Both captains agree on lure choice: Bass Assassins in either a 4- or 5-inch Sea Shad in Chicken-on-a-Chain color work well. “When the water gets clear, I like Opening Night or Glow colors,” says Grimes. Both captains note consistent topwater action, especially when the reds get into a glass minnow eat-a-thon. Says Grimes: “It’s not uncommon to have redfish swimming all around my customers, between our legs and even running into us. It’s pretty special to see a herd of them coming and be able to pick apart the edges of the school with topwaters. Wade-fishing allows us to do that.”
Grimes prefers smaller topwater lures like MirrOlure’s She Pup in pink-and-chrome as well as Super Spook juniors in chartreuse-and-chrome. Redfish are nose-down predators rather than nose-up feeders like seatrout, so the hookup ratio is a bit better with the smaller topwater lures. “We all know redfish have a tougher time eating big topwaters, plus those smaller lures mimic glass minnows. But don’t get me wrong: The bigger ones crush the bigger topwaters.” And he is never afraid to go old-school on these shallow-water bruisers: “Nothing can beat the consistency of a gold spoon.”
Back Bays and Bruisers in Boats
Juvenile redfish spend their first year inside Texas estuaries foraging on shrimp, crabs, menhaden, mullet and other species that seek shelter in the emergent coastal wetlands. The abundance of bait produces explosive growth rates, according to Jerald Horst, author of The Angler’s Guide to Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. By the age of two, females can grow to an average of nearly 28 inches and weigh close to nine pounds, while their male counterparts hit eight pounds. As the lunar effects of spring push fertile green water into the bays, Grimes pursues redfish into the back bays where they forage and grow. The back lakes of West Bay — Oyster Lake, Crab Lake and Mud Lake — become good areas to target them. “All the lakes come into play,” says Grimes. Typically he uses a sliding-cork rig to locate schools as he drifts across reef and structure. “We have been using MidCoast Product’s Nexus corks over the Bass Assassins. They work really well at locating schools.” The area is known as a fantastic bull red fishery as well. “We are able to catch really big bulls at our passes too, and fall and spring are incredible,” he says.
Bull reds come to the forage-producing passes like geese to wheat fields in these parts. While seasoned fishermen usually key in during fall (which is notorious for producing both larger fish as well as the greatest number of them), anglers sometimes overlook the spring big-fish run. Those in the know consider the full moon in April the start of a spectacular post-winter run of the bruiser reds. According to Grimes, the bull reds are abundant: “We fish the jetty of the Colorado River, and even though it’s somewhat shallower than other passes, we will make the short run to the Port O’Connor Jetty.” Grimes’ technique is typical and incorporates circle hooks on Carolina-rigged mono with egg sinkers up to 2 ounces. He likes fresh cracked crab or cut mullet. “The Port O’Connor pass is deeper. Typically I like to slow-drift or anchor in about 35 feet of water. The fish continue to move in and out of passes and estuaries through May and June as well, but by July, the fish scatter and school offshore,” he says.
Twice a Day
There is always something magical about a sunrise in paradise. As we relaxed after a full day of catch-and-release fishing, I recalled that amazing East Matagorda sunrise, soon to be rivaled by West Matagorda’s sunset. Here in South Texas, East and West Matagorda Bay anglers are honored to see it twice, especially when viewed from the deck of the Sunrise Lodge.