Introducing Productive Places and Patterns

Introducing Productive Places and Patterns
The slender MirrOminnow helped Cassandra Quinn trick this trout. These lures effectively mimic glass minnows and work beautifully in hot, clear water.

The excerpt below comes from my new book, Productive Places and Patterns. About 50,000 words in length, the text documents the patterns I've employed to catch fish along windward shorelines, in lakes and coves, around spoil banks and reefs, and in many other types of general locations as well as in specific places. Each of the ten main chapters includes a Google Earth image showing an example of the type of spots to be included in the section. At the end of the book, I include a "List of Truths", on which I base many of the patterns I've discovered and employed productively.

Here's the introductory chapter:

In the never-ending quest for consistency, coastal lure fishermen do battle with an imaginary, two-faced foe. We must figure out not only where to fish, but also how best to catch fish, by choosing an appropriate strategy, method and lure for the moment. In essence, we must identify both a productive place and pattern.

The terms place and pattern have complex, multi-faceted meanings, with the concept of place being perhaps the simpler of the two. A place might be defined in the most general sense, through a label such as "shoreline", "oyster reef" or "beachfront". It might be given more specific labels and dimensions, and be referred to as "the south shoreline", "a submerged oyster reef next to a dredged channel" or "the inside edge of the first sand bar off the beachfront".

One could also refer to a particular part of a bay system or waterway. In this case, a place could be "The King Ranch Shoreline", "Hannah's Reef", or "Bolivar Flats". Toward the more-detailed end of the place-names road, one might mention parts of a shoreline, reef or beachfront area, and use names like "The Pens", "Bull Shoals" or "The Car Bodies".

Finally, referring to places with the highest level of specificity means associating them with GPS coordinates. In the following chapters, many different kinds of references to place will be given, including ones indicated through GPS numbers, with the final goal of identifying general areas and specific locations where defined and described patterns work well.

Patterns are more complicated and multi-dimensional than places. Theoretically and (more importantly) practically, patterns can be said to apply similarly from place to place. Sometimes, a place is part of a pattern. For instance, a "windward shoreline" can be thought of as both a place and a pattern, since it includes a location reference and a weather element.

The word pattern has about a dozen dictionary definitions. While looking over them and trying to define a fishing pattern, I find several phrases intriguing. Of particular interest are "prescribed route", "natural or chance configuration" and "reliable sample of acts or other features". A fishing pattern is best defined through combining and modifying these other definitions.

In fishing, a pattern might be defined as a "prescribed angling method which properly accounts for the climatic conditions and natural configurations of a place, and which reliably produces strikes from fish on a particular lure or type of lure presented a specific way". Put more simply, it's "an effective angling method, lure and presentation for a chosen location and the prevailing conditions of the moment."

The concept of pattern starts with place, moves to the selection of a general method or strategy (wading vs. boat-fishing), and ends with the precise manner of procedure in either endeavor. Additionally, a fishing pattern involves lure choice(s), and the presentation style(s) employed with the chosen lure(s).

The description of a pattern might be simple and general, indicated through a reference like "wading with soft plastics", or quite specifically stated, like in this example: "using a trolling motor to keep the boat in deep water windward of the rocks and throwing small topwaters close to the edges of the structures, retrieving the plugs with high speed and lots of erratic movement".

Employing a trolling motor or drift anchor can be an important part of a boat-fishing pattern, just as the direction and speed of movement can be critical parts of wading patterns. The angles of casts and retrieves are usually important in either style of fishing, since the relative positions of anglers and fish can be considered to be parts of any pattern.

To make things even more complicated, a pattern might also be said to involve the weather and/or climatic conditions. Surely, a location can seem vastly different from one day to the next, under widely disparate weather conditions. Without a doubt, some patterns come into play only when certain environmental variables align themselves a particular way.

Most often, the relevant variables include the time of year, time of day, temperature of the air and water, the clarity of the water and the direction and velocity of the wind. The productivity of a pattern is usually dependent on at least some of these variables falling within a specific range.

For instance, to say "windblown shorelines are more productive than leeward ones" is an oversimplification. Though the statement has proven veracity, the extent of its truth at a given moment depends on many other factors. Too much wind blowing into a shoreline with a soft, muddy bottom might render the truth temporarily obsolete.

Seasonal migration patterns and tendencies among the fish can do the same. In warm weather, from spring through early-autumn, windward shorelines with hard, sandy, grassy bottoms produce well, but those same shorelines might be void of fish in the middle of winter.

Consequently, most consistently productive anglers think about specific locations in which to make their fishing efforts before leaving the dock, taking into account the season, weather conditions, tide level and/or predicted movements, and past experiences. They make a choice of which pattern to try first by taking these same factors into account, but won't hesitate to make adjustments to this choice after observing how things look and "feel" out on the water.

Determining which pattern will produce best often means correctly figuring out how the observable variables will affect the best way to thoroughly and effectively work through an area. These variables can include the wind speed and direction, the amount and/or direction of tidal movement, the clarity and temperature of the water and the type of structure and cover elements present. Another component of critical importance is the level of aggressiveness with which the fish are likely to be feeding.

More aggressive fish are likely to be moving around in search of food and willing to cover some distance to take a lure. Less aggressive ones tend to be more stationary, having smaller cones of influence, unlikely to move more than a short distance to strike a passing plug. The level of aggressiveness in the fish can impact several aspects of the pattern, including the optimal speed of movement through the area, which specific targets within the area are holding fish, the type of lure most likely to work, and the best speed and style of presentation for the moment.

In different situations, different variables have greater influence over these pattern elements. Sometimes, the prominent aspect(s) are easy to identify, such as when the weather is extremely hot or cold, excessively windy, or dead calm. In other, less-intense conditions, the most pertinent variable(s) can be much harder to identify. Even so, astute experts always try to figure out what specific environmental variables are most relevant in terms of measurably affecting the feeding mood of the fish and the likelihood of the fish preferring specific locations within the general area to be targeted.

After all, the ultimate goal of any fishing effort is to correctly identify exactly where the fish within one's casting scope are located, so those fish can be enticed into taking a lure and eventually hooked and landed. Stated another way, the goal of a fishing excursion is to identify specific places which are holding fish and to employ a pattern which results in the catching of those fish.

In the following chapters, I'll attempt to define and describe some of the most productive places and patterns I've found and fished during my decades-long angling journey across the wide, wild coastal waters of Texas. In my time, I've visited and tried the fishing in almost every named body of salty water in the Lone Star State, from the stained confines of Coffee Ground Cove to the crystalline shallows behind South Padre Island.

I've laid eyes and left boot-prints on countless reefs and points, in the backs of cozy coves and pockets, beside sprawling shorelines and across grass-bearded bars. It's no stretch to say I've caught fish in hundreds of different places. In this text, I've provided details about the patterns which have produced best for me over time, and pointed out places in our bays where those patterns come into play. I've also listed some other places where I suspect the patterns will work in similar ways.

In some of these sites, I once strung and killed trout with which I claimed tournament prizes; in others, I've repeatedly measured and released many specimens of impressive sizes. In the following document, I've mentioned patterns which work in spots where I caught my first 27-inch inch trout, my first eight pounder and my first 30-incher too.

While creating this book, I took a long, metaphorical boat ride right down the middle of Memory Bay. In each chapter, I embarked from the point furthest south, then steered the craft in a northerly direction. I hope I captained the tour in an informative and meaningful way.