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Rod Hamilton

March 31, 2014

Biscayne Bay Bonefish and the Bonefish Whisperer

Here is a great guest blog written by Kevin Becker who I met at the Naples Backcountry Fly Fishers annual banquet.  Our discussion quickly turned to unique fishing opportunities, one of which we had both done.  Fishing Biscayne Bay from the front of a canoe with the Bonefish Whisper, Cordell Baum.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable day with Cordell, stood up in the front of a canoe for seven hours (who knew?) and cast to some truly magnificent bonefish.   As happens on Biscayne Bay the fishing was wonderful, the catching, not so much.  I used Cordell’s fly, the Electric Dread, which is without a doubt the craziest bonefish fly I have ever seen.  I carry it with me wherever I go, because one day, it’s going to be the “secret” fly.

Here is what Kevin has to say:

The Biggest Bonefish Of Your Life

That is what Biscayne Bay in Florida has to offer. You don’t go bonefishing in Biscayne Bay for numbers of Bonefish. I have never heard of anyone having a ’20 fish day’ there. You go there to get humiliated mostly and for a chance to catch the smartest double digit bonefish on the planet.

I first heard of Biscayne Bay bonefish from the tarpon guides I used over in the Everglades about 20 years ago. These guides would talk about ‘getting humiliated on a regular basis by these bonefish. And of course how big they were there. I never entertained going there then, as I was getting plenty of humiliation everywhere I went.

About 10 years ago, I started frequenting a saltwater fishing forum on the internet and ‘met’ another guy from Alaska on there, named Cordell Baum, who was now living in Miami. Cordell was posting pictures of the biggest bonefish I had seen anywhere. He was catching them just off the coast of downtown Miami in a Canoe. He was also using the strangest bonefish flies I had ever seen. They looked as big and gaudy as silver salmon flies. They were bright orange shrimp patterns that were 2 inches long. Cordell called this fly his ‘Electric Dread’.

Electric Dread

Electric Dread

Cordell’s moniker on that saltwater forum was the “BonefishWhisperer’. He was catching trophy bonefish over 10 lbs. on a regular basis and posting pictures of them. He was just starting to guide people then by polling them in a canoe. Since I had caught a lot of bonefish over the years in places like the Bahamas, Christmas Island, Belize and Honduras, I was interested in catching a big bonefish. And Cordell seemed like the perfect guide to do this with.

I eventually had a phone conversation with him. The first question that Cordell asked me was “Can you stand up in a Canoe?”.  After my fishing credentials were discussed, I made arrangements to fish with Cordell in Miami for 3 days in mid May 2007. I also made arrangements to stay in a motel near Cordell in ‘Little Havana’ that usually rented rooms ‘By the Hour’.

Cordell offered to pick me up at the Miami Airport as it was only a couple miles from where he lived and it would save me from renting a car. He would pick me up at the motel each morning for fishing also. I was usually the only ‘Overnight Guest’ there, so the motel was all mine until the next afternoon and early evening. Cordell’s fishing day always begins with Cuban Coffee at around 5:30 am and he arrives at the boat launch just before Sunrise.

The first day we hit the flats after driving through urban Miami and launching at a public boat ramp surrounded by a couple million people in one of the largest cities in the U.S. In the fishing world, this had all the ingredients of a ‘Hopeless situation’ to catch a trophy fish of a lifetime.

Kevin and Biscayne Bone

Kevin and Biscayne Bone

I remember that morning well, as the first day I fish with a new guide, I arrive with only a Butt Section  and no leader. I usually let the guide recommend his favorite leader. They usually never like your leader or flies anyway, so I save them the time of cutting off my leader and fly, so that they can tie theirs on. So there we were; standing at the launch with Cordell tying his leader for me and getting eaten alive by No-seeums and biting gnats. Makes tying a leader and fly on extra hard.

Soon, we had the canoe launched and almost immediately we were spotting huge Bonefish Tails in inches of water. They were only lit up by the moon and the urban lights of Miami.  I started flailing away at them, but was always coming up about 5 feet short of them. They were feeding and moving across the flat at a speed that I could not cast to, or Cordell could not pole fast enough to keep up with them. I had not experienced anything like this before. Never had I seen such a school of large bonefish or seen them moving so fast, while they were still feeding.

As we poled around, the sun came up and then the ‘humiliation conditions’ were now upon us. Glass calm water and merely raising the rod to cast would send the bonefish into panic. I was scaring the living daylights out of them. Cordell admitted that they were ‘extra spooky’. I did manage to make several good casts, but could not get the fish to eat that morning. I was using Cordell’s Electric Dread, and I was now starting to lose confidence in it. It did not look like any bonefish  fly I had ever seen.

The next morning was a carbon copy of the first and now I was ready for them. We launched again from the same spot and within 15 minutes we were in range again of tailing fish. I had settled down, was making good casts and able to concentrate on working the fly. We approached a school of about a dozen tailers in the typical Biscayne Bay range of 8 to 11 pounds. It was still before sunrise, when I dropped the fly amongst them. I gave the fly a twitch and saw one of the big bones take notice. I  played a short game of Cat and Mouse with him and he ate my fly just like he should. I was now in the Big Leagues. Humiliated no more, I had on a hard won Biscayne Bay Bone, that was screaming towards the Miami Skyline. Cordell was also elated as this was his first client bonefish hookup in about 6 weeks.  After the usual picture taking and high fiving, the fish was released.

Cordell and canoe

Cordell and canoe

The last day I would only hook one more bonefish, with about four feet of leader out of the rod tip. He snapped my 12 lb. test tipped before I knew he was even hooked. No problem, as this trip was a stellar success. I had caught the biggest bonefish of my life at around 9 lbs. and I was elated.

I spent a large part of the day talking with Cordell about his fishing experiences. Cordell probably has caught more Biscayne Bonefish than anyone and he has never had a 10 or 20 fish day. Maybe four bonefish in a day is his best. He did have one spectacular day a few years ago, when he caught a double grand slam on his birthday. When I fished with Cordell in 2007, he had caught hundreds of Biscayne Bay Bonefish, None smaller than 6 pounds! Cordell started fishing Miami as a ‘Do it Yourself’ Bonefisherman and it took him awhile to finally figure out how to catch them. And now he is an expert after hundreds of days on the water.

If you are interested in catching the largest bonefish of your life you can contact Cordell at it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.


5 thoughts on “Biscayne Bay Bonefish and the Bonefish Whisperer

  • Alan Kuhre
    on March 31, 2014

    Thanks to Kevin Becker for providing us with such an informative and entertaining read. Great pics too! Sure hope to plan a trip to Biscayne Bay. Will certainly bring an ample slice of “humble pie!”

  • John Hayward
    on March 31, 2014

    Great article Kevin. I’ve just added Cordell to my bucket list

  • on June 22, 2015

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

    • Rod Hamilton
      on June 22, 2015

      thanks for letting me know and taking the time. I will take a look and see what my feeble techno brain can come up with. Take care

  • Alan Kuhre
    on June 22, 2015


    Great article and I learned a lot from it. Wild looking fly too. Thanks! Alan

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