The IGFA has accepted 331 inshore grand slams, defined as catching three of four species – bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook – in a day. While the first inshore slams became IGFA record in 1995, many previous catches – dating back to 1982 – earned acceptance due to proper documentation. In 2004, IGFA added Atlantic inshore grand/super grand slams (striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, Atlantic bonito, little tunny) and shortly after, Pacific inshore grand/super grand slams (white seabass, yellowtail, halibut, dorado). So far, only 28 Atlantic slams and three Pacific slams have been recorded.
For a glimpse at what top guides and resorts recommend for inshore slam seekers, we queried experts in top-producing locations, including Turneffe Island Resort (Belize, www.turnefferesort.com), Belize River Lodge (www.belizeriverlodge.com) and Capt. Bob Beighley (lower Florida Keys, www.doublehaulcharters.com). Among the three, only Belize River Lodge regularly encounters numbers of snook; the others primarily target flats slams.
Q: What is it about your location that produces regular slam opportunities?
Turneffe Island Resort (TIR): We’re in an area heavily populated with marine life, where it’s catch-and-release only for bonefish, tarpon and permit. We don’t overfish our areas, and we have many square miles to work with. The area behind the island is also a marine reserve.
Belize River Lodge (BRL): We’re located 3 1/2 miles upstream from the mouth of the Belize River; our guests have an opportunity to see all four species daily, or at least regularly. The coast along both sides of the river and the nearby cays hosts extensive red mangrove forests.
Capt. Bob Beighley (BB): The abundance of fish and the quality of the fish, matched with our unique tide situation (four daily tides – two lows, two highs), give us a huge advantage over other locations.
Q: What’s the best time of year to target a slam at your location?
BB: You can catch a slam any day of the year, but the best times are spring and summer. In spring, all three flats species are present in the greatest numbers. However, the summer produces the most consistently favorable weather.
TIR: June through September, as the elusive tarpon come in with full force.
BRL: No real best time, though windier weather generally occurs during January, March and December, making it tougher to cast a fly to a permit.
Q: Do you actively target slams with clients?
BRL: We don’t push for slams unless guests specifically express interest. Most are happy to continue catching a specific species that’s biting rather than leave feeding fish to catch another species.
BB: We like to target slams in the lower Keys, because they’re the ultimate challenge. No matter how many fish you catch in your lifetime, you’ll never take a slam for granted. But slams are not for everyone. They’re usually for people who’ve spent years catching all three species individually.
Q: Is it tougher to catch a slam with spin or fly?
BRL: Depends on casting skills, weather conditions, how well the angler can see and how well he follows advice from his guide.
BB: They’re a real challenge on spinning tackle, but fishing for them on fly is really taking it to the next level. The reason is the elusive permit: Permit are very difficult on fly and considered by most to be the hardest fish on the planet to catch on fly.
Q: What’s the easiest part of catching a slam?
TIR: The easiest part is to find the tarpon first. Since tarpon roll on the surface, they’re easier to find – but more difficult to land.
BRL: The easiest is to catch a bone, tarpon and snook, probably in that order, because bones are the easiest to catch in adverse weather.
BB: Day in and day out, tarpon and bonefish are the easiest part of the slam.
Q: What’s the hardest part of catching a slam?
TIR: Sometimes the fish are not feeding regardless of the type of fly or bait you use.
BRL: The angler’s ability or inability to accurately cast 30 to 60 feet. Fishing for permit in very windy, overcast conditions is also difficult.
BB: Permit are, without question, the hardest part of a slam; they’re the spookiest fish on the planet, especially on fly.
Q: What’s the perfect scenario for a slam day?
TIR: Tide plays the biggest role, as we need a strong outgoing tide.
BRL: Light east/northeast winds (5 to 10 mph), clear, sunny, rising tide in the morning with high tides around midmorning. Low tide in late afternoon for snook.
BB: In general, a calm morning for spotting tarpon rolling as the sun comes up. Then, the wind would pick up to help disguise your offering to the other two. Tides and water temperature come into play as well. In the Keys, we have an abundance of oceanside and Gulf flats, and flats in between. In the lower Keys, we have flats full of bait and worms and crustaceans, which help draw these fish from the depths.
Q: What tackle do you recommend for targeting slams?
TIR: For tarpon – 30-pound test; 10- and 12-weight fly rods. For bonefish and permit – 10- to 15pound test; 8- or 9-weight fly rods for bonefish and 10- to 12-weight for permit.
BRL: For bonefish – 10-pound line, Mike’s modified ounce wiggle jigs; 8weight fly rod, floating line, light flies such as Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, Bonefish Special and others. For snook and small to medium tarpon – 15-pound line, 60- to 80-pound leader, a variety of lures from poppers to slow-sinking jerk and twitch baits; 9- and 10-weight rods, floating lines (intermediate 10 for some locations), tapered leaders, 60- to 80-pound shock tippet, #2 and #3 flies like Deceivers, Black Death, etc. For permit – 15-pound line, no leader, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce jigs with flash and weed guards; 9- and 10-weight rods, floating lines, 8- to 9-foot tapered leaders, 15-pound tippet, #4 and #6 Borski Slider, Merkin, etc. For large tarpon – 25-pound line, 100-pound leader, 65M11 MirrOlure, Yo-Zuris, 4 1/2- to 7-inch floating and sinking lures; 11- and 12-weight rods, floating and intermediate lines, tapered leaders, 20- to 25-pound shock tippet, 4/0 flies like Black Death, Cockroach, etc.
BB: In spring, I use 30-pound tackle for tarpon and 8- to 15-pound for bones and permit. In summer, you can get away with 8 to 15 for tarpon. On fly, 11- and 12-weight tackle for tarpon, 10 for permit and 8 for bones. I like to throw a 9-weight for bones and permit with a fly that either would gladly munch. Downsize rods on windless days; go up a rod weight or two on really windy days to help you turn over your fly.
_Photos by Earl Waters. The full version of this article appears in the April 2011 issue of _Sport Fishing