Posts Tagged With: Buggs Fishing Lures

Blind Casting the Marsh with 20/20 Vision

As an avid shallow water angler, I enjoy spending the majority of my time sight casting to fish that I can see, instead of blind casting for the ones that I can’t. Since the first day I pitched my lure into the path of a visible fish, I have been hooked (pun intended). Being able to watch a large redfish as it slowly moves through the shallow water, seeing it pounce on my lure, and then getting to listen to the sweet music made by my line, as it gets ripped from my reel, is an experience that I never get tired of. When the tides are right, the water is clear, and the fish are cooperating, this is the style of fishing that I prefer over any other.

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However, things don’t always work out the way you’d liked. Sometimes the tides are going to run a little higher than predicted, which makes spotting fish more difficult. You’ll also have to deal with dirty water, fish that are laid up and not feeding, and even ones that spook easily. The hard truth is that you’re not always going to be able to sight cast them. In the event that you’re forced to spend your day blind casting, make the most of each cast by putting your lure where the fish should be.

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DSC_0118 copyPlenty of anglers out there view blind casting as a style of fishing that requires a little bit of skill and a whole lot of luck. In their mind, blind casting is about tossing your lure in every direction possible, with the only emphasis being, “cast as far as you can, to as many different spots as you can”. However, the more experienced angler knows better than to believe that. He doesn’t make a lot of “random” casts. Each cast he makes is to a targeted area for one specific reason or another. He doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in dumb luck, and instead believes that fish tend to hang out in certain areas for a number of reasons. With this in mind, you should constantly scan the water (and shoreline) for places that are more likely to hold fish than others, and make casting to those spots a priority.

Points

PointAny and all points along a shoreline are worth casting to. By points, I am referring to parts of the shoreline that extend out towards the open water or a sharp bend in the shoreline. A good point provides redfish with a great place to ambush bait as it passes by. While some points are better formed than others, all deserve a cast or two as you paddle/drift by them. As you approach the point, be sure to cast several yards past it and work your lure back across the tip. I normally try to make at least three cast at each point. One where my lure passes within a few yards off the point, one where it is 5-10 yards away, and another that is 10-15 yards off.

Coves

While points protrude out toward open water, coves do the exact opposite. They dip inland, forming small half circle pools along the shoreline that are normally a little shallower than the surrounding area. The combination of the shallow water and ability to trap bait makes a good cove the perfect spot for a group of redfish to feed. They can corral the bait towards the back of the cove, or slowly roam the area looking for something to munch on. These coves also provide redfish with a great place to hide from strong winds and choppy water as well.

Windblown Shorelines

DSC_0153 copyMany anglers overlook a good windblown shoreline because the location of it changes as the direction of the wind shifts. These shorelines are also difficult to fish since the wind is constantly pushing you towards the bank. However, a shoreline that is being repeatedly pounded by waves as a result of the wind, provides redfish with a great place to feed.   Baitfish and shrimp that are seeking shelter along the shoreline get pushed up against the bank, where they become disoriented as the waves crash down on them. As they struggle to regain their sense of direction, redfish are able to grab an easy meal. If you’ve ever wondered why a specific shoreline only holds fish on certain days, pay attention to the direction of the wind and see if a pattern develops.

Wind Protected Shorelines

While windblown shorelines have been known to produce a solid bite on many days, sometimes fish like to go the opposite route and hideout against the wind protected shoreline. These areas offer calmer water that will be much cleaner than the windblown side. The fact that the water near these shorelines has less chop and current, allows redfish to remain stationary and conserve energy. Windblown shorelines are great places to start when you get on the water. However, if you aren’t having much luck, don’t be afraid to change things up and give the wind protected side a try. 

Drains

image2Drains within a marsh are created when a channel connects one body of water to another or when a narrow portion of the water branches off of a main lake, only to eventually come to an end a short distance later. Depending on whether the tide is outgoing or incoming, current will flow through these areas. Redfish, trout, and flounder all take advantage of the bait that gets caught in the current, which makes a drain an outstanding place to fish. I like to start by fan casting the area about thirty yards before I reach the actual channel. As I enter the channel, I’ll fish it as well, often times bouncing a soft plastic along the bottom. Since water is constantly being forced through these channels, you can expect the majority of them to be a little deeper than the surrounding areas. As I exit the channel and enter the lake it connects to, I like to work the area about thirty yards out once again. 

Shell

shellOne of the most productive types structure to fish around along the upper Texas coast is a good patch of shell. Baitfish and shrimp love hanging around shell for the protection and food it supplies them with, which of course, makes it a great place for redfish to feed. One of the main things to keep in mind when fishing around shell, is that size is not always the most important thing. A small patch of shell the size of your kitchen table can sometimes hold fish just as well as a patch that’s the size of your house. A good pair of polarized sunglasses will allow you to see the shell, and where to cast without getting your lure hung up. Cast along the edge of the shell and try to keep your lure running parallel to it. Often time’s redfish will roam the edges where the drop off from the shell to the soft mud occurs.

