What is the media writing about Capt. Robert McCue? The answer is far too long to fit on our Florida fishing website, but here are some snippets.

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Year 2000 National Geographic 
Featured and Ranked (Capt. Robert McCue) as One of America's Top 100 Adventures

 St. Petersburg Times "Gulf to Bay" Weekend Magazine "Tempted By Tarpon"

...Robert McCue is the undisputed heavyweight when it comes to catching and releasing tarpon....

-Terry Tomalin, Outdoor Editor, The St. Petersburg Times 7MAY10


"Free rides tough to get with McCue"

"A perfect score is rare among tarpon fishermen, but McCue has been able to manage...(his) trips provide a quick sure-fire way to get your string stretched"

Frank Sargeant, Outdoor Editor Tampa Tribune, Book Author, Winner of more than 50 National Awards and World-Renowned Expert in Flats Fishing


"Pasco County boat Captain (McCue) turns pursuit of tarpon into a science"

Warren Hart, St. Petersburg Times                                               


" Tarpon Hunting with the Bounty Hunter, He (we) got our fish"

" ...and they said tarpon season was long over...somebody needs to tell McCue"

Nick Stubbs, Suncoast /Tampa Tribune Publications (former Senior News Editor),  Freelance Journalist       


"...McCue is a relentless charter skipper that will make you believe he can think like a snook...He's not too modest to admit he has earned a reputation as a fish getter, but not so cocky to concede he's always learning the game...among small circles of fishing he (McCue) changed the meaning of flats fishing in this area"

Nick Stubbs, Suncoast /Tampa Tribune Publications (former Senior News Editor), Freelance Journalist

"...McCue is an expert on putting folks onto trophy snook, redfish, and trout, it's tarpon that receives his undivided attention...(McCue) has discovered new wrinkles and has elevated fishing for tarpon to something approaching an exact science" 

Herb Allen, Gulfcoast Fisherman Magazine (Texas), Nationally Syndicated Author, 30 Year Outdoor Editor of the Tampa Tribune 

"...(McCue) who is considered by many as arguably the best snook fisherman north of Charlotte Harbor..."

Ted Swing, Hernando Today Newspaper, Senior Sports Editor

"...many fishing guides have the knowledge to get you in to and out of these spots...but few have built reputations for this sport (McCue)..."

Capt. Dave Markett, Florida Sportsman Magazine

"...Captain Rob McCue... Master Snooker..."

Frank Sargeant, Masters Book of Snook,Outdoor Editor Tampa Tribune, Book Author, Winner of more than 50 National Awards and World-Renowned Expert in Flats Fishing

"...it was no surprise when McCue guided me to a grand slam (tarpon, snook, redfish, trout) but to do so for each of the three anglers on board that day, that was something I can say I've never witnessed in my entire career before..."

Herb Allen, referring to "TRIPLE SLAM" featured in 1997 Florida Sportsman Magazine, Nationally Syndicated Author, 30 Year Outdoor Editor of the Tampa Tribune


In The News

Kings of the silver king

Team Sign Zoo lands 131-pound tarpon to win Jim Beam Cup

By John McQueen

Team Sign Zoo members react upon seeing that their opponent's final fish 
was not big enough to overtake them for the Jim Beam Cup title.

BOCA GRANDE, Fla. - Replete with their signature Greek fishing hats and bowties, Captain Robert McCue and his crew of Gianttarpon.com took the big prize in the Jim Beam Tarpon Cup Championship on Monday morning.

Overcoming the absence of their traditional PTTS championship bagpipes player, the crew, also known as Team Sign Zoo, weighed a 131-pound fish just an hour and 10 minutes into the fishing to lay claim to the title, a Century bay boat package valued at more than $50,000.

"We saw a lot of small fish in the pass before we started fishing, so I had a feeling (with the small field) and the limited time that if we got a decent one we were coming in," said McCue, whose team was also the first to complete their fishing in Sunday's round of 25. "We saw a lot of sharks out there as well, so we took a chance with this one and it paid off."

The remaining four teams were unable to pick through the clouds of 80- to 110-pound fish holding in the myriad deep holes and ledges in Boca Grande Pass.

Team Sign Zoo Members Celebrate With The Cup

Several big fish hooked by teams were harassed by a frenzied pack of bull sharks and escaped capture, but the cruelest cut of all happened to Derrick Jacobsen's Team Famous Craft.

They lost an estimated 160-pound fish -more than enough to overtake the leader -with 55 minutes remaining to the most benign of escape tactics.

