Cooler water and air temperatures along with overcast days conjure up a recipe for the coastal plugger and big fish are the main course on the angling menu. These conditions dictate a different approach and a different mentality from the rest of the year. Some things are obvious, slowing down and paying attention to water temps and tides go without saying. The more subtle approach and bait presentation are also high on the list.
At this time of the year many folks revert to slow sinking plugs in order to entice sluggish fish to bite. The slow sinking plugs like Corkies, Catch 5, and others take a little time and patience to master. Another option that is a little more user-friendly is the jerk bait. Many saltwater anglers rarely use these highly effective plugs, but the ones who do often swear by them. I really became a firm believer in how good these plugs work on a late winter trip to Calcasieu. "Man can you believe this water? This is beautiful," said Capt. Johnny Cormier of Orange. Indeed it was beautiful; three feet deep with a mix of heavy oyster and sand that was inhabited by plenty of redfish and a lunker trout or two. As we idled along studying the bottom we began to see fish darting away from the boat, most were redfish.
"Let's get out and wade this" said Cormier grabbing for his gear. "Hold on a minute, let's see if we get one of these out here to bite" was my reply. As Johnny found his wading belt a stout redfish found my offering, a Bill Lewis Slapstick. Needless to say we never made it out of the boat as the redfish continued to chew us up. Occasionally we would move a hundred yards or so until we found more fish but the pattern and the results were the same.
On that particular trip Johnny and I both tried different options for catching those redfish, a few other lures worked but they always had some kind of drawback. A Corky stayed hung in the shell just like the soft plastics on a jig head. The topwater offerings were refused and you just couldn't cast lighter baits in the wind. The solution was the Slapstick, a diving twitch bait that floats when not being pulled. The Slapstick at rest sits with the head above water and the tail straight down much like a person treading water. Once pulled or retrieved the Slapstick dives to about 2 or 3 feet maximum and rattles like all get out. It will also back up when you run it into structure such as shell, this little pause as it floats back near the surface usually triggers violent strikes. This plug is very castable even in the wind and that rates high on the "user friendly" scale.
The first time I really started throwing the Slapstick was several years ago; Ken Chaumont who fishes Calcasieu with the best of them turned me onto the plug, since then the Slapstick has become a mainstay in my box. Other plugs that fall into this category would be the Storm Thunderstick, Smithwick Rattlin Rogue, and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow.
A simple retrieve is all that is needed and the plug will do the rest, the results will speak for themselves. On those days when you just can't get a fish to come up and eat topwater this is the next best thing. Also the fact that most of these plugs float saves you some grief as well when you break off against unseen obstructions like shell. These plugs will usually float to the surface where they can be reclaimed and put to use again.
Rig these lures with a loop knot and you can double the action or wobble that is built in to these shallow running plugs. The seductive side to side movement is difficult for even finicky fish to resist.
The jerk bait is an often overlooked weapon in the saltwater fishing arsenal but during winter this plug can really shine. Give one of these lures a chance and you will be amazed at how easy they are to fish and just how productive they can be under the right circumstances.