The next time you’re faced with unfavorable conditions on the water, spend the day making the most of each cast by tossing your lure into high traffic areas. You might realize that a little bit of knowledge plays a key role in what was once referred to as “a lucky cast”.

If you’d like more detailed knowledge of the information listed above, Tobin’s DVD (Shallow Redfish) is a great resource to consider.  It’s about 2 hours in length and covers everything listed above, plus more.  I picked it up a few years ago and still pop it in every now and then to review things.  If you decide to purchase one of the DVDs, be sure to use the code “TAILTAILSIGNS” at checkout to save 10% off your total purchase.

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Q & A with Heath Hippel of Buggs Fishing Lures

I recently had a chance to sit down with the owner and creator of Buggs Fishing Lures, Heath Hippel, to talk about his lures and ask him a few questions about them. More information about Buggs can be found by visiting htpp://www.buggs-fishing-lures.com or you can order them at http://www.buggsfishingstore.com

 

Q: So Heath, Buggs are a pretty unique type of lure. Tell us a little about them.

A: Buggs are fishing lures that are tied like flies. They’re inspired by the most successful fly patterns, bringing the best fly-fishing ideas to lure fishermen. They’re tied with rabbit strips and other popular fly tying materials on custom jig heads.

Q: The jigheads used to tie your lures are slightly different than the traditional jig head most of us are use to. What’s so special about your jig head.

A: The jig heads I use are made to land hook point up and to sit on the bottom without tipping over. This comes in handy when fishing shallow water. In a pothole or on a sand or mud bottom, Buggs will sit there and look alive. The shape and design was inspired by popular bonefish jig heads. This is relevant because bonefish and redfish might as well be cousins. They both inhabit shallow flats and swim around in search of baitfish, crabs, shrimp, and marine worms. They have inferior mouths, meaning their mouths are on the undersides of their heads, making it easy for them to suck prey up from the bottom. In addition to sitting on the bottom, the heads fall more slowly than traditional jig heads. This comes in handy when you’re swimming them over shallow grass.

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Q: With each of your lures, bunny fur has been your material of choice. What is it about the bunny fur that makes it so desirable to tie with?

A: The fur is part of it but a better description of the materials is rabbit strips. These are rabbit hides with the fur still on that has been tanned, dyed different colors, and cut into strips. Simply put, nothing moves in the water like rabbit strips. When the hide is wet, the strips absolutely come alive. That’s what makes the combination of the jig head and the rabbit strips so special. Buggs will sit there and look alive!

The other desirable factors are the durability, absorption, and variety. The hairs are anchored in the hide, and the hide is leather. They’re very durable, and oftentimes the last thing on the lure to wear out. Absorption factors in two ways: The hide must be wet, soaked all the way though, for the lure to look right. There are little air pockets trapped in the hide. The easiest way to get them out is to hold your Bugg under the water and squeeze the rabbit strips between your fingers. You’ll see the air bubbles come out and the lure will come alive. I also have customers who soak their Buggs in GULP juice or other water-soluble scent. Either way, when the hide is wet the lure weighs more and is easier to cast and absolutely looks alive.

Lastly, there are four different cuts of rabbit strips available and dozens of different colors. This gives me lots of options when designing lures.

Q: As far as small businesses go, Buggs Fishing Lures is exactly that. The company consists of you and your wife, along with a few workers that help tie the lures. What’s it like running your own small business?

A: It’s a constant balancing act between my Buggs business, my day job, my wife, our four kids, and other family activities like church. I absolutely love my Buggs business, but I have to prioritize every day and make sure I take care of my other responsibilities. It’s a little crazy, but every day is different and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q: Like most things today, Buggs Lures can be ordered online from http://www.buggsfishingstore.com. However, many tackle retailers have started carrying them in their stores. How many different states are Buggs available in now?

A: Buggs are available in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. Here’s a link to our friends page that includes our retailers: http://www.buggs-fishing-lures.com/buggsfriends.html

Q: With eight different Buggs available for purchase, which one is your best seller and why do you think that is?

A: The Curl-Tail Jig is the best seller. It’s one of the original two offerings, so it’s been in my customer’s hands for the longest time. So history and longevity has a little to do with it. But the main reason it sells the best is a combination of effectiveness and versatility. It was designed for fishing saltwater flats, and has proven to be extremely effective for targeting redfish. It performs equally well when blind casting or sight casting, and in clear or muddy water. In addition to redfish, it works really well when targeting flounder. My customers also catch trout, drum, and the occasional sheepshead with it. In freshwater I get great feedback from bass fishermen who use it in light cover, for skipping docks, and sight casting. The tail can be changed out, and we tie a screw lock on the hook shank so your trailer won’t slip off.

