"How do you know where to start fishing?" I asked Christianson, scanning the wide expanse of the bay's largely featureless surface once the boat had come off plane.
My host threw me a wry smile. "You don't."
Meanwhile, Christianson's 15-year-old son, Ryan, was busy threading a live ghost shrimp on his hook. Ryan and his dad had "pumped" a fair number of shrimp from the mud flats the night before, so we had a good supply of the kind of baits Christianson said bonefish like best.
As we began our first drift in 11 feet of dirty-green water and I pinched a small split-shot on my six-pound line, Christianson explained that much of the back bay was of a similar depth--nothing more than a flat mud bottom. "You just pick a spot and start drifting," he said. "If you don't get bit, you just keep moving around until you find the fish."
I was the last one to get a bait in the water, but I hadn't bounced bottom for more than a few seconds before my line tightened abruptly. Instinctively, I set the hook hard and felt something solid. Christianson laughed. "Must be a bass. If that had been a bonefish, you'd have broken him off."
As I struggled to bring in what indeed proved to be an 11-inch sand bass, Christianson explained that back-bay bonefish often slam a bait with authority and take off like a lightning bolt, so setting the hook hard is a good way to snap the light line. "Believe me, I know," he said, rolling his eyes.