“Swishing” Old Tampa’s Best Kept Secret

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Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on “Swishing” Old Tampa’s Best Kept Secret


As a young boy growing up in Seminole Heights, Tampa, Florida I would spend countless hours fishing or snatch hooking mullet along the Hillsborough River. Often riding my bicycle for miles to find the right spot; but usually ending up after supper near the city lift station at the Sligh Avenue bridge. There I would sometimes join others fishing from shore. With inspired interest, I watched some guys bent over the railing with long cane poles fishing the lights from the bridge and it looked like they were catching snook. They leaned over the bridge railing with their poles and fished around the pilings.

Never a bashful kid and always inquisitive, I finally asked, this tall, lean fellow with a scraggly beard, named Chuck, if he would teach me to fish that way. Hauling a nice fish over the rail he replied, “Sure, do you have a pole?” “No,” I replied, “But I will tomorrow, can you help me rig it?” ‘Yea, I’ll help you it shouldn’t take long, but you’ll need a long strong cane pole, about 36 inches of heavy line and a large lure.” Chuck always seemed to catch more fish, so I figured I might as well learn from the best. Besides, he always kidded me saying, “Boy, you can’t catch anything with that snatch hook.” However, leaving the bridge with four or five mullet each night I soon made him a believer.

After school the following day, I went across the street to my neighbor Mr. Davis. A unique man and a retired carpenter who loved fishing, Mr. Davis made his own cane poles from bamboo growing in his yard. I explained what I needed and why and he had just the ticket. How lucky was that? Handing me this beautiful 20 ft. cane pole, he yelled as I left, “Save some for me.” Later, when dad came home from work, he gave me some heavy line off his grouper rig and an old extra-large Dalton Silver Flash lure.

Unable to wait, I headed to the bridge early. Chuck was there and surprised I’d rounded up such a first class cane pole. Together we rigged my outfit and tied on the lure dad had given me. He told me to hang over the rail and work my lure like him. It took some practice and after watching Chuck I finally got the hang of it. He really had it dialed in to perfection and I soon realized it’s all just a rhythm thing.

It didn’t take long before I realized why he often sat down on the sidewalk, leaned against the concrete, and smoked a cigarette. This leaning over the rail kills your back. Sitting together one Saturday night, it must have been around nine. I asked Chuck, “What do they call this kind of fishing.” He looked over saying, “Snook,” with a smile. I countered, “No, you know what I mean” then smiling again, he said, “I know kid, we call it “swishing.” The name seemed to fit perfectly, because that is what you did swish a lure back and forth. Soon we’re back at it and catching fish, laughing together and having fun night Swishing for Snook. 

Regardless of the name, it was and probably still is an effective way to catch snook at night. “Swishing” a simple technique requiring inexpensive tackle, some back muscles and a willingness to try something different. Just bend over a bridge railing, point your pole down toward the water and work the lure around some pilings and fenders.

Occasionally, I think back to those early years, the good times and wonder what became of the Chuck’s and Mr. Davis’s in our young lives who took time to teach and share their knowledge. The irony of it all is an eleven year old boy riding his bicycle all over Seminole Heights during the late 1950’s and 60’s without a care in the world other than catching a few fish. This same boy befriends a man on a bridge who teaches him a new fishing technique. Life, times and people were different back then, at least they seemed to be. I’m certainly glad I grew up then and I can’t thing of a better place to grow up than Seminole Heights.

Give Me a Call & Let’s Go Fishing – 813-477-3814 For more information please visit my website at: www.captainwoodygore.com, or email me at fishing@captainwoodygore.com or give him a call at 813-477-3814.