Q: To your knowledge, how many different species of fish have been caught while using a Bugg? Also, tell us a few of the most popular fish anglers target with them.

A: I guess I jumped the gun a bit when I talked about all the fish that my customers have caught using a Curl-Tail Jig. But this gives me a chance to talk about the bonefish / light tackle jigs. Earlier I mentioned that popular bonefish jig heads inspired the Buggs original jig head. When I started selling Curl-Tail Jigs and Double Bunny Jigs several customers recognized the resemblance and took them on their bonefish trips. The trouble was that bonefish are generally smaller than redfish, and popular bonefish destinations like Mexico and Belize are home to bonefish in the 1-3 pound range. The hooks were too large, and they were missing fish. They returned from their trips and requested true bonefish jigs. So I designed my own bonefish jig heads with appropriately sized hooks and created four different bonefish jig patterns based on four of the most popular bonefish flies. My customers have caught bonefish, permit, tarpon, and several species of snapper on their bonefish trips. But we also know that fish up here eat small baitfish, shrimp, and crabs. The hooks on these jig heads are strong enough to use with light tackle. My customers along the Gulf Coast have caught redfish, flounder, trout, tarpon, and several species of snapper on these jigs as well.

More Info: http://www.buggs-fishing-lures.com/bonefish-jigs.html

SM Big RedQ: As far as fish go, redfish seem to be the number one fan of Buggs. What is it that makes a redfish pounce on a Bugg when it crosses its path?

A: I think there are three main reasons that Buggs are so effective for redfish. First is that Buggs land softly and are less likely to spook a redfish compared to other lures. Second is that Buggs look alive, even when sitting on the bottom. Third is that Buggs imitate what redfish eat and have the right profile.

Q: Can we expect anything new from Buggs Fishing Lures anytime soon that you are able to share with us?

A: I have several new lures in development. The first is a downsized version of a Curl-Tail Jig that is tied on a bonefish jig head. I’ve been tying this one for a while and I have lots of customers who are eager for it to go into full-scale production.

The second is a crab jig designed specifically for Permit. This is a newer idea, and borrows some of the techniques I used when designing the Beastie Bugg. I’m tying it as realistic as I can because permit are so picky. It’s a fun challenge, and I know that there will be lots of other species that will eat it as well.

Lastly, and this is the one I’m probably most excited about, is a shad imitation. I’m using a new tying technique I learned about that will make the lure dart back and forth on the retrieve. Plus, when it stops the lure falls slowly and evenly, just like a wounded or dying baitfish. I’ve already caught a five-pound bass on a prototype and a friend of mine has caught snook and redfish on another. I know it will be effective on speckled trout as well because it will have similar action to a hard bait, yet will look even more alive because of the rabbit. I’m hoping it will have crossover appeal to both saltwater and freshwater anglers.

The first place I announce the availability of new Buggs is my newsletter. The sign-up can be found on the right side of the home page. Look for the Email and Name boxes.

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Q: We’ll make the last question a tough one. If you were fishing the upper Texas coast, and could only take three Buggs with you, which three would you pick and what colors would you go with?

A: ¼ oz. Curl-Tail Jig – Black Gold

This one would be tied on for sure. I’ve lost count of how many redfish I’ve caught on this jig. All kinds of conditions, different times of the year, and I’ve caught flounder and trout on it as well.

¼ oz. Beastie Bugg – Blue Crab

If I found tailing or slowly cruising reds this is what I’d throw. They love to eat blue crabs and this jig will sit there and look alive.

¼ oz. Hydra Bugg – Electric Chicken with a 4” Chartreuse Glitter Bugg Tail

I throw this in shallow water when it’s really muddy or when they’re feeding on mullet. The Hydra Bugg is a larger profile bait with double rattles and a jig head with a prominent eye. It makes an impression! I also like to throw this in marsh drains because it will get down deep faster. Redfish, trout, and flounder eat this Bugg.

Q: Anything to say before we go?

A: Let me say two things before I go. First, thank you Sonny Mills for taking the time to ask these questions, and thank you Darryl Barrs for publishing this article and helping me get the word out on Buggs. Second, let me tell the readers that I truly appreciate and value feedback from my customers. It makes my day when I get a picture, text, or email about a successful fishing trip with Buggs. And I also value their feedback because I only fish in my home waters and not even as much as I’d like. It helps me to know how people are using Buggs outside of the Upper Texas Coast. The front page of the online store contains my contact information (including my cell phone) and I hope people will use it!

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Marsh Reds and Flounder

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David​ and I hit the water yesterday morning and found the flounder going airborne on small baitfish in a foot of water.  They weren’t easily fooled by lures but we managed to string a few.  Mine came on Buggs 1/4 oz. Curl Tail jig (Black Gold) while David went with Chicken Boy Bubba Cluckers.

