All Predators Use Structure for Cover and Ambush Points

All Predators Use Structure for Cover and Ambush Points
Now that is clear water!

Good Ol’ Mother Nature continues to play havoc with our weather patterns. One day she gives us typical April conditions and then another cold front arrives overnight dropping water temperatures and tide levels. I am not sure which I despise more but I’m definitely not fond of either in April. This article will hopefully help you prepare for dealing with such changes. We cannot control the weather but we can certainly adjust our fishing game plans.

Before he passed my dad told me if I was going to let every bad weather day on the water ruin the rest of my day off the water, I needed to look for another profession. Luckily I was still very coachable at that age so I listened to him. With that said, you have to be able to read the weather pattern and then react to what you see and what you feel in your gut. Experience with such changes certainly contributes to the confidence many seasoned anglers possess. Seasoned, however, doesn’t necessarily mean old, but if it did I would have both.

Water temperatures the past two weeks have been as high as 68° and as low as 56°. Remember that I am fishing shallow grass flats and shorelines that cool quickly with drops in air temperature and water levels. Both of these must factor into your daily and even hourly approach to your day. I know you have heard me say many times that we need to learn to clean the canvas at the end of each day and allow the next day to present a new picture. Never has this been more true than the present.

I have been fishing south of Rockport so far this year. I spent the whole of 2021 on the southern end of my bay system believing that greater numbers of trout survived the freeze on that end. On days with high north or south wind I am focused on grass flats with small but deeper potholes. By my measure the largest fish have been setting up in the smaller and deeper potholes. When winds are southeast with lower barometric pressure the fish seem to eat well and eat just about anything I throw at them. With higher pressure and light winds the attitude changes dramatically and I am seeing better success with lures that incite reaction strikes versus eating strikes. Fly fishermen use the word eat and I like that reference, so I stole it.

Texas Customs Double D and Custom Corkys Soft Dine, and especially the Bay Mistress floating Fat Boys, have been excellent choices. On many occasions I will try to make them eat what I want to throw, but that doesn’t always work and I am forced to change. I think the lesson here is that we must remain open to change at all times.

We all have our favorite or go-to lures, lures in which we have great confidence. I probably struggled with this more than anything over the past ten years. I say ten years because up until that time the fishery was still very predictable and fish numbers were good. Throw in a drought, flood, major hurricane, bad freeze, and the destruction of many area oyster reefs and the end result will be tougher fishing. The reef destruction is completely ridiculous in my opinion. How those in charge of managing this resource have allowed things to get where they are is beyond me. I really feel for the local oyster boats that have been pushed out by those not from the area.

So back to the real stuff – I have had very few days when my waters have not been clear, so I am forced to be continuously aware of every fish that refuses a presentation, and then tweak the way I’m presenting it or change my lure. I have gotten to the point where I am forced to keep my clients close so that I can coach them constantly on what we need to be throwing and how we need to be presenting it. My son Ryan gets to do this with me when we fish for bass, which is a lot easier being together in the boat, as compared to working with a group of wading anglers. Just for the record; we are headed to Choke Canyon as I write. Ryan is driving and I’m pecking the keyboard on my laptop. Seems I just can’t get enough of fishing.

On days with sandy-green water, we are seeing much higher success during the periods of the day when the fish are not supposed to be eating. This is the time when I am able to observe the reaction to lure presentations that produce best for us. Just yesterday during a down period, we found decent trout in good numbers on the very outside grass beds of a submerged sand point where scattered grass up shallow would have normally been the structure for feeding periods. I love to locate the very outside pieces of structure that match up with  the shallower structures that our trout would normally be using during feeding periods. Like; is an understatement, I love this pattern and it flat out works for me.

I see this pattern play out year round when tides are low and winds light to moderate. In strong wind conditions our water normally sands up and this places a comforting layer of cover over the shallow structure and they will stay up shallow for us. I will also say that this pattern is more effective when the primary feeding area is very close to deeper water. I think bass use this type of structure very similarly. Just yesterday on Choke Canyon, Ryan and I found bass on shallow grass early, and then by mid-afternoon they dropped to more than nine feet, but still very near that same grass edge where we had caught them earlier. Whether the fish are silver or green matters not to me, they are all predators, and they use structure as cover and ambush points.

My trout bite in Rockport is slower than last year. I know that sounds crazy when you consider that we were only a few months past the freeze that killed a great number of fish last spring. Our weather patterns have definitely not been as favorable as I would prefer for my typical springtime areas. I believe lower tide levels have been a major factor in this. Personally, I hate prolonged periods of low water during months that typically show us higher than normal tides. This will change and soon we will forget about how tough it has been and will be enjoying a seasonal bounty that April and May are known to provide. For now we will just have to fish smarter and be a little more focused on ALL the aspects involved with those days when we find success. Patterning is always at the top of my list when it comes to success, so if it is not yours you might want to give it a try.

May your fishing always be catching!  -Guide, Jay Watkins