A Passion for Fishing…

A Passion for Fishing…
Happy angler with a nice wahoo.
As a child, fishing was not just a pastime, it consumed every waking hour. The wonder and anticipation of what the next cast might bring kept me going. Back then, I rarely paid attention to weather, water conditions, or seasonal pattern; I simply went fishing. Sitting here writing this brings back memories of my dad and me working white bass and putting up stringers of one hundred. I also remember a day at the old Buccaneer field pulling baits for kingfish without a bite. We loved catching but it wasn't only about how many we caught; it was about the experience and the anticipation of what the outing might bring.

As I grew older the passion always remained but the game soon changed. I had hit the point where I started to wonder what I was doing wrong on slow days and began paying attention to what worked and didn't work in various conditions. I can remember as a teenager at dinner giving my parents the long version of what I had caught, how I had done it, and why it worked. My mother would smile and say, "If you remembered your school work as well as your fishing you would be an "A" student."

My father was very instrumental in furthering my education and my opportunity. We were not from a fishing family with generations of experience. We didn't have the resources to pay someone to teach us the finer points. We simply pursued the sport with determination to learn and understand every aspect of the fisheries we loved.

Fishing has brought me a long way and I now earn my living as a fulltime fishing and hunting guide on the upper Texas coast. My passion has never faded. I look upon a new day just as I did in my childhood and I consider it an honor to be able to bring those experiences and knowledge to each and every one of my customers. The excitement of a day offshore for someone who has never experienced it will make you put your game face on, so to speak, and I honestly enjoy watching other people catch fish. The surprise of a hard-running wahoo or the shock of that first hookup on a solid amberjack brings a smile every time. The novice fisherman catching snapper as fast as he can bait his hook presents the opportunity to teach what I have worked so hard to learn. A man once told me there are lots of good fishermen but a successful guide is a good teacher. I have strived to remember that and make it a part of my daily routine.

I'm Michael Jennings of Cowboy Charters in Freeport Texas. I am a native of Brazoria County and graduated from Angleton High in 1985. My experience fishing the offshore waters of the upper Texas coast goes back to the late 70s with a family friend on a borrowed Grady White. Life has taken me many places but my love of the water has always brought me back to the coast.

My favorite late winter-spring species is wahoo. These fast-moving gamefish congregate along and just inshore of the continental shelf, typically beginning in late January over live bottom, in 150 to 300 feet of water. These pre-spawn aggregations are usually easy to target up until the fish begin to scatter during late April. During the spawn the fish seem to be more solitary and can be encountered in water sometime as shallow as 75 feet. The preferred bait varies among anglers but I prefer to keep it simple. I am not a big fan of the artificial-dead bait combos and concentrate more on speed and location while presenting assorted baits and colors until finding what the fish want. Braid Marauders and Islanders have a large following and while these baits work very well at times never discount your simple jet heads and heavy trolling baits.

My typical approach is to pull baits faster and further back than most are accustomed. I have noticed over time that I seem to be most successful on the bait furthest back in my spread. I typically fish out of twin or triple engine outboard boats and with the exhaust in the prop wash the clean water is further back in the wake. I will make my first pass at about 7.5 knots and if I'm convinced the fish are there I will begin to increase my speed on subsequent passes up to 10 and even 11 knots. Do not fear pulling a bait too fast, so long as it swims well. I also advise not getting stuck on so-called go-to baits. By all means pull it; but not to the extent of ignoring others if it's not working.

I believe in trying new approaches while paying close attention to what is going on around you. One of my most memorable spring trips to the East Flower Garden Bank started out very slow. We spent nearly two hours trolling and drifting without a single knockdown and suddenly I realized the bait breaking the surface was very small. I dug in my bags and found two small jet heads about five inches long; heads, skirts, and all. Our first fish came on the next pass and another hour produced five wahoo averaging fifty poundsnot an impressive haul for the Gardens, but another valuable lesson learned.

As I begin another season my thoughts take me back to a time when it was simply about the fishing and a young boy who had a dream of spending a life on the water. It reminds me that no matter how much we think we know we can better our knowledge and improve our success if we simply pay attention and remember all the lessons.

I owe all the credit to my mother and father. They not only helped forge my passion for the sport they taught me the work ethic to succeed. They constantly urged me to pursue my dreams and taught me that the greatest joy of doing what you love is realized through sharing it with others. Regardless of your experience or skill, never let your passion die and take every opportunity to share the joy and excitement with everyone you can.