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After the flounder action died down, it was off to search for redfish.  The water was extremely dirty which meant gulp shrimp under a popping cork with the Hook Spit Zephyr Elite rod.  If you’re looking for a popping cork rod for a spinning reel that is designed for a cork, this one is worth checking out.  We focused our efforts on the edge of large patches of shell with a one foot drop off to a soft mud bottom.  Popping the cork parallel to the edge of the shell produced a little over a dozen reds for me along with a small black drum. David ended up with 3 flounder and about a dozen reds as well. It was a fun day on the water with a good friend.

Once I arrived back at the house, I decided to blacken the flounder instead of stuffing it.  I was amazed at how well it turned out.  Needless to say, it may be a while before I stuff one again.

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Bugg Slinging with Heath Hippel of Buggs Fishing Lures

 

Early last week I received a phone call from Heath Hippel, owner of Buggs Fishing Lures.  He was going to be making a trip across Houston to restock a few Buggs at the Fishing Tackle Unlimited store off of I-45 and wanted to see about getting a quick kayak trip in before dropping them off.  Photo Jul 29 copyMy morning was wide open since my wife and kids had stayed the night at her mothers house the night before, so we loaded up the kayaks and set off for the Texas coast.  Heath had wanted to check out my Cuda 14, so I let him use it and paddled teammate Aaron Ferguson’s Kraken.

We met my buddy David at the launch site at 6 am in hopes of launching early and returning early since the Texas heat has been so brutal here lately.  It didn’t take long to unload our kayaks and gear and we were off to the marsh.

David decided to target flounder first, so Heath and I left him to search for redfish first.  We were hoping to spot a few schools in the early morning light before trying our luck for flat fish later in the day.  On our way out, we spotted several smaller redfish feeding over a small patch of shallow shell and decided to see if we could trick a few of them.  We stopped for a few minutes and each pulled a fish from the area.  Both fish were undersized, so we decided to keep moving in search of bigger fish.

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After paddling another 1/2 mile, we reached our destination and began scanning the shoreline for scattering bait, small wakes, and birds.  The water was pretty glassy and we both felt that if the fish were schooled up, we would easily be able to see them.  We saw no such thing though, and decided to move around a bit and blind cast a few spots while searching for signs of fish.  After about ten minutes, a few small wakes appeared off in the distance.  They didn’t seem large enough to be redfish, but they were creating more of a disturbance than a small school of baitfish would make.  We kept a close watch on the area and finally saw a few large fish blow up on bait, which confirmed what we had been hoping for.  They school looked as though it might consist of about 20 redfish, so we slowly started making our way towards them.

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As we got within casting distance, we decided to attempt a double hook up.  While getting ready to cast, another smaller school appeared 10 yards to my right and presented me with an easier cast.  I let my Bugg fly, and hooked up after a few quick twitches with a solid redfish.  It took me nearly 15 minutes to land the fish, which led me to believe that it would be an oversized fish.  I was pleasantly surprised to see her hit the ruler and measure 27 3/4″ while weighing 9.25 lbs. on the Boga, my personal best slot red.  During the commotion of my fight, Heath’s school quietly disappeared before he was able to make a cast.  He fan casted the area anyway and hooked up with what we though would be a redfish, but it turned out to be a small black drum.

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We continued searching for more schools and it didn’t take long for Heath to spot one.  They were approaching fast and Heath made the most of his cast which produced a beautiful redfish that was just out of the slot.

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The school action died off after that and we tried working the area a little more, but without any luck.  We decided to see if the flounder were around and met back up with David, who had caught a few flounder and a redfish.  We missed a few flounder, but overall, they were not going to cooperate on this day.  We tried catching a few more redfish instead, by switching over to gulp shrimp under a popping cork.  The trusty popping cork produced another five redfish for me and a few more for Heath and David.  We made it back to the truck shortly after 11, got out of the hot sun, and headed home for the day.

I’m already looking forward to the fall, when temperatures will drop and the fishing only gets better.  Until then, this angler will be launching early and coming back early whenever I have a chance to get on the water.

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Lost in the Texas Marsh

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The clock on the dash of my truck shows 5:31, but I know it’s not accurate.  I keep it set eight minutes faster than the actual time, which means I’ll reach my destination a few minutes ahead of schedule.  That’s not uncommon since I always seem to wake up before my alarm goes off on mornings when I have a fishing trip planned.

As I approach my launch site, I do a quick scan of the area to see if my headlights reflect off of any other vehicles.  They don’t of course.  It’s rare that they ever do since I do my best to arrive before anyone else.  Beating the crowds is nice, but I don’t like to miss the sunrise as it peaks over the horizon.  That’s where it always looks the best.

I slowly back my truck up to the edge of the water and fumble through my gear for the can of Deep Woods Off.   On this muggy Texas morning, the winds are non-existent, which means the mosquitos will be out in full force.  I douse myself in the insect repellent before opening the door, but know it will only do so much.  Marsh mosquitos are tough, and I often think they view the spray as a marinade being applied to their next meal.

