"So you are sure there aren't any sharks here," I said, preparing to don my wading boots and slip over the side of Brandon Shuler's Texas scooter skiff.
"I can't say for sure, but we've never had a fisherman have a problem in the 10 years we've been running our lodge," Shuler said. "But there's always a first time," he added, smiling.
We were getting ready to start the day on a shallow flat just outside Port Mansfield, Texas, on the southern end of the famed Laguna Madre. My innate fear of the man in the gray suit notwithstanding, over the side I went for my first crack at South Texas redfish.
"We don't have the numbers of sharks that other top Gulf Coast redfish hot spots have to contend with," said Shuler, referring to wading spots where routine interactions with blacktip and bull sharks result in missing stringers and wounded egos.
But even if they did have that many sharks, the reward would be well worth the risk. I say this none too lightly - at the risk of my trailer tires getting slashed the next time I park at a ramp along East Central Florida's Mosquito or Indian River lagoons - but South Texas might just have the finest redfishing in the world.
Over three days, Shuler and fishing buddies Jeff Samsel and Mark Schindel from Pradco and Bomber lures caught and released more redfish - literally - than we could count. And all came on artificials. In fact, just about any type of artificial you could imagine. Everyting from YUM! soft plastic jerkbaits to traditional Zara Spooks to radical new popping topwaters like the Bomber Poppin' Shrimp led to double-digit-per-angler days for three days running.
The Laguna Madre runs more than 130 miles from Corpus Christi to Port Isabel on the southern end of the Texas coast. Separating the mainland from Padre Island and the Gulf of Mexico, the lagoon covers more than 609 square miles of coastal estuary.