Posts Tagged With: Jackson Kayak

Putting in the Miles to Find the Fish

 

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On Saturday my little girl asked if she could stay the night at her Granny’s house, which gave me a chance to hit the water on Sunday morning.  The wind was predicted to be between 15 and 20 mph out of the east, but I decided to tough it out and see what I could find.

I launched just after first light and made my way into the marsh.  The water was high, red, and fresh, which had me a little worried about the location I had chosen.  I thought I might find a little cleaner/saltier water if I paddled deep enough into the marsh, but conditions never changed.  After paddling three miles without any signs of bait or predator, I decided to change directions and fish another spot.

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I paddled for several miles down narrow channels through several small lakes before the water turned it’s normal brown and I was able to taste a little salt.  At about that time I looked across the lake and saw a few birds hovering over the water.  My first cast produced a 33″ bull and my 2nd broke me off.  I have been using the same cork and leader for over a month now and I guess the leader finally wore down.  The school stayed together long enough for me to pull two more fish from it (a 18″ and 25″ red) before they broke apart for good.

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I spent the next 2 hours working the wind blown shoreline and caught another 15 reds. Bulls, slots, and rats were all mixed in together  having a feeding frenzy.  With the extra high tides the key was putting the cork a foot off the grassline of the windblown shoreline and giving several hard pops to get their attention.  It never took more than a few pops before it would go under and I’d have a fish on.  I even caught a small rat that took the gulp off the bow of my kayak while paddling.  The action never really died off, I just ran out of time and needed to get home.  Despite the 13.7 miles I covered in the nasty wind (Thank God for carbon fiber paddles), it was a productive day on the water.  I kept my first three reds of the day for redfish cakes. The link to the recipe is below.

https://tailtailsigns.com/recipes/redfish-cakes/

 

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For those looking for a solid popping cork that will not only last, but creates a great chug when popped, check out the Bomber Paradise Popper.  By my estimate, I’ve landed more than 50 reds on it and the wire leader is still just as straight as the day I bought it.  It runs around $7 but you can use it seems like you can use it forever.

This was a solo trip and I left my Go Pros at work so the pics aren’t that great.

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Conditions:

Wind: 15 – 20 mph from the east

Weather: Sunny skies with temps around 70 degrees

Tides: Outgoing

Bottom: Soft Mud

Depth: 2-4 feet deep in most areas

Lures: Bomber Paradise Popper with Gulp Pogy on a 1/8 oz. jighead

Rod and Reel: Daiwa Ballistic EX 2500 on a 7′ 2″ Hook Spit Zephyr Elite

Kayak: Jackson Cuda LT

Paddle: 250 cm Werner Cyrpus: Hooked

 

 

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…

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One of the crazy things about fishing is how making a minor change on the water can have such a huge impact on the amount of fish you catch. Last month I made a rare afternoon trip to an area that I had fished once before, but had wanted to explore a little more thoroughly for some time now. I had put in some time on Google earth and found a few shallow patches of shell near the south shoreline of this small lake which made me think it had some potential. I had a decent south wind on this particular evening so I decided to seek shelter and take advantage of the protection that the south shoreline would offer.

I paddle straight into the wind to reach my destination and spent the next several hours casting around the edges of the shallow shell with a She Dog and a soft plastic, neither of which produced a single blowup or bite. I found it hard to believe that I hadn’t caught a single redfish, especially considering the areas I was fishing and the amount of casts I had made. I had an average depth that was between one and two feet deep, a soft mud bottom, small patches of shell, and plenty of bait in the water. And yet I didn’t have a single fish to show for my efforts.

I had been at it for a while now and started running a little low on daylight. I decided to head back towards the launch a little earlier than I had originally planned in order to keep from having to paddle back in the dark. The wind had finally let up a bit so I made a decision to give the wind blown shoreline a try before leaving.  I also switched over to a popping cork with gulp shrimp to see if I could create a little noise and bring the fish to me. The north side of the lake lacked structure so I had not planned on giving it a try. However, since it had been receiving a constant barrage of wind and waves, it only made since to give it a shot.

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I made my first cast and hadn’t made more than a few pops of the Cork, when it suddenly disappeared. I reeled in my line to find a nice little 18-inch marsh trout. Not exactly what I was looking for but it got the skunk off my back. After tossing him back, I made a few more cast and the cork disappeared once again. This time I a nice lower slot red was on the end of my line.

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For the next hour the action was nonstop.  I ended the trip with 10 reds and one trout before running out of daylight and being forced to head in. On my paddle back to the truck I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the change in location, the change in my set up, or a combination of the two that made the big difference on this trip.  I still haven’t figured that one out, but it was nice to be reminded just how much of a difference a small adjustment can make while on the water.

Conditions:

Wind: 15 mph from the south early on and 5 mph from the south at the end of the day

Weather: Sunny skies with temps around 80 degrees

Tides: Outgoing

Bottom: Mud with small patches of shell

Depth: 1-2 feet deep in most areas

Lures: Bomber Paradise Popper with Mantis Shrimp on a 1/16 oz. jighead

Rod and Reel: Daiwa Ballistic EX 2500 on a 7′ 2″ Hook Spit Zephyr Elite

Kayak: Jackson Cuda LT

Paddle: 250 cm Werner Cyrpus: Hooked

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Werner Paddles announces the new Hooked: Jackson Kayaks-Limited Edition paddle

In a collaborative effort joining 2 great American paddling families, Werner Paddles brings kayak fishing performance in a great new color scheme.  Introducing the “Jackson Kayaks-Limited Edition” Hooked kayak fishing paddle.

Jackson Werner

Introducing their new HD Graphic process this past September, with their new “Trophy” and “Catch” options, the Jackson Kayaks-LE will now also be available on the Shuna and Camano: Hooked models.  The graphic is taken directly from the “GI Jackson” color scheme, Jackson’s most popular to date with anglers.

The philosophy of a “Great kayak fishing paddle is a great paddling paddle,” remains the core of Werner’s line focusing on performance and craftsmanship.   However when you can match that with looking good and having fun, everyone is winning.

Authorized Werner Paddle’s dealers will start stocking the new model starting immediately.

Hours from where the initial paddles were built in the family garage Werner Paddle’s remain family owned and handcrafted in Sultan WA, USA.  2015 marks their 50th Year of paddle experience, learn more at www.wernerpaddles.com

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Hook Spit Lone Star Kayak Series 2015 Event #4

October 2015 LSKS

For the first time since last spring, I actually considered putting on a jacket to start the morning. The temps were in the mid 60s with a cool breeze blowing through the air, which was a nice change from the heat we’ve had this summer. Johnathan Meadows and I were fishing the last event of the 2015 Lone Star Kayak Series on this morning and were patiently waiting for the clock to show 6 am so that we could begin our day.

6th Place

 

We were the only two people at our launch, which in my opinion is always a small advantage on tournament day. We wouldn’t have to worry about dodging other anglers that were fishing the tournament or miss out on fishing certain areas because someone else arrived first. I’ve spent 99% of my kayak trips sitting in the seat of a Jackson Cuda 14, but on this particular morning I decided to go with the Cuda LT instead. The marsh we were fishing consists of several dozen small lakes that go on for as far as the eye can see. With the Cuda LT weighing in around 20lbs. lighter and a little over a foot shorter than my Cuda 14, I decided to go with the kayak that had the ability to make sharp turns without needing a lot of space.

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We pushed off into the dark at 6 am and made the short paddle to the first lake we planned to fish. Johnathan started off throwing a topwater while I went with a popping cork and gulp. The plan was to throw different set ups to see what the fish were wanting and then both go with the lure that was producing more fish. It didn’t take long before I had my first bite on the cork which turned out to be a solid 26 ½” redfish. A few minutes later I had my second bite of the day, a chunky 25” red which gave me two fish on the stringer before the sun had a chance to peak over the horizon. Anyone that has ever fished a tournament knows how good I feels to have 12+ lbs. on the stringer within the first hour. It was obvious that it was going to be a popping cork kind of day with the higher than normal tides, so Johnathan put down the topwater and grab his rod with the cork on it. Anyone that’s in the market for a good popping cork rod that won’t break the bank should check out the Hook Spit Zephyr Elite.  At 7′ 2″ you can make those long casts and pop a cork the way its meant to be popped wit the extra fast tip.  It’s a great popping cork rod priced at $159.

