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March 26, 2010

Hunting Keys Cuda

Targeting 20-pound silver bullets with teeth never gets stale

Highly accomplished tournament angler Rich Tudor stops atop the famous Key West flats to put things in perspective for his close friend and TV co-host Tom Rowland.  "Tom takes these big 20-pound 'cudas for granted -- he lives here, but we don't have near as many big barracudas where I live up at Islamorada," says Tudor.

Tudor stands atop the front deck looking, searching, and hunting for white holes along the underwater surface of these famed flats.  He's looking for patches of white hard bottom framed in darker sea grass that big Barracudas use as a hunting blind.

The goal is to spot these toothy torpedo hunters before they spot you and grow speculative of whether they are the hunted or the hunters.  Tudor tends to favor a topwater, or a soft jerkbait worked barely sub-surface on a 4/0 hook.  He catapults the baits as far as he can with 7-foot long Quantum Cabo model CBIS701MHA rod. 

Once the bait touches down, Tudor beats on the conscious of the clients he guides to be sure their line is laying tight and smooth on the spool before engaging the reel to avoid nasty line loops.  Then the rhythm begins.  It's a fast rhythm that dances the lure in place to let the cudas know you're in their personal space.  And once confident he's awakened them, the dancing in place stops, and Rich rips the bait back to the boat with a Quantum Catalyst Size 40 reel as if the bait is running for its life.

Rhythm is important in this dance - move too slow, and the barracuda senses the music isn't right and turns away - but move too fast, and you lose the opportunity for a good hook set and watch your 20-pound dance partner swim away.

On this warm winter day in extreme south Florida, the 36-year-old co-host of Saltwater Experience TV has all the right rhythm.  The 10-pound braided line, an 18" fluorocarbon leader and a 40-pound steel leader that serves as the three-part link between Tudor and the cudas gets double-dog taught and rips through slight surface chop several times. 

Tudor pauses again from his place on the front deck to put things in perspective once more.  "I don't care who you are, or what you fish for, you can't help but get fired up when a barracuda as big as the ones we're catching hunts down and smashes your lure."