"We had fought it for a little while and he came up for a gulp of air and just a little head shake. The hook just fell out. It was really uneventful," Jacobsen said. "That's something that never, ever happens.

"We usually have to dig deep to get our hooks out. That circle hook just dug as much as it could right on the top part of the mouth."

Team T.A. Mahoney, captained by Dave Markett, made things interesting with a late hookup that wasn't secured until 15 minutes after the 10 a.m. deadline, but the 111-pound fish was far short of the mark needed to overtake McCue and co.

Markett was nonetheless pleased with his team's effort throughout the weekend.

"I'm not sure if an old man like me can stand any more drama," he said. "I couldn't be happier with my team. Everybody hooked a fish and everybody landed a fish."

Markett's team qualified for the 25th and last spot in the championship with a strong showing in Saturday's qualifier, then advanced to Monday's top five.

Team GiantTarpon.com Hooks Up With The Winning Fish

T.A. Mahoney have a tarpon on the line, and while the team finished second, team member Jen Powell landed a fiance on Monday.

"To come as far as we did feels very, very good," Markett said.

The drama wasn't quite done yet for the elder Markett. With PTTS cameras rolling, his son Dalan produced an engagement ring from his pocket, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend and teammate Jen Powell.

The visibly shaken Powell -known among tournament goers as one of the best fishermen in the pass - managed a yes, then there were long embraces all around and tear stains on the team's $10,000 check for second place. "I won in many ways today," Powell said.



  The World's Most Exciting Coverage of Inshore Saltwater Fishing!

PTTS Championship Pattern  McCue/Sign Zoo Won After Downsizing Line

Friday, June 29, 2007

It was a long weekend a couple weekends ago, the end of the 2007 Miller High Life Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS). The fifth qualifying event was fished Saturday, then day 1 of the PTTS's Jim Beam Tarpon Cup Championship was fished Sunday and day 2 was Monday. All events were on Boca Grande Pass, which is where all PTTS events are held.

For reasons he discusses below, captain Robert McCue of Team Sign Zoo waited until Sunday to down-size his line. Turned out to be good timing, as his team got the bites they needed to win the championship. Here's how they did it.

The Key Adjustment

On day 1 of the championship, the qualified top 25 teams could fish for 5 hours and weigh two fish -much different than the typical 3-hour, one-fish PTTS events. On day 2, Monday, only the Top 5 teams by total weight after day 1 fished for 3 hours for one fish. The championship winner had the most cumulative weight over the 2 days. This year that was Team Sign Zoo, captained by McCue. 

Photo: PTTS    Here's the Team Sign Zoo captain and crew, wearing their signature Greek fishing hats, bowties and plaid shorts.

He's one of the busiest fishing guides on the Pass, so he knows the water so cross that off the factors he had to overcome to win. Yet he didn't do so hot in the five qualifying events, and just made it into the championship at 19th in the total points - "very low for us," he noted. So what changed for the championship? Just line size. He downsized from 50-pound-test to 40-pound-test, the minimum line size allowed by the PTTS. (Really it was team member Brian Timmons, McCue's mate on his charters and the main man when it comes to prepping everything for the PTTS tournaments, who did the downsizing.)

Even though the water was pretty clear this year in the Pass, McCue stuck with 50- and 60-pound line. "We fish heavier tackle than most of the of the teams," he said. "I knew throughout this season that we weren't doing as well and knew why, but didn't want to downscale our tackle. If we got a big fish on, I wanted to catch it. I didn't want to change anything that been successful for us in the past."

When it came to the recent past, meaning this year, the heavier line obviously wasn't successful. So he made the decision to "take a chance for the Jim Beam Tarpon Cup Championship  and go at it that way," he said. After the tournament Saturday, "I told a lot of teams, 'Tomorrow we're coming out with 40 (pound test) and are going to compete with you guys."

Competition: Weighed Early

Day 1: 131 + 144 = 275 (1st)

Day 2: 131 (plus the 275 = 406)

On day 1 of the championship (Sunday), McCue's team released the first fish of the tournament: an 80-pounder about 20 minutes in. A good sign.

It took them only about an hour to bring their first tarpon to the scales, a 131-pounder. McCue was interviewed by a PTTS TV host at the scales, who asked some version of "what's next?" McCue said: "We're going to back out there and get another one, and come right back."

He was just having fun, but that's exactly what happened. As the Team Sign Zoo boat was heading back out to the fleet, it went across Light House Hole. They saw some fish in there that no one else was on, so they dropped down and 30 seconds later had another fish on. Twenty minutes later they'd weighed that fish, a 144-pounder.

