Key West Light-Tackle Fest

Sport Fishing joins Zebco in the Keys to test out new tackle

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January's a good time to trade Tulsa for Key West, and that's just what several movers and shakers at Zebco HQ in late January. Zebco, of course, is the parent company for several great names in saltwater fishing - Fin-Nor, Quantum and Van Staal. I was fortunate enough to be among the media invited to join in the fun - and testing the latest gear. Though lots of nice Marquesa conventionals and some heavy-duty Fin-Nor Offshore spinners were on hand, for the most part, this ended up being a great winter light-tackle fest for all sorts of game fish.Doug Olander
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A 15-pound cow dolphin is a good fish if not remarkable. But catching that on a Zebco 33 pushbutton reel designed for light freshwater use is nothing if not remarkable. Capt. Chris Trosset did just that - winning the unique contest to see who could catch the largest fish on one of a dozen or so such outfits the company provided anglers.Alan McGuckin
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I fished two of three days with Bob Bagby, vice-president of marketing for Zebco. The man definitely walks the walk. This shot could be labeled "hooked up on a good bass," but Bagby's using his Quantum Smoke baitcaster (with great finesse) to whip nearly 30 pounds of angry king mackerel.Doug Olander
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And whip the fish (on 10-pound braid) he did!Doug Olander
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The guide gets a chance to fish - and takes full advantage! Capt. Rich Tudor hooked this permit, a bit south of 40 pounds, in one of his favorite haunts, the Marquesas.Doug Olander
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Unusual perspective of a Fin-Nor Inshore rod in the hands of famed Key West skipper, R.T. Trosset.Alan McGuckin
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You for sure wouldn't want to be this gray snapper, in the savage grip of the dreaded Captain Exo. He caught his victim on a Quantum Exo, laughing madly, "A fresh water reel, you say? Ah-ha-ha-ha.....!"Doug Olander
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Alan McGuckin, who handles Zebco's PR, here handling a large fish as yet unseen. A GoPro Hero 2 enabled this very cool perspective of the action.Doug Olander
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Toothy cero mackerel couldn't pass up a live pilchard. At times, the ceros were so thick, the wire leaders did little good, as they kept cutting through our braid and releasing their hooked brethren.Doug Olander
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An occasional handful of liveys definitely gets predators, top to bottom in fairly shallow water (40 feet) fired up.Doug Olander
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Well, they can't all be giants, but I was happy with this decent yellowtail snapper that clobbered a Savagear Sand Eel.Doug Olander
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Shortly after that I hooked some larger - considerably larger, taking me around and around RT's Yellowfin after the fish hit a MirrOlure Popa Dog on top. Though we never got a good look at the fish before the hooks popped out after about 20 minutes, just 10 or so feet below the boat, RT said he was sure it was a very large yellow jack.Ben Holtzclaw
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The hook stayed buttoned for Bob Bagby who muscled up this 50-plus-pound goliath grouper.Doug Olander
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Though it may superficially resemble a mutton snapper, this oversize lane snapper is approaching its max size.Doug Olander
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Sport Fishing's Drew Townes prepares to release a nice Marquesas permit.Doug Olander
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As for the preceding, another GoPro perspective has Bob leadering a very reluctant kingfish as R.T. holds another, smokin' king.Doug Olander
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Doubled up: Bob and Ben Holtzclaw (right), Bonnier's sole web editor for all brands in the fish group, work on large little tunny....Doug Olander
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... Like this one, taken by Chris Trosset.Alan McGuckin
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In the hands of Bob, this little Zebco 33 push-button reel was enough to handle a good-sized red grouper. Reds were in considerable abundance this trip.Doug Olander
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Though it's hard to beat live pilchards, I fished a long white Z-man tail with success for this fat red grouper.Doug Olander
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A large handful of yellow jack makes R.T. a happy angler.Doug Olander
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Though I had some success on jigs and plugs, the bite was hard to beat on bait - live pilchards, of which RT made sure we have several hundred in his live wells.Doug Olander
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Alan McGuckin and guide Tom Rowland teamed up to take this large flats cuda on a topwater.Alan McGuckin
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Another kingfish caught on the new Quantum Smoke baitcaster which, despite being pretty handily outmatched by kings, jacks and other predators, held its own admirably.Doug Olander
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Among many surprises was this lovely wrasse.Ben Holtzclaw
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A brace of grouper for Bob (with a black) and R.T. (with a gag), both on live pilchards.Doug Olander
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This permit gave me a great battle on the little Smoke spinner with 8-pound braid.Alan McGuckin
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Anglers just don't get much happier than Capt. Ted Lund and Bob, who once again proves his kingfish prowess with a little Exo baitcast outfit.Ben Holtzclaw
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Even a snapper's teeth aren't a match for the choppers of Captain Exo, who bit this unfortunate snapper in half as clean as any barracuda just after this photo was taken.Doug Olander