Ever since I first built this
website I wanted to do a page like this. I guess the only thing that
stopped me was actually writing the words to fill it. It is hard to figure
out where to start.
A lot has changed since I got into this
business back in 1992. When I started guiding we didn’t have the internet,
email, cell phones or GPS… The finest custom built flats skiff on the market
cost a whopping $20,000 or less brand new. Gas was less than $1 a gallon.
Cameras actually had real film in them. You had a real good day and it was off
to the one hour photo on the way home. Video cameras hardly fit in the
front seat of your truck much less your shirt pocket. Fishing guides used to
know how to fish before they started taking paying clients. They didn’t try to
”learn on the fly” like so many do today. We had to pay our dues to attract
clients, not hire a advertising/web guru. We had respect for others on the
water. The boat ramp in Placida only had room for about 15 trailers back then.
On a Saturday in June you could still get a spot at 8am most of the time… Yeah,
it was a long time ago.
I am sitting here looking at a
bunch of photos from back in the day and the memories are starting to flow.
I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.
Ok, here goes everything...
Fishing and the outdoors has
always been a part of my life. My oldest memories as a child were fishing
with my Dad, Dub (my grandfather on my mother's side) and my Great Granddaddy
Hood (my father's granddad). My Mother told me my first fishing pole was
waiting on me long before I was born. So I guess it wouldn't surprise you that
I had my first
box full of lures with real hooks before the age of three.
The first photo on the right
was taken at a very special place. (Jenni says I still make that
face...lol) We called it the lodge. It was a
fishing cabin in North Carolina on Currituck Sound where my
grandparents, Dub and Granny went on vacations. What made it special to me
was the unbelievable endless supply of fish. I could sit on my tackle box
and watch my red and white bobber, like Dub taught me,
next to that seawall and catch fish like this all day with just hot dogs for
bait. I didn't need Dub or
Dad to help me one bit. I just had to go and get Dub every time I caught one. I loved it. Granted they were just common catfish, but they were special to this three year old.
When I was a kid it didn't matter what I fished for, just as long as I could fish.
next photo is my Granddaddy Hood and me with some largemouth bass strung up on a
willow switch. Granddaddy told me he used to whoop my Dad with one just
like it and as long as I was good I had nothing to worry about.
up to Granddaddy's house in North Carolina always meant fun. Fishing,
shooting guns, whittling with his pocket knife and hunting is all Granddaddy
ever did. How cool was that?
The next photo on the right is me
after Dad and Granddaddy Hood showed me how to shoot an air rifle. We shot pigeons
right off the
neighbors roof. Mom and Grandma Hood weren't too happy I will tell you
that. I still can
hear Grandma yelling at Dad and Granddaddy. In between she kept telling me to put down those
Whether the target
species were snook, redfish, trout, largemouth bass, bluegills, catfish, bowfin
or gar I was always after them. To tell the truth, turtles, snakes,
lizards, spiders and frogs were not off limits either. If I couldn't fish,
I was reading, thinking or just dreaming about fishing.
I was too young to remember when I started using a spinning rod,
but I do remember getting my first bait caster, a Shimano Bantam 200, for Christmas
when I was in the fourth grade. Dad got me an Ugly Stick too.
I was the bad ass at
the local pond after school.
At the age of fourteen I met Jenni, my
We grew up fishing and enjoying the outdoors together.
the age of fifteen I got my first boat of my own, an Alumacraft 16' commercial
Jon boat. The first
year or so I had a 1966 Johnson 20 on it. Later for my 16th birthday my
mom bought me a brand new 40
Evinrude for it. I had taken the electronics off my dads boat before Mom sold
it. I knew I would need them someday. I was probably the only person
in the world with a Si-Tex paper graph and flasher on a Jon boat. I also
did some custom work on the boat myself. I put a front deck with lots of storage, a large bait well/live well
and a trolling motor on it to finish it off right.
and I took that boat everywhere. From the Suwannee to the Keys, I doubt
there is a lake, river or body of water of any kind in the state of Florida we
didn't go at some point. I would read about a new place in a fishing
magazine then I would study the charts of the water and roadmaps for a week or
two before we went.
older I got the more I gravitated toward bigger and bigger fish. I still
fished freshwater from time to time, but the
saltwater was forever calling my name. I fished a few tournaments, but that was never really my thing.
I bought my first real good fly
rod, a G.Loomis at about age 15. I mowed a lot of grass and
washed many a car to get my hands on that. Graduating to the fly rod
seemed a very natural next step. Over the next few years rarely did I ever
use anything else.
Yes, I was a fly rod snob by the time I was 16.
So bad in fact I would only use the flies I tied myself. Luckily, I grew
out of that phase.
The big trucker hats...those
were the days!
21 years old I got an idea. I could take a few folks fishing, just a
couple a month, and Jenni and I could afford a new boat. Never in a
million years did I think just a few years later I would be making a full time living at it.
new boat, a Silver King 16, expanded my horizons. Now I had the range to
go anywhere, anytime I wanted. Three years or so
after getting the boat I was able to go full time in the guide business.
Making a living fishing! What a concept!
Over the next few years the fish continued
to get bigger and as you can see from the more recent photos so did I.
Through the years I did learn one important thing,
there is no love like your first love. She can
never be replaced. I will never let her go.
Yes Jenni, I am talking about
you. (It just so happens that is how I feel about my Silver King boat too!)
Ever since I was a small child
I had an itch to explore
new water. In that regard nothing at all has changed. Always wanting
to go a little further than the last trip. I went a little bigger, boat
wise, to be able to satisfy that need to wander. Larger fuel tank,
horsepower and size to get back home when the weather kicks up.
the exploration of new water is so important in my business. It keeps everything fresh and exciting. I
haven't run out of new places to explore yet!
Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Everglades is just
I have always said the day I
start to burn out on this will be the last day I fish for a living.
got the love for fishing and the water from my father, but Jenni and I learned to fish the saltwater
flats together. As kids we often traveled around the state in search of a new
adventure. (Really nothing has changed there either!)
I have always had lots of
hobbies. Hunting, shooting, archery and playing the guitar just to name a
Harry Callahan said a man has
got to have his priorities straight.
Well for me, priority #1, has always has
been and will forever be fishing and I seriously doubt that will ever change.
I love to introduce newcomers to
the sport as well as showing more seasoned anglers about the tropical saltwater
Although I really don't mind fishing offshore, the
inshore saltwater flats and backcountry will always be my home.
Back then who would have ever
Mom wants to know what happened to her son?
(she is still waiting for me to get a haircut and a
Please feel free to call or
email and ask questions.
I am always available to
discuss your trip.
For Information and reservations:
Capt. Mark Bennett