Another one for Clint

Another one for Clint

 

It didn’t take long before we figured out the pattern for the day and both had fish two fish on the stringer. With a decent NE wind blowing through the marsh, we used it to our advantage by focusing on all points and small coves on the windblown shoreline. It seemed like every point held at least one fish, along with any small cove that was located on the SE shoreline. The reds would wait on the wind protected side of the points and ambush the bait as the current forced it by or they would focus on the bait that was unwillingly being pushed up against the shoreline by the wind.

At one point we thought we had doubled up on two solid reds, but come to find out, Johnathan had a 27 ¾” red while I had a two foot alligator. It didn’t take long for the gator to realize what was going on and make a mad dash for the protection of the tall grass on the shoreline. He hit the bank and never looked back, eventually slicing through my leader and letting me keep my cork.

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Shortly after the gator broke me off I was able to sightcast a 30” red by standing up in the LT and letting the wind push me towards the tailing fish. I could tell this fish would be out of the slot, but who can resist sightcasting a 30” red in a foot of water. Johnathan was able to catch an oversized red a few hours later as it and a couple of other fish were barreling down the shoreline destroying any bait in their sight.

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We ended the day each catching more 6 lb. reds than we could count, our two oversized fish, and a few larger ones that stayed in the slot and made the trip to the weighin. In the end, Johnathan took home 1st place out of 96 anglers with 15.56 lbs. while I finished 6th with 13.15 lbs. Congratulations goes out to Jason Blackwell who took home Angler of the year honors once again, giving him his third AOY trophy in as many years.

1st and 6th Walking to the table

1st and 6th Walking to the table

 

We had a great day on the water with a couple of nice stringers to end the tournament season. We took full advantage of the benefits that comes with fishing with a friend on tournament day, which I believe helped both us catch more fish than we would have alone

I’d like to give a huge thanks to Werner Paddles, Hook Spit Performance Rods, Buggs Fishing Lures, and Jackson Kayak at this time.  These companies provide me with quality products that have helped me become a better angler over the last several years.  I am truly blessed with the opportunity to represent them and look forward to doing the same when the 2016 tournament season kicks off.

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On a side note, the Lone Star Kayak Series will be back again next year, but the tournament owner and director will change. Dustin Koreba has decided to step down and hand it over to Cameron Barghi and Justin Rich. Cameron and Justin already run the Saltwater Survival Series and have been a part of the LSKS team since it began 4 years ago. We can expect a new beer sponsor and a few new lures, but overall, the things that make this tournament so special will remain the same. Now we all have to fish against Dustin instead of accepting prizes from him.

Conditions:

Wind: 10 mph from the NE

Weather: Sunny skies with temps between 65 and 75 degrees

Tides: Outgoing

Bottom: Mud with occasional patches of grass

Depth: 1-2 feet deep in most areas

Lures:

Bomber Paradise Popper with a Gulp Pogy or Mantis Shrimp on a 1/16 oz. jighead

TTF Killer Flats Minnow on a 1/8 oz. jighead

Rod and Reel:

Popping Cork setup – Daiwa Ballistic EX 2500 on a 7′ 2″ Hook Spit Zephyr Elite

Soft Plastic setup – Shimano Citica on a 6′ 10″ Hook Spit T-N-T

Kayak: Jackson Cuda LT

Paddle: 250 cm Werner Cyrpus: Hooked

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Fishing Tackle Unlimited Demo Day

 

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This past Saturday, Fishing Tackle Unlimited held its first demo day of the fall season at The Club at Riverstone, located in Sugarland, TX.  A little over 30o people showed up to paddle several different models of Jackson Kayaks including the Big Rig, Big Tuna, Cuda 14, Cuda LT, Coosa HD, and Kraken 15.5.  If you missed out on this one, there are two more events in October to take advantage of.  One on the 10th at Cross Creek Ranch in Fulshear and again on the 24th at Tuscan Lakes in League City.  For more information, visit the Fishing Tackle Unlimited web page.

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Hook Spit Lone Star Kayak Series #3 2015

Photo Credit: Jeff Herman

Photo Credit: Jeff Herman

I’ve often heard other tournament anglers say, “If you don’t have your fish by noon, odds are you’re probably not going to get them”. Although I would never give up while fishing a tournament, I have to admit that little saying had crossed my mind a couple times the other day during the Hook Spit Lone Star Kayak Series.

