Consistently Fishing the Inconsistent
Looking at the Gulf of Mexico coast, there is more shoreline available than an angler could fish in a lifetime. Even if we were to focus only on Texas, you could fish every body of water in the state but you may never see every aspect of it. From the Sabine to the Rio Grande, our state has more coastline features than you can shake a stick at. There are oyster reefs, grass flats, sand bars, islands, ditches, bayous and more. Even though our coastline seems to be one consistent piece of land, the inconsistencies are where anglers should focus their efforts.
A few years back I had a buddy that wanted to come down and learn some of the marshes around Sabine. I told him to pick a day that works for him and I would be happy to show him around. We finally got a chance to go and on the way out to some of my favorite ponds I gave him a rundown of what we are going to be doing and looking for. We caught a few fish and as the morning went on he finally asked me a question. “What exactly are we targeting?” I was as confused by the question as he was with what we were doing. My reply was simple and the only one I had at the time. “The marsh,” I told him. I didn’t really know how else to explain it but as the conversation continued I began to understand what he meant. He kept saying that since there are not any oyster clumps on the shorelines and grass is at minimum, what are we targeting? To be fair, that is a completely reasonable question because we were sitting in a pond about two feet deep with a mud bottom all the way across, and with no specific or defining underwater features. This is when the lightbulb in my head came on.
I turned the boat around and dropped the Power Pole to provide a clearer view from which we could view the path we had traveled. I began to point out where the three fish that we caught that morning came from. I explained that the last fish came off that little point; it may not look like much but it is enough for a fish to get behind and stage for an ambush. Our second fish came from a slight depression in the bottom, very subtle but enough of a pocket or pothole with slightly less grass to influence how water currents would flow across it. With the proper wind or tide, water draining off the adjacent flat could form a swirl or eddy, enough to influence bait movement and catch the attention of a hungry fish. And then I pointed across to the other side of the pond at the little group of bushes growing randomly on the shoreline and casting a shadow on the water. I said that is where our first fish came from.
From that day forward, I began paying greater attention to the layout and features of the areas I was fishing and correlating these with the places I was seeing and/or catching fish. This is when it started to click for me that the minor differences in a pond or shoreline can make all the difference in the world when it comes to targeting fish.
The thing about this concept is that it doesn’t just work here on the Upper Texas coast, it can be implemented everywhere. One of the most valuable lessons I have been taught came from Jamie Hough who drove from South Carolina to fish a tournament on Sabine. I asked him how does someone drive halfway across the country and make the transition to catching fish in our marsh? He told me that no matter where he goes he targets the Three Ps—Points, Pockets and Patches of grass. That concept was not new to me but I have never heard it phrased as such. He is 100% correct though; you should cast at every point, pocket and patch of grass that you may happen upon. One of these three variables may be the only distinguishable features in an area but quite often will be just enough to hold a fish or two on a consistent basis.
Another place I like to put this concept to work is at the jetties or other rocky structure. If you have ever spent anytime fishing these types of structure you likely have noticed certain spots that seem to always hold fish. Odds are there is something unique about that one section of structure that provides an ideal place to attract bait or ambush point for predators. One of my favorite things to look for are sections that are sunken just enough to allow water to flow across the top. With tide or even wakes of passing barge and ship traffic, water will drain across the rocks and fish will be waiting for bait to flow over for an easy meal. This subtle difference is something to target when you are looking at mile-long stretches of what seems to be the same rocks.There are plenty of ways to target and catch fish but for me, I have learned to pay attention to the subtle differences in the areas I fish. They may not look like much but they are certainly worth taking note of and always worth a few casts. These inconsistent or irregular features can be a huge help to consistently catching fish.