I exit the truck and begin the mindless task of unloading my kayak and gear.  I’ve performed this task several hundred times now, so within 10 minutes of arriving, I am on my way.

It’s still pitch black outside, so I turn on my 360-degree light, even though it won’t serve a purpose on this particular morning.  It’s way too shallow for powerboats to reach the spot I’m heading to, so the odds that I’ll become a speed bump in the dark are nonexistent.

I have roughly thirty minutes before first light shows itself, which is more than enough time to complete the one-mile paddle required to reach my destination.  I keep my pace slow and steady, while carefully listening to the sounds of the marsh.  It’s quiet at first, and the only sounds I hear are the occasional splashes made by jumping horse mullet and few noisy seagulls.  Then, off in the distance, I hear something else.  The distinct flushing sounds that only feeding redfish make.  I don’t quite know the exact location, but turn the bow of my kayak in the general direction of the noise.   Even if I am unable locate this particular group of fish, it’s these types of sounds that get my adrenaline flowing for the day.

As I approach the area where I believe the fish had been feeding, I stop and wait, hoping that they will eventually give themselves away.  They don’t of course, so I fan cast the area with my topwater, hoping to get lucky. Three casts into the small cove results in zero blowups.  The fish that had been in the area just moments before seem to have vanished all of a sudden.

As the sun inches closer and closer to the horizon, my vision slowly improves.  A quick glance at the shoreline confirms what I already know.  The tides are extremely low this morning, with a good six inches separating the top of the water from the bottom of the grass.  Bait has very few places to hide right now, so the marsh birds are having a field day.  I watch a few Rosette Spoonbills as they swing their bills back and forth through the water in search of the tiny shrimp that are burrowed in the mud.  I don’t spend too much time watching though.  I have approximately two hours before the tide turns and begins rushing back in, so there’s little time to waste if I want to sight cast a few reds.

At times I’m paddling through 8” of water, but on occasion I hit an area so shallow that I’m forced to pole myself through what feels like more mud than water.  As I paddle, I do my best to remain in the center of the narrow channel that leads to the back of the lake. If I’m not careful, I could stray off course and be forced to walk through knee-deep marsh mud, which is not my idea of a good time.  This area is really shallow, but I know that I’ll find slightly deeper water and plenty of fish if I can just make it a little further.

After another hundred yards of carefully navigating my way through the maze of mud, I finally reach a consistent depth of one foot and my search begins.

I have four rods with me, just like I would on any other day.  One has a topwater; another has a popping cork, the third has a soft plastic, and the fourth is equipped with a ¼ oz. Beastie Bugg.  The cork, topwater, and soft plastic will more than likely not see much action today, but the Bugg is sure to get a workout.  If I catch any redfish this morning, it will be because I can see parts of, if not the entire fish.  After all, the low tides and exposed fish are the main reasons I chose to fish this particular marsh this morning.

The first area I approach is a small grass flat that has held good fish for me in the past around this time of the year.  Crabs, shrimp, baitfish, and numerous other creatures’ call this area home, and use it as a hideout from would be predators.  The redfish know that, and don’t seem to have a problem with putting in a little work for their food.

I start off by circumnavigating the football sized patch of vegetation, focusing on the edges of the grass.  I’m hoping to spot a few reds as they slowly move along the perimeter looking for their breakfast.  I’ve always had a hard time focusing on one area for an extended period of time; so naturally, I divide my time between watching the edge of the grass and looking out towards the middle.  I’ve spent several years training my eyes to subconsciously look for signs of redfish in shallow water, but so far, I am unable to locate any fish.

Large mullet in the area continue to jump, but the sound that their splashes make receive no attention from me.  Just like my eyes, my ears know what to listen for, so I’ll only jerk my head around if I hear the obvious sound made by redfish smashing bait.

After slowly covering a good fifty yards of water, I finally spot what I’ve been looking for.  A dozen redfish tails are sticking a few inches out of the water in close proximity to one another, as they rummage through the grass for small crustaceans.  I’ve witnessed redfish in this setting a hundred times before, but it never gets old. My heart starts racing, the excitement overwhelms me, and it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time again.

In the past, I would have paddle straight towards the fish, and fired a cast off in the middle of them as soon as I reached the outer limits of my reels casting capability.  More times than not, that cast would miss its mark, and the fish would scatter.  My past experiences let me know that those fish aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It has taken a while, but I’ve learned that a little patience combined with a stealthy approach will almost guarantee that I catch one of these fish.

The fish are moving slowly, but they are moving, which means the direction they are heading is important.  I watch for a few seconds and determine that they are moving directly away from my current location.  I take my time and slowly paddle around the right hand side of them, making sure to stay a good 15 yards away at all times.  In all honesty, I’m not even paddling water to move my kayak.  Instead, I am placing the blade of my paddle into the soft mud, and propelling myself forward by pushing against it.  This approach is a littler quieter, and it allows me to get within casting distance of the school without giving myself away.

