FISHIN’ CHICKS | DEIDRA BRIDGER
It's not every day you meet a female angler who can just as easily work the cockpit of a boat as she can work the runway. Originally from Missouri, Deidra Bridger now works as a first mate in southwest Florida when she's not representing an outdoors company as a spokesmodel. She spoke to us about how she got into fishing.
Q: So you grew up in the Show-Me State (Missouri), how'd you end up in Florida?
A: In 2005, I left the Show-Me State to complete a college internship in the Sunshine State. Although the backwoods of Missour'a speak deep to my soul, I found a new zest for life in the salt, sand, sea and sunshine. After graduating with a degree in marketing and Spanish, I returned to Florida to start the next chapter of my life in Tampa. I hopped on the scene as a spokesmodel representing outdoors brands and organizations at tradeshows, events, video and print. Career pursuits and fishing opportunities lead me to relocate to the pristine estuaries of southwest Florida, indeed one of the best fishing spots in the world.
Q: You must've got your start fishing in ponds and lakes… Do you still like to freshwater fish?
A: Oh yes. One of my first memories is crappie fishing on Lake Perry in Kansas with my daddy when I was about four. He put some ugly brown worm on my Snoopy pole and I wanted the pink sparkly one. Taking action into my own tiny hands, I tugged so hard at the tackle box that when it finally opened, I sent myself plummeting into the ice-cold March lake water. So yes, my roots are in freshwater.
Q: Tell us about your first experience fishing in saltwater.
A: The first time I went saltwater fishing I ended up with a shrimp stuck in my hair! I was out with some buddies just having fun and we caught seatrout and a few snapper. My first serious saltwater fishing trip was with Capt. Bo Johnson. He took me shark fishing. We caught ladyfish, jacks and blue runners for bait then set up in Rocky Channel in Pine Island Sound. Within minutes I was playing tug-o-war with a 100-pound black tip. Next thing I knew, Capt. Bo pulled the shark in the boat and threw it in my arms! That is probably one of the coolest photos I have.
Q: When did you decide to start working as a deckhand?
A: Well after fishing several times together, Capt. Bo began to understand my career pursuits and passion for fishing. He recommended me for a marketing and spokesmodeling role at a website that ran into funding issues after four months. I had moved from Tampa to Cape Coral for the job so I had to figure somethin' out. At the same time Capt. Bo was transitioning from the professional tournament world back to his guiding career. So in reinventing ourselves, we teamed up! I rig the rods, bait hooks, cut chum, run the boat and make clients laugh. I also do the marketing and join Bo in tournaments and TV shoots.
Q: You've done well fishing in tournaments. Do you like competitive fishing, or would you rather just go out and fish?
A: Yeah, winning the Outdoor Channel's 2012 Mad Fin Shark Series with Capt. Bo was absolutely a highlight of my life. I'm definitely competitive. I would like to fish more tournaments, especially those that are televised. However there is somethin' to be said about the no-pressure scenario where your peace and quiet is interrupted only by a screaming drag.
Q: Do you make your entire living from the ocean?
A: Although the majority comes from taking folks fishin', we also have a Shut Up & Fish line of men's t-shirts, ladies tanks, visors and performance shirts.
Q: What are the most common trips you guys run?
A: We specialize in tarpon, shark and goliath grouper action, as well as redfish, snook, trout, and cobia. Bo used to wrestle alligators for a living so he likes to pull the sharks in the boat for our clients to get a photo. This has become a big niche for us, not only in southwest Florida but also in Key West during the winter months. We fish some of the most fertile tarpon fishing grounds in the world in our home waters, so that's a very popular trip. It is commonly believed you can only catch tarpon in Boca Grande Pass in May and June, but we'll start catching silver kings in March and it can last until October, depending on fronts. If ya wanna know our secret, just come fish with us.