Moustache – check
Mullet – check
Slight twang to the accent, as if he’s a Texan with biltong futures in Prieska or a South African guiding in Texas – check.
Fishin’ ‘dungarees, big-ass truck, kick-ass boat, plus a bunch of other adjective-ass noun stuff. Check check check check.
Like a caterpillar into a butterfly, the Indian Ocean flats guide and filmmaker formerly known as Jako Lucas, is gradually transforming into a Texan called Taco.
In issue 35, We caught up with him at home in Port O’Connor Texas to say, ‘Howzit boet?*’
The Mission (TM): Howzit.
Jako Lucas (JL): Howzit.
TM: Good, small talk aside, first-off we need a rapid-fire citizenship test.
JL: Shoot, questions… not guns.
TM: Boerie or burgers?
TM: Bokke or Eagles?
TM: Afrikaans Bray or Texas Twang?
TM: Green Mamba or Blue Book passport?
JL: Blue Book. Mariette and I are starting the citizenship process in September and the only reason for my answer is because of the access an American passport gives you from a traveling point of view. We are definitely going for dual citizenship. I would never give up my South African citizenship. I consider myself 100% South African.
TM: Hmmm, 3/4, it’s a pass but the jury’s out Jaco. Or, should we call you Taco? What’s with the new name? Operating incognito?
JL: One of my guide friends, Owen Gayler, has daughters who couldn’t pronounce Jako, so they have dubbed me ‘Taco’, so now my name is Taco. My wife Mariette even calls me Taco. It’s become a thing. Taco Lucas. Captain Taco.
TM: From guiding in the Seychelles to moving to the USA, how did you land up in Texas?
JL: We’d always wanted to move to the US, but we knew it was a very hard process as a South African citizen and not having any other passport. Neville, the South African owner of Thomas & Thomas, helped us with that whole process. With a lot of the work I have done and the different companies that I work for, plus Neville’s help and a lawyer, we managed to get an 01 visa, which is called an, ‘alien with extraordinary ability’. We went over to Massachusetts to Greenfield where Thomas & Thomas is based, set up shop there for a little bit, helped with marketing, social media and new rod designs. We ended up in Texas after I was invited by the Yeti guys to come to Austin for one of the Fly Fishing Film tour events. Because Mariette and I had such a great time there – Austin was one of the quickest growing cities in the USA at the time – we decided to move there. I was actually on a photo shoot fishing trip with Christiaan (Pretorius), Oliver (White) and Blane (Chocklett) in Baha, Mexico, while Mariette flew over to Austin and bought us a new home. We drove down from Massachusetts to Texas, unpacked and ten days later I went to Mongolia to guide.
In Texas I got to know local guide JT van Zandt and some of the guides that are Yeti ambassadors. I explained that I would really like to continue guiding, but that I couldn’t do the long stints overseas in remote locations. I would like to be with Mariette, but I would like to have my bread buttered on both sides, to be able to guide and be with her on weekends back home. So, I started studying the Texas coast and ended up in a little town called Port O’Connor. I looked at a lot of different places like Port Aransas and Rockport, but what I saw out there in terms of the potential of the guiding brought me to Port O’Connor and that’s where we are now. We’ve just finished building a house here that I can accommodate my clients in. I’ve got my skiff here and the guiding is full on. Having guided here for only five years – not to flex in any way – my schedule is completely booked out for 2022 and 2023 is nearly full. That’s thanks to a combination of Covid helping people realise what fishing they have close by and by hard work.
TM: So are you both based full-time in Port O’Connor?
JL: No, we’re living the American Dream. We’ve got two homes now, one in Port O’Connor and one in Austin. As funny as the politics and all the craziness of the US is, the opportunities to make a great living and set yourself up for life are so good. My guiding schedule is busy now because I have always had a mindset that I picked up from other people I admire and look up to. That is that I always try to be the hardest working person in the area. If the other guides stop guiding at 3 o’clock, then I want to stop at 4 o’clock. If they get up at 5am, I want to get up at 4am. I want to make sure that my clients know I am going the extra mile for them. Mariette is based in Austin where, within three years, she became director at a law firm, just through hard work. We’ve recently finished building the house here which I’ll use as a guesthouse and a second home for Mariette when she wants to break away from Austin. We’re very privileged and very lucky. Also, we don’t have stuff like loadshedding…
TM: Bollocks, Texas got loadshat last year. Don’t throw stones!
JL: Okay ja, you’re right. We were lucky in that our home had the right service provider. In all honesty, one of the reasons Texas is such a great place is that it’s the closest feeling we have to South Africa in terms of the weather and the diversity, especially in Austin with the different kind of people and different ethnicities. People are friendly. Texans are loud and proud about being Texans, but they are good people.
TM: How friendly are they when you are an outsider coming in to guide? Surely that takes a little bit of time to win people over?
JL: My experience of it is, in a place like this, in saltwater, that you have to earn it. Before I started guiding I checked with as many people as I possibly could, reached out to some of the OG guides who have been guiding here for 20 plus years. In the beginning there was no friendliness, no kindness. They were like, “Okay cool, we’ll see what you can do, but you will probably not make it here”. They make you work for it, but again I did it very politely. I told them who I was, that I was here to make a living and I didn’t want to just take from the area and go away from it. They slowly started seeing what I was about. There were lots of times that I would wave to them and try and be polite and they wouldn’t wave back.
TM: Forrest Gump-style on the shrimp boat waving at Lieutenant Dan?
Exactly, the full dummy face and just waving, that’s me! Texans are really kind people, but still I cannot fathom when you wave at someone and they do not wave back. The way I have approached this was to overwhelm them with kindness. Eventually they couldn’t not wave at me anymore, at the risk of looking like douchebags in front of clients. Now, after this five year period, they welcome me. Still, nothing is spoon-fed. You have to figure out the fishing yourself and stay out of their way. The one thing I did was, if I ever saw them on the flat or in a certain area, which you do often, instead of going in close by, I would leave that area and make a new plan, even if it changed my whole idea for the day. I simply had to do that. Social media does not reflect that stuff. People think they need to be welcomed from the get go. You have to grind it out. You get sworn at. I got told ‘fuck you’ many times. It is what it is. That stuff fuels me to show these guys who the hell I am.
TM: What drew you to this area specifically? Did you go out with someone like JT van Zandt, have a great experience and go, “Holy shit, this is where I want to be!”?
JL: Yes, I went out with JT before moving here. He specialises in, and is very good at, shallow water red fishing, which is spectacular. They’re like bonefish with their tails out. We call them belly-crawlers where they will swim in water so shallow their backs are out and all they can do is crawl their body around. I loved that sight-fishing element. For a Yeti backpack shoot we went along the beaches and I really liked that, fishing in the surf. I spent a little bit of time in that area but I noticed that there wasn’t access to different species of fish. As soon as I came to Port O’Connor I started noticing deeper water areas and easier access to the Gulf of Mexico. Then you start looking at all sorts of other species. Some of my favourite ones are the big jacks. They are insane. They are my GT away from home. They act the same, fight the same, everything. At a certain time of the year, we have access to really big redfish. Something that a lot of people don’t understand is that a bull red and a redfish is the same thing. A redfish is one that goes from a baby up to 34 inches. Once they go above that they are just referred to as a bull redfish. I’ve landed bull reds here up to 52 inches, which is calculated close to 50lbs+. These ones come in here to feed hard and we caught one the other day that was definitely 45lbs. Just giants.
Get the rest of this interview including more on redfish, Swamp Donkeys (aka Black Drum), Sheepshead, BBQ and more in issue 35 of The Mission below. As always, it’s free.