Because of the two-fish limit, they were done fishing for the day -with 3 hours still left in the tournament that day. On the second fish, McCue said: "It was just one of those things - a bunch of fish nobody was on." His two fish were decent, but not nearly as big as the typical fish weighed this year in PTTS events. Why did he decide to weigh them? "I'm a fishing guide out there 7 days a week, so I pretty much know what's getting caught throughout the week," he said. "I knew there was an abundance of smaller fish out there, and I felt confident that a lot of teams wouldn't even be able to get two fish."

He felt the fish would hold up enough that they'd be in the Top 5 after day 1, but was a little surprised they ended up in 1st.

Going into day 2 (Monday), a one-fish day, they only had a 4-pound lead over Team Fastlane, so McCue knew they had to boat another decent fish.

"It started out quickly," he said "I knew it would. There weren't a lot of boats out there in the charter fleet, and only five boats were in the tournament.

"We started jumping small fish right away and other guys were too (including the charter boats). So I said, 'Hey, if we get a decent fish, let's weigh it and take our chances.'"

The first fish they hooked looked to be around 150 pounds, but it got chased by a shark, went under the boat and pulled off. That was tough, but 15 minutes later they hooked up again. He knew it was a smaller fish, but around the size they'd weighed on day 1.

He also knew that he started the day with a 4-pound lead over 2nd and a 10-pound lead over 3rd, so he had that extra weight going for him.

"I felt pretty confident no one would catch a fish that big that day," he said. "That's not to say they're not in there, but sharks were around and I just saw a lot of small fish flying around like popcorn."

They weighed the fish, which turned out to be 131 pounds, and then watched the other boats for the 2 remaining competition hours. Weights are broadcast over the radio, so the other teams knew what they were up against.

The Jim Beam Cup was made sweeter with a  "from scratch" peanut butter and chocolate cake sent all the way from Maine. McCue credited his family, teammates and friends for the victory.

No Second-Guessing

McCue didn't second-guess himself. "It didn't matter to me because we'd made a decision, and I'd been in this position before. Last year in week 5, we had a 170-pounder (when it was) lines out (of the water), and in the next 10 minutes we got beat by a 173 and a 178. That's unheard of.

"It's never over in that place until it's over. Any one of those teams could've done it.

"I have a lot of respect for those guys, but I felt pretty sure nobody was going to be able to do it. Even though that's not necessarily a large tournament fish, I felt like it wasn't going to be beat."

He was also reassured when he saw Marty Scott on the Fastlane boat gaff a fish that he estimated was 90 or 100 pounds. "I told the guys that actually was a smart move because he didn't feel like he was going to get one bigger, and there was still a half hour left of fishing. When I saw that, I knew he was thinking the same thing we were."

It ended up being a smart decision for McCue because his team won by 32 pounds. It was their first PTTS win in 3 years of trying.

The win was "huge because this is the fist year they actually did a (2-day) event," McCue said. "To set that precedent was a huge win."

Photo: PTTS    What's a Sign Zoo? It's the company that 'wraps' boats and just about anything with high end graphics.
Winning Gear

Rods -7' custom-made rods with Gator Glass blanks, 40- to 60-pound class, fast taper. (The PTTS made the Top 5 teams fish with PTTS-supplied 7-foot G. Loomis Pelagic Series rods on day 2. These rods were rated at 25 to 40 pounds.) 
Reels-Penn International 16VSX
Line -40-pound Berkley Big Game (clear). Why that line? "It's tough," McCue said. 
Leader-100-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon (2 feet) 
Terminal Tackle-4-ounce Cotee Live-Eye Jig (red)
Bait-Chartreuse tiger stripe soft-plastic (bought in bulk, carried by Cotee) McCue said his team only used standard vertical jigging techniques.

Winning Rig

The Cup Championship is a 2-day event fished by the Top 25 teams in Team of the Year (TOY) points after the five qualifying events. So no one knew exactly what the field for the championship would be until Saturday's 3-hour tournament.

Boat- 23-foot Dorado
Motor- 225-hp Mercury OptiMax
Electronics-Lowrance LCX25C
Wrap-Sign Zoo (www.SignZoo.com)

Main Factor In Their Success

McCue- "My knowledge of the bottom of Boca Grande Pass. I've spent half my life in there, and I think the key there is knowing the bottom."