DSC_0047 copy_800x532A few minutes have passed now and the fish are still unaware of my presence. They are devouring shrimp and crab without the faintest idea that one of them is about to be yanked from their little group.  Half of me wants to spend a few minutes watching them feast, while the other demands that I make an immediate cast.  I only take a few seconds to decide, and the half that is begging me to make a cast wins.  It’s been too long since my last trip and I need to feel that tug on the end of my line.

I pick up my rod with the Bugg, double check the direction they are heading, and release a near perfect cast that lands three feet past and three feet in front of the school.  The Bugg lands softly and matches the size and color of the fleeing shrimp perfectly.   Not a single fish spooks, so I know what is about to happen.  I let the Bugg fall for about 3 seconds so that it reaches the bottom where the fish are feasting, give one twitch, and feel that familiar thump I’ve been waiting for.

I reel down my slack and lay into the fish with a powerful hook set.  At this point, all hell breaks loose.  The unlucky red that has taken my bait bolts from the group, the remaining fish scatter in every direction, and my reel begins playing that sweet music that only a fisherman can appreciate.

I begin what will probably be a 2-4 minute battle with the fish, but in all honesty, my favorite part is over.  I enjoy fighting the fish as much as the next guy, but my favorite thing about sight casting, is the eat.  I love seeing the fish pounce on my bait, feeling that hard thump, and experiencing those first five seconds of ninety mile per hour drag peeling as the fish races away, leaving behind a massive wake.  It’s what keeps me coming back for more time and time again.

Hot Pink Curl Tail BuggThree minutes have passed now, and the fish has made a couple of extraordinary runs, but with little energy remaining, he has accepted defeat.  I reach over the side of my kayak and bring my opponent onboard.  It’s a solid red at 25” with a beautiful bronze color.  The Bugg did its job and ended up in the corner of the fish’s mouth.  After a few wiggles back and forth, it comes free, leaving the fish unharmed and ready to rejoin his friends.  I gently slide him over the edge of my kayak and back into the water while holding him by the tail.  I’ll hold him here until he pulls away on his own, which occurs less than ten seconds later.  With a powerful wave of his tail, he splashes me with a little water, his idea of revenge I’m sure, before disappearing into the grass.

I spend the next few hours repeating this process and landing a handful a fish. The incoming tide has now ruined my skinny water and temperatures have already climbed into the lower 90s.  I’ve scratched my redfish itch for the day, so leaving a little earlier than planned doesn’t bother me on this particular morning.  I head back to the truck and no longer have to worry about getting stuck in the mud.  The water is even with the bottom of the grass now, so I am able to paddle anywhere I choose.

As I arrive back at the truck, I am greeted by a couple of kayakers that have just returned from their morning trip.  They don’t have a drop of mud on them, and I am completely filthy.  It turns out they were heading for the same general area that I had fished, but quickly decided to change plans upon arriving because they said, and I quote, “There just wasn’t enough water for the fish to be back there”.  Instead, they opted to fish a nearby deeper channel without any luck.  I can’t help but laugh a little and tell them that an area that’s too shallow for redfish doesn’t really exist.

DSC_0111 copy_800x532I describe the events of my day and tell them about everything I had to go through to reach my spot.  I tell them about the schools of fish and show them a few pics on my phone.  From the looks on their faces, I can tell that they are trying to decide if my story is true, or if I’m sending them on some wild goose chase to protect my honey hole.  I encourage them to give it a try one morning and they say they will give it some thought.

For those curious as to why I spend so much time in the shallow Texas marsh, this recap of the day’s events sums it up.  Watching the sun rise, listening to the sounds of nature, covering several miles of water as I search for fish, and seeing them pounce on my lure is a combination of events that makes it all worthwhile.  There are several different opportunities out there when it comes to selecting an area and species of fish to target, but for me, redfish in the marsh tops them all.

 

Tips and Tricks

Don’t be afraid to go shallow – Redfish will swim through water that even your kayak can’t float through.  If you choose not to fish a spot because you think “there’s just not enough water”, you could be making a big mistake.

Constantly use your eyes and ears – In water this shallow, redfish will often give themselves away if you know what to look and listen for.  Tails, backs, wakes, fleeing bait, hovering birds, or one tiny shrimp can be what leads you to the fish.

Use patience when you locate a fish – Often times, anglers get so excited when they see a visible fish that they will make a cast as soon as possible.  Take a minute or two and observe the fish.  See which direction its heading, determine whether it’s aggressively chasing bait, and if so, what is it eating.  Also, enjoy the sight of watching a 25” redfish as it swims through a few inches of water.  There are plenty of people that will never experience that.

