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Florida Keys guides have long been the cowboys of international angling – independent, rough around the edges but generally very good at what they do. Trying to organize these guys – in fact, trying to get them to get in line in any way – has always been a hopeless task. We know that all too well here at The Angling Report, having had our run-in with Keys guides for the propensity of some of them to scream at their clients when they make a mistake.
Classic Keys “screamers” are a group we plan to have more to say about in a future issue. Right now, though, the big news is long-time Keys fishing entrepreneur, Jake Jordan in Marathon, has signed booking agreements with a great number of the better guides who know the lower Keys and how to fish them. The guides specialize in everything from backcountry fishing in johnboats to flats boat fishing for bonefish to offshore fishing in a 54-foot Bertram for classic blue-water species.
The booking agreements mean Jordan is the first person we know who has ever been able to offer set-price “package” fishing trips in the Keys. All of his packages will be based at Faro Blanco Marine Resort in Marathon and are inclusive of meals, lodging and even pickup at Marathon Airport (a quick commuter-plane hop from Miami on American Eagle or on US Air from Fort Lauderdale). Prices start at $1,250 per person (based on double occupancy) for three nights’ lodging and two full days of fishing. The price is the same whether you want to reef fish, wreck fish, flats fish or go offshore for blue-water species. “You name it in the way of fishing and we can arrange it,” Jordan said at press time.
Significantly, the trips don’t have set beginning and ending dates. In fact, each trip is custom-created. A day of flats fishing can be combined with a day of reef or wreck fishing, for example, or even a day of diving or guided sightseeing. The turn-key approach is truly new in the Keys and is likely to catch on among a certain kind of angler who has been intimidated by the general difficulty of selecting a guide and then finding a suitable hotel. The area’s reputation for “screaming” guides has also been a put-off for some would-be visitors. Jordan’s defense against these bad apples is to require all of his guides to attend a seminar on how to treat clients. He also says he has used his personal knowledge of the local area to screen out problem people. To be sure none have gotten through, he plans to ask all clients to fill out a questionnaire before they leave, detailing what went right and wrong during their stay. “Any guides who don’t treat clients with courtesy and respect are finished. I won’t ever book them again,” he says.
In all, Jordan says he has agreements that allow him to offer 150 trips in 1997. At this writing, he says he has deposits on 24 trips and lots of additional interest. Not surprisingly, the spots that are going fastest are spring tarpon trips during the height of the big-fish run. The trips are eventually going to be available through most major agents, but at this writing only Cabela’s (*) is ready to take orders. They can also be booked directly through John Bauchman or Bruce Chard at Faro Blanco Outfitters (*).