Despite the Atlantic tarpon’s 120-million-year existence, it has a relatively short angling history. Not a revered food fish and sometimes freakish in size, it took time to develop strong tackle to tame such beasts. New York architect William Halsey Wood couldn’t have imagined that his trip to southwest Florida in spring 1885 would birth an entire industry. But it did, and the rest is quite literally history.
The first tarpon caught on rod and reel was documented by angler William Halsey Wood in 1885 on a bamboo rod, a conventional reel and a live mullet. It weighed 93 pounds. Fittingly, the site was Tarpon Bay near Sanibel Island, Florida.
Southwest Florida tarpon fishing catches fire, and the fish fueled the…