makes its headquarters in Dania Beach on the east coast of Florida. When it comes to world records, anglers fishing Florida waters have racked up nearly 5,000, more than any other state or country.
The IGFA maintains both all-tackle and line-class records. The largest red grouper ever caught, a 42-pound, 4-ounce monster landed near St. Augustine by Del Wiseman Jr. on March 9, 1997, is an example of an all-tackle record. But Martin Arostegui also earned his place in history for the same species by catching a 3-pounder off Marathon Key on March 8, 2008, using 2-pound-test line.
But you don't have to catch a world record to get a little recognition. Contact the FWC, at MyFWC.com and click on "Saltwater Fishing" then "Fishing Resources" and finally "Saltwater Grand Slam and Fishing Records" to apply for your slam certificate.