Big Game on the Fly

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How a NauticStar owner uses his 20-foot bay boat to hunt cobia

Sam Newman is a hard-charging bay boat owner that doesn’t shy away from a challenge. As Owner of Baytime Charters in Tampa Bay, Florida, he is known as one of the few bay boat captains in the area that will take out customers to hunt bucket-list fish.

“I had a client call me two years ago who said he wanted to catch a cobia on his flyrod. This was before I really knew the geography of the area, but I said to him, ‘Sure, let’s go, bud!’” Sam swallowed the pressure. “We went out and tracked down what turned out to be an absolutely terrifying fish. I got nervous – my customer was in for a fight. But he hit it perfectly. He stuck it, we fought it for an hour, and we got it into the boat. In the end, we were about 3.9 pounds off the world record.”  

A man sits on the bow deck of a 2200 NauticStar Bay boat Holding a 61-lb Cobia on the fly
Holding a 61-lb Cobia on the fly

Sam has been known ever since for his persistent skill in catching gamefish – specifically cobia – on a NauticStar 2200 Bay boat. “There aren’t any guides in the Tampa Bay area who’ll go after cobia like me. I’ll say to my customers, ‘Look, guys, these trips are Hero or Zero. We’re going to be doing a lot of running and gunning and we’re going to be looking. We might catch five, we might not see one.’ It is a lot of effort. It is a lot of big, giant smiles and high fives – or big frowns – at the end. But if I take someone who I think can handle it, we tend to do all right.”

Tampa Bay is home to intelligent fish species, not least of which is cobia. “Cobia have behavioral patterns like any other wild game,” Sam adds. “I’m honest with my customers, because in their mind, catching cobia is pure luck – they think they will come when they want to, even while they’re fishing for other species. Well, that’s nonsense.”

As with other nearshore fish in Southwestern Florida, good technique is required to catch cobia. “There is a two-to-four-week period in the spring when I can almost guarantee my customer gets at least a shot at one. They will be everywhere: inshore, nearshore, offshore. They’re seasonal, they’re very moon-oriented, they’re very water-temperature oriented. We can run and gun, or we chum for them and get them to come to us. We can work the waters near the power plants for them on cold days.”

Even though catching Cobia might be Sam’s “thing”, he’s a well-rounded guide. “Most of the fishing we do is flats fishing. Catching redfish, snook, and trout is 99% of our fishing during the spring, summer, and fall months. I’ll only do cobia, like I said, if the customer is up for the challenge.” 

Sam’s 2200 Bay can get him tucked into shallow flats just as comfortably as in deep, heavy water. “I can officially get that boat in 12 inches of water,” Sam says, “but I’ll draft 10 inches almost every day. Sometimes fish will be in a pool that is four feet deep, but to get to that pool, I’ve got to cut over a flat that’s less than one foot deep. This NauticStar can do it.”

Other things that Sam likes about his NauticStar? Its smart layout and ample, comfortable seating. “There are two jump seats in the back, a big cushion seat on the bow, and enough space for somebody to sit next to me at the helm. I can comfortably captain four, five people without an issue.”

Like a NauticStar boat, Sam’s demeanor is smooth and easy-going. He’s open to any type of on-water experience and will go virtually anywhere. “When you are on the water with customers for eight to ten hours a day, you start talking about real stuff.”

It is days like these, filled with meaningful connections, that NauticStar builds to achieve.


Contact Baytime Charters: (203) 218-8042; email: