The Bone Collectors

Headed for the flats? First take this advice from the best in the business.

Go Against the Flow
Guide: James "Docky" Smith
Homeport: Long Island, Bahamas
Experience: Owner of Bonafide Bonefishing
Tactic: "Most people don't like to fish high tide," Smith says. "I love high tide." When the water is up, Smith knows the fish will be coming out of the mangroves so he patrols an area where three or four creeks dump into the flats. "Don't be afraid of the wind," he adds, explaining that it scares other anglers, leaving the flats empty, and can mask the sound of your approaching boat.

Don't Rock the Boat
Guide: Ken Collette
Homeport: Key Biscayne, Florida
Experience: 30 years as a professional captain
Tactic: Many anglers go to great lengths to sneak up on a school of feeding bonefish silently, then shake the boat as they false cast. "It's okay to talk," Collette says. "I even play my stereo when I fish tournaments, but moving the boat sends shock waves through the water. The fish feel the displacement of water, and it alerts everything in the whole area."

Strike Out
Guide: Bobby Settles
Homeport: Ascension Bay, Mexico
Experience: Managing partner of the Casa Blanca Fishing Lodge
Tactic: "Don't strike with the rod," Settles says. "Strike with the line." There is a two-fold advantage to setting the hook by coming tight on the line instead of arching the rod. First, the mouth of a bonefish faces down so the hook doesn't have to be pulled up. Second, if the initial hit doesn't connect, the angler might get a second chance by not spooking the fish.
— Ric Burnley