Temple Fork Outfitters – Signature Series Rod Review

Posted on January 26th, 2010 by Captain Benny Blanco


With the help of legendary rod designer, Gary Loomis, TFO introduced a new conventional rod series this year… simply called Signature Series. The Loomis name is synonymous with the best engineered and highest quality fishing tackle for more than a pretty penny. The TFO name is synonymous with high performance fishing tackle at affordable prices. In the case of the new Signature Series, anglers benefit from the best of both worlds… the best engineering matched with high quality materials without a hefty price tag. Only TFO can combine a Gary Loomis rod with an affordable price. Is it worth a look? Absolutely.

When I received the two test rods my attention was immediately drawn to the handles… ergonomically designed and comfortable, but different. It was also hard not to notice just how little they weighed, yet the diameter of the blank gave the impression of strength. I put them to the test the only way I knew how… I stuck them on the boat for my clients to use for the next month of guided fishing trips. The rods were exposed to a spectrum of weather and fishing conditions… from extremely hot afternoons to thirty degree morning runs and from live baiting large Grouper to casting quarter ounce jig heads for small Drum species. The rods caught fish, lots of fish and my clients enjoyed putting them to the test. However, for me, the clue that spoke volumes was my clients’ preference at the end of each fishing day. Undoubtedly, they would start each day using the G. Loomis GL3’s ($200 – $300 Rods), but by the end of the day the TFO’s saw more usage. Some cited the comfortable handles and other cited the fighting strength… I was impressed.

After the month of beatings, I was able to sneak away for some testing myself. I put both rods to the test. First, the 7’0” Medium Light… in a direct comparison with my favorite GL3, I found the TFO casted equally as good and the tip is just as sensitive. It was a tad heavier than the GL3, but lighter than most other brands. I have to admit the handle is more comfortable… for casting and fighting fish. However, the most impressive aspect was the fighting strength of the rod… TFO somehow packed some serious backbone into an ultra light sightcasting rod. Again, I was impressed.

Lastly, I tested the 7’6” Medium Heavy TFO. As to be expected from a rod this size, much of the sensitivity in the tip was lost from the previous smaller version, but the strength increased. I tested this rod on the Everglades two most worthy adversaries… Tarpon and Grouper. Fortunately, the Grouper were hungry that day and the rod performed as TFO promises… even the largest Grouper of the day at 13 lbs was beaten fairly easily. There is enough sensitivity in the tip to feel a strike and more than enough backbone to pull him out of the rocks. The only Tarpon bite that day was from a solid 80 lb fish… initially, as in most Tarpon battles, the first few minutes were spent holding on for dear life. Once the battle turned to a tug of war, I made short work of the hefty fish. Serious backbone is simply an understatement for this rod… I could see it’s usage for larger offshore species as well. You guessed it, I was impressed.

The testing period encompassed 23 guided trips and easily over 600 caught fish on each rod… roughly the equivalent of the average recreational anglers’ annual usage. Aside from the occasional hardened scale and some of the powder coated paint chipping slightly on some of the guides, the rods look as they did when they arrived… ready for another round of fish punishment. With a price point just under $100, you simply can’t beat it. I have and will continue to highly recommend the TFO Signature Series rods to recreational and pro fisherman alike.



2009 Year in Review

Posted on January 12th, 2010 by Captain Benny Blanco

What a great year!  A very heartfelt thanks to all of our clients, sponsors and friends… 2009 was a special year because of you.  We’re looking forward to spending more time on the water with you in 2010… may it be our best year yet!  Click the link below for the 2009 Year in Review Pictorial.


Keep an eye out for our Email outlining some special package deals for 2010!

Big Grins and Raw Thumbs

Posted on January 10th, 2010 by Captain Benny Blanco


If you can find a current rip in Whitewater or surrounding bays, you will find fish… fishing current rips is a very effective way of targeting gamefish without having to work miles of shorelines.  Snook, Redfish, Trout, Tarpon and Grouper regularly use areas with current rips as food supply stations and when conditions are right, they will flock to them like clockwork.  Some of the rips I fish are time sensitive, where the tide has to be flowing good first thing in the morning and others are sensitive to water levels.  Understanding the conditions that make the spot right is only half the battle… approach and boat positioning for effective casting coverage is the other half.  In all cases, it is critical to stake-out up current, just close enough to target the beginning lee edge of the rip and moving the boat up further only when you have covered the area several times.  The fish will line the lee side of the rip and where the rip dumps into either a basin or cove, waiting for bait to get flushed to them. 

During the Winter months in Flamingo, more fish push into Whitewater and surrounding bays in search of warmer water and food.  It’s a great time of year to invest in expanding your knowledge of the Flamingo Back Country… the rewards can be bountiful.


Raw Thumbs

With the exception of the first two real cold days just before Christmas, the bite has been exceptional.  Before that front, the fish were very active all over the Park and after those couple days of transition, they went right back into feeding mode.   We’ve successfully targeted them on the Florida Bay Flats, in the muddy water of East Cape, in the clean rivers from Ponce Inlet North and all over the back country.  As is always the case, wind direction and water clarity determine each days’ route… it’s hard to pick a bad direction right now.


The Evans crew made the trek down from Jacksonville a couple of days before Christmas… it was Dad’s big Christmas surprise for his two eldest sons.  The bite a couple days earlier was tough and the weather prediction was not very promising, but they ultimately listened and arrived bundled up, ready to fish.  We stopped at a current rip close to the Shark River first thing and got into a serious Gag Grouper bite… they caught several each and were taken to the house a couple of times by fish that simply overpowered our tackle.  With the wind shifting to the NE and a decent outgoing tide, the water on the Coast cleared up just enough to allow us to net a ton of good sized white bait.  We worked our way North, hitting points, bars, creeks and submerged trees… the boys had very little down time.  Most of the time they were doubled or tripled up with Snook and Redfish… it was truly nonstop action.  After we reached our Northern limit we headed back South of the Shark to work the middle of a good incoming tide and we immediately got back into the action.  Except the fish grew… Snook to 31″ and Redfish to 34″.  The fish were making up for a couple days of hiding out… and the Evans crew didn’t give them a break.  After the tide on the Coast died, we headed back into Whitewater to another current rip where they caught too many Trout to count…  and at the last stop, before the sun sent us packing, little Hunter Evans caught a baby Tarpon to put a Grand Slam in the books.  The boys piled into their Dad’s truck exhausted… with grins from ear to ear and very little skin left on their thumbs.  It was a great day!






Mike and Scott were back at it again… doubled up



We had waking and tailing fish all over is in the morning…


Then, we hit the coast for a bunch more… another double




We got to test a couple of the new Signature Series Spinning Rods from TFO… I was very impressed!   I will be retiring my Loomis’ rods for this more economical equivalent.  If you’re interested, I will have a complete review up on my site within the next week.


Warren busted this nice Florida Bay Snook by long casting deeper potholes…


Mike and Chuck had a great day up the Coast… many firsts and lots of quality fish.





Lance Benson and Charles Foschini got out before a big front and had a phenomenal day.  We jumped a large triple digit Tarpon first thing and then banged out 15 or so decent Snook up the Coast before they absolutely cleaned house in Florida Bay.  Lance landed this Snook on fly in the middle of an insane Snook feeding frenzy.  Charles managed two large Redfish in the middle of all that Snook madness and we called it a day after he was nearly spooled by an unknown beast.


Duke and Charles had a good Gag Grouper day… and mixed in a few nice Snook, Redfish, Trout and Sheepshead.



Mark treated his Dad to a day in the Park and they had a great time… Snook, Redfish, Gag Grouper, Trout and Goliath Grouper.




Tommy Jr. and Rocco were true diehards… fishing from sun up to sun down.  This was easily my favorite trip of the year… the boys caught everything, including a ton of Snook and Redfish at the end of the day to register their first Back Country Slams!  Booyah, Rocco!


And, on the last day of the year, I poled Pascal Grillot of Pure Fishing around the Florida Bay flats, as he dropped flies on tailing Redfish after tailing Redfish…  We had very poor visibility, but it’s hard to miss big golden tails waving you down!  It was a great time, Pascal…  looking forward to our next trip.


The sunrises and…


… sunsets have been pretty darn amazing.


Even this Old Salt was impressed.


Posted on November 3rd, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco


What makes a good angler?… Versatility. In South Florida there are no constants, except that conditions constantly change. I cannot remember a day in the last two weeks when the wind direction didn’t change at least once or when tidal flow didn’t vary from the chart prediction. Fishing in paradise has it’s price… It’s easy to get frustrated, but it is also easy to just make the necessary adjustment. Most of the time repositioning the boat ahead of the tide or in a better direction for the changed wind, will solve the problem. The key is having the awareness to make the changes before it’s too late… spooking fish under the boat because you can’t see them is a sure sign it’s time for an adjustment and a sure fire way to kill a spot for the day.