Expect fish to be spooky – Redfish in really shallow water are normally pretty spooky.  Using small baits and casting past and in front of the fish by several feet is usually required if you want to keep from scaring them off.  Once the lure hits the water, very small twitches will help to draw attention to your lure without spooking the fish.

 

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A New Baby and a Trip to the Marsh in the Jackson Kraken

Photo Apr 26, 3 23 55 PM

Since time to fish has been hard to come by, I’ve been trying to work on a few new things for the blog, but recently got a little sidetracked before finishing any of them up. My wife and I have been preparing for our second little girl to make an appearance on May 13th, but apparently she had plans of her own. We woke up around 5 am on April 30th and made a mad dash to the hospital to find out that she would have to be delivered that day. Four hours later she made an appearance (5 weeks early since her original due date was June 4th) and has been in the NICU for the past 10 days. Everything is fine with her; she just has to improve on her eating before they will release her to come home. We are very excited about the newest (and last edition) to our family, Samantha Rae Mills. Between her and my other daughter, a Jackson Big Tuna or maybe a couple of Cruise 10s might be in my future.

Photo May 05, 7 23 53 PM

A few weekends ago, Jackson Kayak teammate Michael Harris and I decided to try our luck at one of my favorite marshy areas. We had a small window of opportunity with an outgoing tide that would bottom out around 9 am which gave us about three hours of ideal sight casting conditions before the water would start pushing back in.  I picked up Aaron Ferguson’s Jackson Kraken for this trip to see how this offshore kayak would handle the skinny water and deep mud of the marsh.

Photo Apr 25

We launched before first light and made the short paddle to the area we planned to fish. We were floating through 6-8 inches of water, looking for signs of redfish when we came across a small flat with submerged grass. The area was about the size of a football field with plenty of active bait hiding among the vegetation. Large patches of underwater vegetation are great places for small shrimp and baitfish to seek refuge from predators, and the redfish knew that, and didn’t mind rooting around for them. I started off throwing a black and orange She Pup to avoid getting caught in the grass before spotting a group of a dozen tails about 30 yards away. I called Michael over and told him to put his fly rod to work.

Photo Apr 26, 7 13 51 AM

 

Once Michael arrived, I backed away and watched, as he calmly approached the school, taking his time before making a cast. The first cast fell a few feet short, but the next one was right on the money. A fish bolted from the school, his line went tight, and the 9-foot buggy whip bent over. After a solid 10-minute fight, the mid slot red gave in and the first fish of the day hit the deck of Michael’s Cuda 14. After a few quick photos, the red was released, and our search for the next fish continued.

Photo Apr 26, 7 19 55 AM

Micahel Harris on the fly

It didn’t take long before I spotted another (or the same) school of tails not far from the location of the first and made my way towards them. Michael had already landed him a fish, so now it was my turn. Throughout the month of April, I have gone with a Curl Tail Bugg on 90% of my trips with good results, and I wasn’t about to change things up. All the bait I’ve been seeing is still relatively tiny, so it only makes sense to continue matching the hatch.

Hot Pink Curl Tail Bugg

I fired my little Bugg out in front of the tails, let it sink for a few seconds, and gave it one little twitch. I felt that familiar thump, followed by a good amount of drag peeling, and set the hook. The school scattered and a few minutes later my fish hit the net. I figured I could hang around the grass and wait for the fish to regroup, but I really wanted to push back further in hopes of locating a few crawlers.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of convincing a redfish in really shallow water to eat. By shallow, I mean the ability to see their head, back, and tail as they crawl through 3-4 inches of water. Most people think this should be an easy task, when in reality; it can be the most difficult bite to obtain. Fish this shallow are on full alert and very spooky since they are completely exposed. To make a long story short, I spotted a dozen crawlers, got within casting distance of about 3, and only caught one, once again, on my Hot Pink Curl Tail Bugg.

Photo Apr 26, 5 07 37 PM

I look forward to the next 6 months of fishing. The marsh will remain full of reds, and they’ll be hitting everything from a topwater to a soft plastic. I’ll stick with my little Bugg for the rest of this month; however, a MirrOlure She Dog will be close by for that topwater itch I need to scratch.

I did receive a few nice packages in the mail from Jackson Kayak last week.  The first was my new 2015 Cuda 14 which I plan to do a full post about showing all of the improvements Jackson has made compared to my first Cuda, along with everything I love about this kayak.

Photo May 06, 4 31 04 PM

The other package was a new team shirt and hat that will be nice to wear during tournaments, demo days, and fishing shows.

Photo May 08, 8 03 20 AM

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West Houston Kayak Club-TKF Speaking

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If you live in the Houston area and would like to hear me talk about catching redfish, I’ll be speaking to the West Houston Kayak Club on February 10th. The meeting will take place at Midway BBQ in Kay, TX in the large meeting room from 6:30 to 8:00. The topic will be “Redfish Lures: When and Where to Throw Them”. I’ll be focusing on my favorite lures for redfish and explaining certain situations where I like to use each of them along with the reasons why. I have a 32 page PowerPoint presnetation full of pictures, videos, and helpful information from my experiences on the water over the years. Grab a friend, come enjoy some good BBQ, and talk fishing with me for an hour.

 

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Hydra Buggs Lure Review

27"+ on the Hydra Bugg

Hydra Bugg (Hot Pink)

Tied Like Flies, Fished Like Lures, Buggs Catch Fish.  That’s the slogan that owner and creator Heath Hippel chose for his line of lures about four years ago.  For this fisherman, those words could not be more true.  I started using Buggs shortly after purchasing my kayak in the summer of 2011 and have caught my fair share of redfish with both the Beastie Bugg and Curl-Tail Bugg, the majority of them being sight casted in less than a foot of water.  To this date I have not found a better lure to throw when redfish are swimming through water so shallow you think they have no business being there.  The soft landing, the flow of the bunny fur with the water, and the ability to imitate those tiny shrimp that reds key in on so often make the Beastie Bugg and Curl-Tail Bugg a must have in my tackle box.

Beastie Buggs

For the past two months I have been fishing with the newest edition to the Buggs family known as the Hydra Bugg.  I was excited to get my hands on this lure from Heath a few weeks before its initial release during a trip we made to Galveston in search of a few marsh reds. The Hot Pink immediately caught my eye since plenty of shrimp had been spotted the weekend before so I tied it on and added a 4″ hot pink glitter tail. I was excited to see how the fish would react to this lure with the new upgrades such as the dual rattle chambers, the larger curl tail, and a different shaped jighead than all the previous Buggs.  On this particular trip I was able to use the Hydra Bugg in a variety of different scenarios with great success.  I caught my first fish from a small pod cruising a shoreline, my next while blind casting a small channel with slightly deeper water, and another that was sight casted in eight inches of water.  My initial thought while driving home from that trip was, “This Bugg is pretty versatile”.  You can see the Hydra Bugg in action by watching the video below which was filmed on that day.

 

The reds had been all over it but I really wanted to see how the trout would react.  There were a few key features that made me think that trout would be all over this lure.  A few weeks later I got the opportunity when a friend and I made the drive to the Matagorda Bay area.  I was able to catch a few trout fishing over scattered shell in about four feet of water while slowly bumping it along the bottom.  After stringing three trout I decided to paddle into the marsh in search of a few reds and was able to pick up a couple near a grassy shoreline.  While I haven’t had the opportunity to try them out on flounder, I could really see them being used with great success.  The video below is of me sight casting a red in water that my kayak could barely float in.

 

What sets the Hydra Bugg apart from previous Buggs can be seen in the shape of the jig head, the addition of steel BB filled chambers, and the length of the longer curl tail.  Heath still uses bunny fur which gives the lure that great realistic look while being bounced along a soft mud bottom or during a steady retrieve over scattered shell.  Photo Jul 17, 3 25 21 PMWhile the original Buggs were all tied on a flat jighead that caused a slow fall through the water, the new Hydra Bugg is tied to a jig head that is more round in shape, which causes it to have a much faster fall.  This Bugg also comes with two small air tight plastic chambers consisting of three steel BBs each.  The plastic cases are held in place by a silicone band that will not warp or crack, and is located just above the small spring that prevents the soft plastic tail from sliding off. While the Hydra moves through the water, the BBs create a soft clicking noise that imitates the sound made by fleeing shrimp. While the Curl Tail Buggs come with a three inch tail, the new Hydra Bugg uses a nice four inch tail that gives it plenty of action as you work it through the  water.  You also have the option to change out the color of the tail depending on the conditions or to suite your personal preference.  With fifteen colors available for purchase, you have plenty of options when it comes to customizing this lure to your liking.  The Hydra Bugg is also a little larger in size than the previous Buggs which gives you that extra distance while casting and makes it a little easier for big fish to locate in the water.

Heath

Creator Heath Hippel with a nice red on the curl-tail jig

While the Beastie Bugg and Curl Tail Jig will always have a place in my tackle box for those times when redfish are really shallow and spooky, the Hydra Bugg will too.  The sound, action, and sight of this lure while its in the water makes it a great addition to any fisherman’s tackle box whether you are chasing reds through the marsh or pulling trout off of a shallow reef.  My favorite colors so far have been the Chained Beast with a pearl tail and Hot Pink with a hot pink glitter tail.

Hydra Bugg (Glow Chartreuse with Chartreuse Glitter Tail)

For more information on Buggs Lures you can visit their website at: http://www.buggs-fishing-lures.com or to purchase your own visit http://www.buggfishingstore.com

Hydra Bugg (Hot Pink with Hot Pink Glitter Tail)

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