Performance Edge

McCue- "I designed a gaff that has a spring locking mechanism so that once the locking mechanism comes over the lip of the fish, it can't jump off the gaff. Oftentimes when a fish is green, you can put the gaff through its lower jaw but then it can jump and come off the gaff. It's difficult to keep secrets out there, so I decided since the secret (of his gaff) was out, I'd go into production and make a limited number of my tarpon gaffs and sell them this year. Most (PTTS) guys are using them already." (Check them out at www.LockjawGaff.com -Ed .)


 McCue has been a full-time fishing guide for 21 years. He guides on the flats for snook, redfish and trout, but guides only for tarpon from April 15 to Sept. 1. Contact him at 800-833-0489 or at GiantTarpon.com.

Television coverage of the 2007 PTTS season begins on the Sun Sports cable channel July 5. The program airs Thursday and Saturday at noon, Friday at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday at 10:00 p.m . The series also airs on various other nationaly syndicated outdoor channels.

Final Standings

1. SignZoo/Gianttarpon.com -- 406 pounds -- 2202 Century Bay Boat w/ F250 Yamaha and aluminum trailer (valued at $50,000)

Day 1: 131 + 144 = 275

Day 2: 131

2. TA Mahoney/Tire Kingdom -- 368 -- $10,000

Day 1: 137 + 120 = 257

Day 2: 111

3. Fastlane -- 353 -- $5,000

Day 1: 136 + 135 = 271

Day 2: 82

4. Famous Craft -- 265 -- $1,000

Day 1: 115 + 150 = 265

Day 2: 0

5. Century/Trolling Thunder -- 251 -- one set of free tires from Tires Plus

Day 1: 133 + 118 = 251

Day 2: 0

Other Stats (over both days)

87 tarpon hooked---52 tarpon released---22 tarpon weighed---100% released alive

Making the Cut

The final five teams of the Jim Beam PTTS Tarpon Cup will fish Monday

By John McQueen
ESPN Outdoors.com

BOCA GRANDE, Fla. -Twenty five tarpon teams were greeted by stiff easterly winds Sunday morning, conditions much different from Saturday's final qualifier. Theoretically, it was just as different strategywise, with teams able to bring in two fish and the combined weight determining who moves on to Monday's top five finale of the Jim Beam PTTS Tarpon Cup.

Only a few teams were pressed with making tough decisions as to which fish to bring to the scales as only seven teams brought in two fish. Capt. Robert McCue's "Team Sign Zoo" leads the proceedings with 275 pounds, but there are four teams within 24 pounds: Fast Lane (271), Famous Craft (265), T.A. Mahoney (253), and Reel Adventures (251).

Robert McCue of Team Sign Zoo guides in Boca Grande Pass, so he knows what size to expect on a given day. The preponderance of small- to medium-sized fish of late told him to take the first two fish to the scales, but he said he couldn't bring himself to execute the plan early on.

"We got one pretty early, but it was only about 80 pounds or so. I just didn't think that with four hours to go that would hold up, even if we got a big second fish," McCue said. "We caught the 133 a little later, took it to the scale and then I rode over the Lighthouse Hole on the way back to the pack to the west. I marked a pod of fish and we dropped down and within a minute we had our bigger fish on."

Capt. Robert McCue's "Team Sign Zoo" leads the proceedings with 275 pounds

Team Famous Craft's Robert Jacobsen said his team was "on fire" throughout the day, landing seven tarpon out of nine hookups. The problem was the size: most of the fish were between 85 and 110 pounds.

"When we got that one that was a little bigger, I made a decision. We were going to go to a spot that historically holds bigger fish," Jacobsen said. "I saw that the tide was really starting to rip and I knew that the bite would get slow and that fish we were on were going to be smaller and really full of energy. We just needed to get away from those fish."

The risky move paid off in spades after about 45 minutes and Jacobson was "starting to get a little antsy," when 150-plus pound fish took the jig and took them for a weaving ride through the Sunday tournament and recreational boat crowd.

"That was the longest time we went all morning without a strike. I just had a feeling-and the rest of the guys agreed-that we needed to stick there," Jacobsen said. Jacobsen also said that one of his lost fish did the team a favor by freeing itself of the hook. The estimated 125-130 pound fish would have presented a difficult decision whether to bring it in, a decision that would have cost the team a spot in the top five. Team Florida Fishing Weekly was just eight pounds behind the fifth and final position.

Tomorrow's action begins at 7 a.m. ET and concludes at 10 a.m.

Sweet Music

Guides are a special breed

By John McQueen

BOCA GRANDE, Fla. -Fishing guides in general have a reputation. Flaky, cantankerous, free spirits and for the most part, unemployable.