When I see Coach Tom Duffin ringing through on my phone, I immediately grab my calendar. Since we met in April, he’s been on my skiff at least a dozen times and the word “Addicted” simply doesn’t do him justice. He’s experienced both sides of the Glades and fished everything from big spin live baiting to small tippet fly fishing… the versatility that has granted us success on every trip. Like most flats fisherman, Tom loves catching fish, but he also understands the Glades is much more than that… it’s about the serenity, the hunt and the teamwork necessary for success… the distinguishing factors that separate sight fisherman from the rest and the reason we love it so much. Addicted just doesn’t cut it…

His trip last week with another addicted soul, Scott Giberson, would prove to be no different… conditions and tactics changed, so we did too. We started with the long rod and shot at rolling Tarpon. He had many shots and a few strikes, but none came tight… before we changed tactics, a golden tail caught our attention. Tom laid out the cast and the Red charged his fly… his strip strike found tension and the hook buried. His first Redfish on fly was in the books.

We switched to shallower water and spin tackle with weedless jerk baits, so both anglers could fish… and I hardly had time to get comfortable on the platform before tails started popping. They struck early and often… doubling up once or twice.

Scott would later land a 15 lb Tarpon to complete his back country SLAM… his last three trips with me were very eventful… his first Slam with Snook, Redfish and Trout; his first tournament win with nearly a 100 points on 30+ Snook and several Redfish; and now his second Slam, this time with Snook, Redfish and Tarpon. You’re on a roll, Scott!

Later in the week I had Tom back aboard, this time with Sam Root of Saltyshores.com for a quick half day trip. What was supposed to be clear skies and light wind, was extreme cloud cover and gusty wind for most of the morning. So, we immediately went to spin and Rapala Skitterwalks (Topwater baits)… it turned out to be the right decision. We had blow up after blow up… lots of misses, but lots of fish as well. Tom lost a very large Snook and I had one blow my skitterwalk out of the water, but it was still a blast.

Skitterwalk double…

When the skies cleared and the wind died down we switched back to the shallows… Tom with the first of a couple we were able to pick off before calling it real early.

Jeff made it back down all the way from Tampa… and of course, the wind blew hard. A couple times, while poling, I swear the wind was pushing us on plane…

We managed Snook, Tarpon and Redfish, but it wasn’t easy! Thanks for making it down, Jeff… it was a blast fishing with you.

Noah brought clients and friends down for two days in the Park… they caught Snook, Redfish and Trout both days. He was happy when I agreed to let him invite some home for dinner.

The post front sunrises have been pretty amazing…

Al was back for a couple days in the Park with his friend Alex… they started it off with a bang!

They sight fished Snook, Redfish and Trout… it was a great having them aboard.

Jorge tagged along with regular, Mike Meeker… we started poling down waking Redfish at sun up…

Mike put another Back Country Slam on the board and released this upper slot beauty to fight another day!… Good man.

First time client, Tom Raiford, made his first cast count…

Rick Rossetti with the first Snook of the day…

It was a great day… the wind cooperated most of the time and the sight fishing was awesome. Thanks Tom & Rick!

Until next week!

Stealthy Beginnings

Posted on October 19th, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco


No matter how you shake it, stealth is key for catching more fish.  While the methods of being stealthy vary for different types of fishing and different types of skiffs, the end result is the same… if you want to catch more fish, they simply can’t know you are there.  Every boat and every angler can be stealthy… Are you?  Here’s my take on how beginners can become more stealthy.


How far away can the fish hear you?  Good question.  I’m not sure anyone knows the answer.  When I don’t know, I prefer to err on the side of caution… no noise is the best policy.   If you plan to approach an area, turn off your outboard and approach quietly from a good distance away.   The amount of noise and the proximity to the fish often depends on the depth of water… if you’re offshore on a 100′ deep wreck, chances are the fish can’t hear you.  However, you don’t have that luxury inshore.  The shallower the water, the better they hear and sense your presence.  They can certainly hear sounds inside the boat, like the sound of a dropped hatch lid or cooler lid, or flip flops on the deck.  So, they will definitely hear even the slightest sound outside of the boat.  A perfect example is when fishing for Bonefish or Redfish in less than a foot of water, a heavy push with the pushpole in the grass makes a slight crunching sound the fish can hear from 30+ yards away.  Use this as your guide… if you can hear it, they can.  Make your skiff silent, make your approach silent and you will catch more fish.


