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No slamming fool

7/7/2009

Achieving the five-species slam is a goal for many anglers. Many fight for days and come up short because of one or two slippery species they fail to entice.

Some have tried in a tournament situation and come up frustrated. Robert Collins, however, is the only angler in IGFA Inshore World Championship history to complete the double slam…and he's done that twice.

"The Championship is a species tournament, so the goal is to catch all five. That will usually get you in the top two or three," Collins said of the targeted bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook and redfish. "I try to set up for two or three slams."

Collins, who has decades of saltwater experience, has fished in all eight IGFA Inshore World Championships, with his first IGFA Inshore title in 2005. Collins achieved the first double slam in tournament history by catching a bonefish with only 5 minutes left in the tournament.

He did it again in 2007 by reeling in a bonefish with 35 minutes to spare.

"It's a great feeling because you know you've locked it up at that point," Collins said. "Someone will catch a triple slam before it's all over."

Collins groomed his competitive spirit at a young age fishing Florida Bay with his father on a 13-foot Boston Whaler. The South Miami native remembered spending many fishing trips and Thanksgivings at Flamingo, where his love for the water began.

The entire Collins family fished hard during those trips to Flamingo, but his father put the thrill of the hunt into his life. They targeted snook and redfish while sight fishing on flats — what Collins now calls "the sporting way."

"Fortunately for us, the rest of the group preferred to use live shrimp and actually catch fish," Collins said. "The bait fishing crew provided all the fish that were fried at night. But that was the beginning of my appreciation for light tackle sport fishing, and the challenges associated with it."

Collins has honed his sport fishing skills over the years by fishing in a variety of locations and conditions. It's at his current home of Islamorada, however, where Collins likes fishing the most.

Whether it's fishing bonefish and tarpon inshore or sailfish and dolphin offshore, he's found a home that's very accessible to the type of fish he faces throughout the year in tournaments.

Along with the experience he's gained fishing Islamorada, Collins used to guide. With 20 years of spending day after day out on the water, it's an added benefit that Collins doesn't take for granted.

"You just get a feel for what you want to do, what's going to work, and you've seen every situation," Collins said. "You're standing up there as an angler, you have all that to draw from."

At last year's Inshore Championship, Collins also had the help of Capt. Mark Gilman after drawing him as his guide for the final day. After two days of fishing, only a bonefish was needed to complete the slam.

Terrible conditions presented problems for the two on in the third day, but after a morning of no results, the two struck fishing gold. Collins caught two bonefish in the span of about 40 minutes and just needed one permit to complete a third double slam.
The two would fail to hunt down a final permit, but Collins would repeat as overall champion.

With the FKO/IGFA Inshore World Championship coming up July 7-9 at Islamorada, Collins stressed the importance of two tournament elements that could make or break a championship run — getting a good draw and remaining consistent.

Going into the last day at last year's Offshore championship, Collins and his team were in fourth place looking to make up some ground. When the three boats ahead came up with nothing, his team came up with two more clutch fish to move into the lead.

"That's the kind of break you have to get to win these things," Collins said.

This year the championship, which has partnered with ESPN Outdoors and its televised Saltwater Series, is split into a light tackle division and a fly division. Collins will be fishing fly this year and hopes to start fishing for the species that he can eliminate the quickest.

"So no more thoughts about multiple slams, a single slam with the fly rod is going to be difficult," Collins said. "Someone will probably do it. There are a lot of very good fly anglers this year."