This was the third event of the season, and for the first time this year, I felt pretty good about my odds of doing well. The wind wasn’t bad, we had sunny skies, and I had been on some solid redfish over the last few weeks. Shallow patches of shell and soft mud bottoms had produced a good amount of redfish during the beginning of August, so I decided to stick with what had been working. The majority of my fish had come from a popping cork with gulp, with the rest coming off of a soft plastic that I would use to sight cast singles or pitch into a school.

Plan A was to locate the schools that had been roaming the area in recent weeks, but they were nowhere in sight. After spending a good hour trying to locate the school, I decided to head for shallower water with plenty of shell. I made a long drift across one of the larger lakes, staying within 30 yards of the shoreline, and on the edge of the large shell patches. I sight casted one small redfish along the shoreline before deciding to try the opposite side of the lake, which happened to be the wind protected shoreline.

Photo Credit: Aaron Ferguson

Photo Credit: Aaron Ferguson

As I approached the protected shoreline, I immediately noticed a few mud boils pop up, which was a good sign. I fan casted the area for a few minutes and hooked up with what felt like a solid fish. Five seconds into its first run, it spit the hook, leaving me with a sick feeling in my stomach. I decided to stay on the move, trying to spot more fish to cast at, but didn’t have any luck. I didn’t have much time left to fish, so I decided to work a small channel as a last ditch effort. I had one lower slot red on the stringer after seven hours of hard fishing, so the odds that I would pick up my second fish were looking pretty slim.

The channel only produced a few rat reds so I decided to fish my way back to the truck. I had only made it about 20 yards across the main lake when I spotted a group of birds hovering a few feet above the water about a half mile away. I knew these birds were on a school of fish, and that this was the best chance I’d have at picking up a much needed second fish. I caught up with the school after a five minute paddle and with one cast, I went from 41st to 9th place, thanks to the 26 1/4″ red that pounced on my soft plastic. The fish weighed in at 8.09 lbs. and ended up being the heaviest fish of the whole tournament. My two fish had a combined weight of 11.70 lbs. and helped me bring home a small amount of cash and a few prizes.

The fishing wasn’t hot and heavy on this day like it had been during my previous trips, but that’s how fishing goes. Still, I had a great time and enjoyed visiting with friends at the weighin. We have one event remaining this year in October and I’m looking forward to it.

Photo Credit: Aaron Ferguson

Photo Credit: Aaron Ferguson

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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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Flounder Fishing with my Nephew

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For the first time in over a month, I had a chance to get out on the water and do a little fishing from the kayak. I was able to take my nine year old nephew with me on this trip and we had a really good time.  He’s shown a great deal of interest in fishing lately and has been spending a lot of time catching fish from one of my parents ponds.  I figured this is as good a time as any to introduce him to both kayaking and saltwater fishing.

image1I swung by Fishing Tackle Unlimited the day before and picked up a Jackson Big Tuna (tandem kayak) for us to paddle.  For those looking at renting kayaks in the Houston area, FTU is a great place with plenty of options to choose from.

The ideal plan would have been to launch at 6 am and finish up around 10 or 11 since we are in the middle of July, but I wasn’t able to pick up my nephew until 10 am.  We made a quick stop at Bucee’s to grab a few waters and Gatorades in order to stay hydrated and continued on our way.  We arrived at our launch a little after 11 and met up with my good friend David.  We unloaded the kayaks and made our way to our flounder hole.  We arrived around noon, with temps already holding steady in the upper 90s and started looking for fish.  I started off throwing a couple of Buggs rigged tandem and picked up a solid 19″ flounder to start the day.

image3We moved around quite a bit until we found where the flat fish were holding.  I watched my nephew bring a few flounder to the surface before they spit the hook at him and dove back down.  Premature hook sets were the cause of the missed fish, but that was to be expected on a young boys first flounder trip since his initial reaction after each strike was to immediately set the hook.  After an hour or so he finally got one to commit and landed his first flounder.

The bite wasn’t hot and heavy, but we caught a fish every 15 – 20 minutes.  By the time four o’clock hit, we had a decent stringer of fish and needed to get out of the sun.  4″ white Gulp Swimming Mullet on 1/4 oz jighead produced the majority of our bites by slowly working them along a drop off from about 2 to 8 feet in depth.

My nephew tried to convince me to push further back into the marsh in search of redfish, but the wind was blowing every bit of 15 mph with gusts to 20.  I didn’t have the energy to battle the wind for several miles, but promised him we’d make another trip in the fall when big schools are roaming the marsh.

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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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