How do you become invisible to the fish?  Well, it’s a difficult concept, but an easy answer…  Don’t let them see you!   If you can see them, they can see you.  If the sun is lighting you up, they can see you.  If the sun casts your shadow on them, they can see you.  If you’re right on top of them, they can see you.   So, how do you combat all of these odds against you?  First and foremost, be silent… don’t give the fish a reason to look for you.  Second, keep your distance as much as possible… optimize casting distance.  Plan your day such that you can keep the sun at your back, giving you a better chance at seeing them before they see you.  There are no holds barred when it comes to being stealthy… know the tide tables so you can be in the right place before the fish get there, know the suns direction of visibility so you can see them first and keep your distance.  Use every advantage afforded you and increase your odds instantly.




Stay tuned for part two of this subject… I will expand more on technical poling skiff stealth and the steps I take to give my guests the advantage over other surrounding anglers. 

Shallow Water Monsters

Posted on October 13th, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco


With water levels back to normal and a healthy dose of good weather, the fishing in Flamingo has been off the charts… lots of Tarpon all sizes, schooling Redfish and hoards of sub slot Snook. Although we managed a few big Snook this week, most of the big girls know when the season is open. Stealth was our most valuable asset… with the fish just coming off a couple weeks of abnormally high water, they were still slightly on edge. I made minor adjustments like moving slower or stopping completely (working the flat in small stages). Many times, stopping the boat and simply paying attention to your surroundings will give you a better idea of which direction you should pole. Patient anglers caught the most fish this week.

Sam Root of Saltyshores.com pulled into my driveway at 4:45 am last Thursday morning with energy drink in hand and cases full of the coolest Video/camera equipment available… easily a 100 lbs of cockpit filling gadgets. We later picked up Capt. Steven Tejera (www.KnotTightCharters), our guest angler, in Florida City on the way to Flamingo. We were met with light winds and only a few competing boats… it was going to be a good day. We were welcomed at our first stop by a team of aggressive under slot Snook… our Rapala Skitterwalks didn’t stand a chance and Sam got some good video. We bumped into an aggressive school of Reds on the way to the next area and I was able to get my Snook beaten Skitterwalk in front of them before they left. We moved East to find Tarpon and as we came off plane, a large one pushed off, leaving a trail of mud and bubbles. After a few minutes, we saw another one and a minute later another one, soon we were surrounded. All were large, smart fish… they detected our presence with the slightest noise or push of water, but we were determined to get our fly in front of one. After a couple failed attempts, we made adjustments for a stealthier approach… and it paid off. We had three eats and a busted leader before we finally stuck one… and it was a good one! Over ninety minutes, a broken 9 wt. fly rod and a worn out angler later, we finally landed her… with 75″ from nose to tail and a 37″ girth, the formula says she was 128 pounds. She was Capt. Tejera’s largest on a 9 wt. and the biggest for my boat this year. Of course, Sam got some bad to the bone video and underwater shots… here’s a teaser video to wet your appetite.

Tarpon in shallow water by Saltyshores.com

And, here are some pictures he was willing to share. Thanks Sam!

BTW, that’s an Ashley Cornelious (Don’s Bait and Tackle) fly!

Nice work, Steven… helluva catch on a 9 wt.

I had a little free time during the fight, so here are my pics…

Sam doing what he does so well…

He has no fear… What gators, crocs or sharks?

Here are some pics from the rest of the week…

Lots of these guys around… Dash’s Rapala Twitchin’ Rap saw decent action from the Snook and Tarpon that morning.

Tom and Nelson with Nelson’s first flats Snook…


Coach Tom doing what does, like it was his job.



Ken’s first Tarpon… Reflection perfection

Serious hang time…

The new chickee just outside of Garfield Bite…

This group of misfits were trying to steal my spot…


Maverick Owner’s Tournament – Islamorada, Fl

Posted on October 1st, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco

THE tournament of tournaments, where all the top guides gather and all the top professional fisherman dream of competition… Ok, so I fibbed a little.  It’s not the top tournament and only a few pros visit.  But, it’s definitely my kind of get together, where the rules are subject to change based on the fun factor involved.  Points are deducted for seriousness and the underlying theme of friendship and camaraderie are the priority. 

This was my fifth year in attendance, although, it was very nearly not.  Thanks to good friends and the support of Maverick Boat Company, I made it down in a year where there are very few certainties.  I am blessed to have great friendships and relationships… cheers to good people.

We were treated with great weather and beautiful sunrises…

I was fortunate enough to spend a day on the water with a true South Florida Legend, an extremely accomplished tournament angler and the man responsible for the boats I love… Mr. Scott Deal.  It was truly a pleasure to hear him tell the story of Maverick’s inception and some great tournament tales.  We caught Snook and Redfish on fly along the way, but the company was way better than the fishing.

I was also able to spend a day with the face of Maverick Boat Company, a legend in his own right, Skip Lyshon.  A special thanks to Jeff May and Kenny King for the great pics & video.

