I see weekend fisherman that spend a lot of time on the water not really adapting to the methods that professionals use to catch fish consistently. If you are a lure aficionado or tournament angler then this article is not for you, sorry! I see a lot of authors writing about how fast to work your chartreuse, pumpkin seed, gold flakey, curly tailed fish whackers or to find sandy, shelly, grassy flats drop offs, so I thought I’d write something most of you could really use to catch fish more consistently!
I will go over the four or really five major types of fishing bait that we use as fishing guides. The first way to fish — although many guides have given up this method because it requires more effort to train the customers — is shrimp and popping cork (SPC). The second is anchoring up and fishing the sand pockets located in the flats. The third is anchoring up and fishing guts and isolated, deep-water areas locked within the flats systems. The four and fifth way are fishing with piggies (piggy perch, not pin perch) and croaker.
Now that I have the described the types of fishing we choose, let me explain when we use them — this is the most important part! Wind, is the most important indicator of what method we will use. I personally pray for wind so we can use the most popular, successful and frequently engaged method — shrimp and popping cork. SPC can be used for the longest time frame during the year! The SPC method also allows my customers more of a chance to do the fishing themselves instead of feeling all they do is reel in the fish! When the wind is blowing 15 knots or more this is the best option to catch fish! This is only an option in the Fall, Winter and Spring as the bait fish mature and others invade the flats system this methods becomes unfeasible, also the larger fish don’t seem to gobble up the shrimp as readily. If you use the SPC method in the summer on the big bay, the fish seem to range in the 14-inch-and-under category, which will leave you hungry at the end of the day!
If there is no wind, put the shrimp and popping cork aside. Seriously — you’ve got to get used to fishing the sand pockets (pot holes) and put your time in doing it! This is a very important tip; don’t try to revert back to drift fishing with shrimp and popping cork. It will take time to have confidence to do this type of fishing, but it is worth the effort because nothing is more effective on light wind or windless day. This type of fishing can be done with live mullet, cut mullet, dead shrimp, live shrimp, pin perch, piggy perch, ballyhoo or crabs. I like to use live bait predominantly when there is little wind, however I will almost always mix it up with cut bait too, just to add scent to the water. You can use everything from a jig head to a Carolina rig with various weights. We also add a water corks at times to get extra casting distance, which is very important on the days without wind!
The next style of fishing is low-tide fishing. Hopefully you’ve studied your map or taken note when you have been crossing he flats on normal days. If you did, you will have areas in the back of your mind to try when these conditions present themselves. Be very careful if you don’t know the area well, maybe watch another boat enter that area and wait your turn to try it. Remember some lanes into the deeper guts in the flats system aren’t even as wide as your boat. We use the anchor-up method of fishing on these days too, however the big difference is choosing bait. Since a low tide day can either be windy or calm, the way I determine my primary bait is based on this rule: Windy days use any type of bait that will create a scent. On calm days use live bait. The simple analysis is that on windy days, the water is murky and hard to see through. On calm days, the fish can actually see what they inhale from quite a distance!
Now the forth and fifth methods are very similar and I will combine them — piggies and croaker. The reason I made them two different styles is because of the areas we use them, croaker seem to stay effective way longer in the area north and south of Port Aransas, Texas, such as the Laguna to the South and San Antonio Bay to the north. In the Rockport and Port Aransas areas, croaker mature faster to be used as bait than piggies, but when piggies start coming in look out! Piggies and croaker are held very fondly by fishing guides because when you are on fish and the time is right you can’t find a hotter trout bait, not without saying Redfish will tear’em up too! We fish these types of bait at the rigs, grass edges off the deeper bay islands, reefs, Intercoastal waterway and sand pockets in the flats. The preferred rig is a size appropriate kahle hook tied to a 20-pound leader attached with a swivel or knot to the main line. The time of year we use this bait is from the about the middle of May into September. At that time the bait is predominantly too large and the schools start migrating.
Now that you know why and when we fish certain baits we can start talking about the various techniques that make a difference in presenting it to our prey, but that we have to save that for the next article! After all, I do have to make some time to fish instead of write! With all kidding aside I want to spend time covering each of these methods in depth as they all have their place in our fishing arsenal! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and remember: If you don’t eat it, release it. Try to release all big trout. Get a picture, it will last longer … And save some for the kids!
__**— Capt. Scott McCune**
“The Saltwater Cowboy”
Other Articles in this Series:
****Part 5: Low Tide