MADEIRA BEACH — The best anglers always "prefish" a tournament. Fish move. Conditions change. A little reconnaissance goes a long way, especially when there is big money at stake.
That's why Travis Palladeno, king of the blue-water hunters, found himself a seat on the dock at John's Pass Village one recent summer evening.
"I need all the help I can get," said Palladeno, one of the Gulf Coast's top deep-water fishermen who recently added the title of Madeira Beach mayor to his list of accomplishments. "This is a big deal."
The event Mayor Palladeno referred to was the upcoming Old Salt Summer Sea Wall Tournament. Everybody knows that Palladeno, when he's not in City Hall, runs Live Wire Fishing Charters and can run 150 miles offshore and bring back 50-pound grouper. But, when put to the task, could this blue-water hunter catch a monster sailcat off a sea wall?
"The mayor's job keeps me pretty busy," Palladeno said. "But I still get out and fish as often as I can."
Dane Karcher, a charter boat captain who docks his boat on John's Pass, also specializes in big-game hunting, both with rod and reel, and spear gun. But in recent years he has become a master of slaying them off a sea wall.
"I had to," said Karcher, one of the Tampa Bay area's top free divers. "I'm a dad. You have to know how to fish off a sea wall."
Karcher and his 8-year-old son, Reef, regularly fish for anything that bites off the dock where he moors his boat.
"Believe it or not, the fishing is pretty good," he said. "Everything moves in and out of here. It is like a freeway for fish."
So if you are planning to fish this week's Old Salt Summer Sea Wall Tournament (remember, it's not just for kids), Karcher has a few tips for you:
• Use the tide: Sea wall fishing always is best at high tide; the higher the water, the more numerous the fish.
• Watch the wind: Keep the wind at your back. You don't want to cast into the breeze.
• Go light: Rig a spinning rod with 15-pound test. Cut Sabiki rigs in half and use them to catch bait. Then use the pinfish you catch to hook a gag grouper.
• Go big: Always have a least one heavy rod rigged with a cut mullet or other enticing bait in case a tarpon or shark swims by.
• Stay busy: Keep the kids casting, cutting bait, rigging lines; anything to prevent them from getting bored. If that doesn't work, grab some ice cream then try some more fishing.
To contact Dane Karcher, go to captaindanekarchercharters.webs.com or call (727) 647-6919.