Skip now understands all the hubbub about Flamingo Redfish… there is very little like watching an orange submarine push a 8″ wake at 5 knots tracking down your bait and then hearing the explosive strike.  I love all types of fish, but these Redfish are special to me.  I had a blast with Skip as well… it was great to spend some time with him.

Maverick HPX-T \”Moving out\”

I’m already looking forward to next year!  I may have a new skiff in the barn to show off by then… we’ll see!

High Water Bite

Posted on September 28th, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco

If you’ve spent any time on the water recently you are likely wondering the same as most of us… Where did all this water come from? Certainly, high water is not generally ideal for sight fishing, but how often do you have perfect conditions anyway? In the Park it led to fewer boats on the water and while it was occasionally difficult to find the fish, it also granted many great days.

When floating grass was light, we used topwater lures like Rapala Skitterwalks and subsurface lures like Rapala Twitchin’ Raps. When the grass was bad, we used weedless jerkbaits like GULP! 5″ Jerk shads and Bass Assassin 4″ Sea Shads. Fly Fisherman had great success with small shrimp and minnow patterns… Although, none beat the performance of the patterns Ashley of Don’s Bait & Tackle tied for me earlier this month. All of the flies he gave me caught dozens of fish before they were either completely destroyed or gifted to large Tarpon that simply wouldn’t give them back. Thanks Ash… great flies!

Fly Thief
I had a day on the water with good friend, Rainer Shael (www.RS-Env.com) and his friend, Kohler Nordlund. Rainer and I fished together once previously, using spin tackle all day and admittedly, he had a tough time. He mentioned he was more accurate with a fly rod and is he ever… this trip was very different. He and Kohler wore out the Snook and Tarpon for a good amount of time… every time a fish would miss Kohler’s Skitterwalk, Rainer would drop the fly on the fish’s head for a hook-up. He was deadly with his 8 wt. set up and an Ashley fly… it was a great day.

Rainer was on almost every time I looked up…

Ashley’s fly was just too good for this nice Snook to pass up… excellent work, Rainer!

If you remove the stock O-ring on the Rapala Twitchin’ Raps, the lure tends to stick real close to the surface… handy when dealing with tall grass and still very effective in attracting the fish.

Buddy Yarborough with one of his aerial acrobats…

Keith Peeples with a healthy Flamingo Rojo…

Justin Z with his first Redfish ever… caught on a Rapala Skitterwalk

Justin’s first Flamingo Tarpon had his way with this Twitchin’ Rap…

Justin’s first keeper Snook and first back country slam… not bad for a four hour trip.

Another Ashley Fly victim…

and, another… Diego’s first Tarpon on fly!

Diego caught a Snook on fly before hooking this pig Redfish on spin to complete is Slam!

These guys have been hanging around quite a bit lately…

I had an opportunity to spend a day on the water earlier this month with friend, Sam Root of http://www.SaltyShores.com and we finally managed a good weather day. Our first stop wore us out… we must have lost nearly $200 in Rapala and Sebile lures to triple digit Tarpon. We easily jumped 10 and fought one for approximately 30 minutes before it finally wore through the 60 lb leader… we were overmatched on our 10 & 15 lb outfits. It was fun, though! Here are some of the pics Sam shot.

Until next week!

Mullet Run!

Posted on September 9th, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco

I am happy to announce that I will be teaming up with Capt. Jeff “Lunkerdog” Maggio of www.Lunkerdog.com for a video series documenting the Mullet Run from Sebastian to Flamingo this year.  The finger mullet have already started showing up, so the big mullet will be here soon!  You can read daily updates on Capt. Jeff’s blog here http://mulletrun.blogspot.com/ and weekly on my blog right here!  I can’t wait to get out there with the Lunker Master himself… stay tuned for some awesome video coverage!
Photo by Sam Root of www.Saltyshores.com

Herman Lucerne Memorial Tournament

Posted on September 4th, 2009 by Captain Benny Blanco

Have you ever wanted to experience the rush of tournament day?  This is your opportunity to do it for an excellent cause and with a proven tournament competitor at the helm.  Capt. Benny is offering a complete package for the Herman Lucerne Memorial Tournament this year… $2,000 covers entry fees (and all tournament benefits, including the two prestigious dinners and goody bags) for two anglers.  It also includes one day of pre-fishing on Sunday (9/20) and the two tournament days on Saturday (9/26) and Sunday (9/27).  Feel like a Pro and fish one of the best tournaments the Keys/Flamingo has to offer… http://www.hermanlucerne.com/index.html  

Don’t wait, this offer will not last long!