Few get rich at their craft, which requires insanely early hours, weekend duty and often painful stress on the traditional family unit. Captain Robert McCue of Team Sign Zoo leads the Jim Beam Tarpon Cup going into Monday's finale. He and his team also exhibit some in-your-face commentary that is broken out for the championship.

An Irishman, McCue responded enthusiastically when asked about Will Green, the man aboard playing the bagpipes while the team was hooked up on Sunday morning.

"That's something we break out just for the championship. It's a tradition with our team for the PTTS," said McCue.

Will Green plays the bagpipes while Irishman Robert McCue's team hooks up on Sunday

The story: Years ago, when jig fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass was becoming popular, McCue said there was a concerted effort by some extremist of the Boca Grande Fishing Guide Association (BGFGA) to have the practice outlawed. 

"These are the old-school pass guides who drift live bait to the schools of fish in bigger boats with bigger tackle. In sharp contrast, jig guides many of whom are seasonal residents of Charlotte County use a much more aggressive approach, positioning directly over fish marked by sonar in smaller boats. "The two practices just don't mix. And it's created a lot of hard feelings. Basically, they tried to get jig fishing banned, saying we were stressing out fish with too light of tackle and snagging fish."

These charges were taken seriously by the state of Florida, which spent more than a quarter million dollars over three years riding along with guides of both philosophies. Jig fishermen were ultimately vindicated two years ago and old-time live baiters-many of whom were third- or fourth-generation guides- retreated to working the pass at night, when jiggers weren't present. 

"They were also losing a good bit of business to jig guides and that went a long way in creating a lot of hard feelings," McCue said. As a vocal proponent of jig fishing, McCue said he was "singled out in a fishery turf war and they picked the right guy".

There's also more than a little bit of irony in the "traditional"  live baiters' beef with those who drop hardware for silver kings. It seems that the very first tarpon fishing guides, long before anyone thought to drop heavy balls of lead to the fish, were those who waited for the outgoing tide to go slack and then row their skiffs to the pass. There they held the boat over the holes while clients dropped heavy spoons to the fish.

"It's the same philosophy with what we're doing today. The traditional outfit for those guides was white shirts, bowties and the old Greek fishing hats, which is what we wear during tournament," said McCue. "I'm a proud Irishman and playing the pipes is just another way of sticking it, or I should say paying homage, in my own way. Like a jigger, the Irish have always fought as second class citizens, only to become champions and presidents."

McCue says Will's wife Jen will be aboard their boat in the morning, Will having to be at work.

"She's a good player, too. I think we're in good hands," he said.

MAY 28,2003

Captain Robert McCue and mate Brian Timmons, guiding Don and Angela Hinton of Gaffney, S.C., brought a monster tarpon to their boat at Boca Grande last week.

According to McCue, the fish taped 87 inches to the fork of the tail, and had a 48-inch girth. Using the standard formula, the fish should have weighed close to 250 pounds, which might have made it a U.S. and Florida record. The measuring was witnessed by Tampa captain Don Mason.

But McCue said that his mate hooked the fish before handing it over to Hinton, so the catch would have been disqualified under IGFA rules. Only one angler can touch the rod during a fight. After a quick photo, the fish swam away unharmed, McCue said.  


Published: JUN 8, 2002

Captain Rob McCue of Tarpon Springs and angler Daniel Saey of Charlottesville, N.C., brought an even larger tarpon to the boat at Boca Grande on Thursday. The fish measured 90 inches to the fork and had a girth of 46 1/2 inches. Based on the weight formula, that would have put it at about 243 pounds, making it the largest tarpon ever landed at the big pass and possibly matching the largest landed in U.S. waters. A 243-pounder was landed at Key West in 1975.

However, McCue decided not to bring the fish in for weighing, so his record will remain unofficial. He did photograph it, however, and the catch and measuring was witnessed by dozens of nearby anglers who verified the size. The tarpon ate a breakaway jig on the edge of the Lighthouse Hole. Saey fought it for about 20 minutes on 40-pound-test line.
Amazingly, McCue said one of his anglers hooked an even larger fish two days earlier.

``That fish just swam to the surface within 30 seconds and laid there, and it was a lot longer than this one,'' said McCue. ``It's hard to say how big it was in the water like that, but it was right under the bow and both my mate (Brian Timmons) and I estimated it at 8 feet.''
Unfortunately, the jig fell out of the monster's mouth, so there was no chance to measure or photograph it. For details, visit McCue's website, www.gianttarpon.com

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