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When you're heading out to fabled fishing waters, having everything in order increases your odds of success. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

How to plan a successful fishing trip

Planning any fishing trip can be a challenge, given the peculiarities of weather and the idiosyncrasies of fish. Add a few thousand miles, a different language and an exotic species or two, and the need for some serious planning becomes advisable.

Chances are, you’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time and, finally, you’ll have the opportunity to do nothing but eat, fish, sleep and repeat for a week or more. More than likely, it’s taken a tremendous amount of time and money to get this opportunity, so it makes good sense to develop a plan to ensure that you have the best possible chance of success.

Deciding where to go and when are the first decisions you’ll make. While it’s possible to book your own trip, knowing the best time, tides and lodging can be daunting. In addition, juggling the details of plane reservations, transfers, accommodations and guides can increase the challenge of putting together a self-guided trip.

A knowledgeable outfitter or travel host can provide you with the experience and insider information that will allow you to immerse yourself in the experience instead of the details. Even when using an outfitter, you’ll need to do some research to make sure you’ve matched your angling needs and expectations to your chosen destination. There are a lot of resources online, including some great groups on Facebook, but you’ll need to vet those sources.

On recent trips to the Bahamas and Montana, I traveled with groups hosted by Capt. Rick Grassett of Sarasota. I’ve planned my own trips around writing assignments for years and am familiar with many of the destinations I’ve traveled to with him, but having all the arrangements, including air travel, coordinated by someone else is a big help.

When choosing an outfitter or destination host, be aware that knowing what you want from your trip and asking the right questions are important to fulfilling your expectations. Some of the best fishing is available at places that have the fewest amenities. If you require a certain level of service or are traveling with people who don’t fish, you’ll want to look for destinations that offer specific conveniences and activities as well as good fishing. You won’t want to plan your trip based on secondhand information, but you’ll find it can be helpful to talk to others who have made the same trip you’re planning. Ask the outfitter or host for several references and question them carefully. Make sure they have been to the location recently and at the time of the year you plan to visit.

In foreign countries such as the Bahamas, you’ll be hard-pressed to replace items you forgot to pack, particularly fishing tackle. This is one case in which it’s probably better to pack more than you think you’ll need, within reason! Making a packing list and checking it before your departure will pay dividends. Most destinations provide lists that you can use to make sure you don’t forget anything important. While their recommendations are a good place to start, customizing your own travel list can help ensure that you have what you need while streamlining the amount of baggage you take.

Many tropical fishing destinations are very near the equator, so anglers need to pay special attention to avoiding sunburn. Long-sleeved pants and shirts with sun protection are advisable, along with a high-SPF, waterproof sunscreen. Polarized glasses with glare guards and a fishing hat with a dark under brim are mandatory, and a second pair of each should accompany you. For years I’ve used a full-face mask and gloves for sun protection. Recently, I started wearing a fishing hoodie with thumb holes in the sleeves, protecting my face, hands and wrists. I find hoodies much more comfortable and have invested in several that have bamboo fibers woven into them. I’d also invest in a good pair of flats-wading boots and a sling or fanny-pack that holds a water bottle.

The success or failure of any fishing adventure will depend on conditions beyond your control. But being mindful of the things you do control can make or break your trip. Be prepared, do your homework up front, ask good questions of knowledgeable sources and be flexible.

The time and effort you expend in planning the trip will pay dividends of tight lines and lasting memories.