If you read a lot of books about fishing, (something I do) you know what you like and what you do not like. So you can tear through from one end to the other, and others you read through because you are in the habit of reading books to the bitter end, even if you are not having fun doing it (another thing I do). All that said, reading Tommy L. Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guide to Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida was easy, and it is unique in being one of those books you will want to keep around. It is a combination of a great read and a strong reference book. So strong in fact, it surprised me when I got past the somewhat too-brief introduction.
A long-time friend, Tommy is an outstanding angler and strong resource to our wonderful and (still) free angling community. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, where he can utilize his lifetime of publishing and writing experience to help grow the community that tells you the stories you love to read. There are four Active Members of the FOWA writing for this site: Bob Harbison, whose offshore stories tickle us all, Gary Anderson, who writes down in the backcountry, beaches and piers from Charlotte Harbor and his home in the ancient city of NorthPort (there were anglers there 20,000 years ago - no kidding), and the two publishers, David Rieumont and Gary Poyssick. The organization supports truth in advertising, writing, and everything but fish stories.
The book is a companion to a series that the well-known outdoors writer produced which is called The Saltwater Angler's Guide to Big Bend and the Emerald Coast. Like the former, this one is a wealth of solid information that is fundamental and critical to those of us that love to fish new water. Even if you fish Tampa bay on a regular basis, the extensive listings alone - everything from food to bait to bedding (bug free) - are worth the price of the book and the space in your soon-to-be archaic physical library.
It is all about Structure
I have written books, including one I wrote with Mel Berman called Skinny: How to Fish in Shallow Saltwater. The latest of more than forty titles, this book - like all the books I think are worth the mental and shelf space - was structured perfectly. I am a structure nut as an author, and as an author I can say that the book(s) Tommy does are easy to understand and a critical reference because of his attention to this fundamental technical writing skill. Because - if you think about it - any book meant to teach you something or to somehow expand your knowledge base is a technical work. And the beautiful structure of Tommy's book might not light the bulb of the average reader, but over time will make the book very very useful. And as a professional technical writer I can tell you that that is exactly what Tommy wants out of his work - for it to help people.
Tommy's book is structured as well as the Waterproof Charts he uses throughout to give anglers an idea of the areas he's covering in the book. These reliable topographics have been replaced for my of us by software running on iPads from Navionics. But the use of real charts -- topographic charts -- is key to developing a strategy that's gonna land you fish on a consistent basis. Like structure in a table of contents, bottom structure - even in the skinniest of waters - is what determines where the fish are. And if you fish where the fish are, you will catch more of them.
The book is organized into two basic sections. The first outlines each area and the second gets down to fundamentals - species and techniques.
This first portion of the work provides detailed locations - starting with and depending on the use of the excellent topographic charts from WaterProof.
Starting with Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida, where the discussion is more about urban spread then fishing, the book moves into the meat of its excellent content: details. From Chapter 2 where The Upper Suncoast; Hernando and Pasco Counties - offers the Waterproof map detail of the section of our coast. Smooth discussions about inshore and offshore fishing get down to the level we are sure will anger people who think that "secret spots" belong to them and them alone. Tommy provides GPS numbers for places like Saddle Creek (N28.39029,W82.39895). Since we are guilty of giving away every spot known to produce a pinfish we stand behind Thompson's belief that the only good spots are the ones you are willing to share.
The book is a seriously useful resource and a solid reference. We strongly suggest you buy it. It's available on Amazon and from Tommy's own site.
Something we found excellent about the book - the best part, perhaps - are the outstanding listings attached to each and every of the location details. Tommy included:
Getting around: Where the place is and how to find it.
Where to stay: Hotels Tommy knows are reliable and clean.
Where to eat: Speaks for itself. Not a list of the local fast food joints.
Marinas, tackle, and resources: Ramps, tackle shops, and repairs.
Guides: Something I would imagine is that Tommy fished with every one on the list.
The destinations run from page 7 to almost two-hundred, where the second part of the book starts, aptly entitled "Practical Matters". Practical matters are just that: things related to fishing the areas that Tommy details but that are not in the structure of the individual sections. Again, structure of a book like this is so very important, that Tommy's attention to organization really stands out.
It is all about the Fish
This section covers the fish we target. I did a similar section in the book Skinny - but I have to say that Tommy's discussions are more detailed and quite frankly better then the ones I wrote. God, I hate when that happens. From flounder to tarpon, and Snook to tripletail, the experienced writer and angler talks about the fish, their behavior, and how to target and catch them.
How to Catch Them
This is the end of the book except for the list of artificial reefs (View our maps of Florida artifical reefs). The reef listing is great, but the knot discussion, the tackle recommendations, and the pure experience this author passes on to readers makes the book totally worth your time.
If you are interested in purchasing A Saltwater Angler's Guide To Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida by Tommy L. Thompson, you can do so by clicking HERE.
A Saltwater Angler's Guide To Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida by Tommy L. Thompson is published by the people at University Press of Florida.
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