It’s 2:00 AM and I’m wide awake, even though my alarm is set for 4:00. I frequently hear stories from friends and relatives who work shifts at the local plants, how difficult it is to get adjusted when changing work schedules. I’m coming off a 9-day run in which I fished five noon to dark trips, two early mornings and two afternoon trips - in that order.
As I write this, a late cool front is due to push through, which will alter patterns yet again. The fluctuating water temperatures, tide levels and sudden wind shifts can make catching a difficult task if you don’t stay on your toes. To add to the level of difficulty, our bay has recently experienced the appearance of incredible numbers of shad and glass minnows. While this abundance of forage is a very positive thing, trying to trick trout when they’re feeding on shad the size of your thumbnail will have you casting in your sleep. As frustrating as this may sound, tough times can greatly increase one’s fishing IQ, which will enable even more productive days when conditions improve – especially when you keep a positive attitude during the process.
On a tough spring day several years ago, I had a client from the Midwest compare catching trout to trying to dupe muskies. He said they often referred to them as “the fish of a thousand casts.”I don’t know if I would go quite that far when referring to specks, but transitional trout can damn sure test one’s mental fortitude.
Tenacity, awareness and stamina are a few words that come to mind when it comes to transforming challenging days on the water into fruitful endeavors. The good news for many is that the inconsistent days of March and April will be over by the time the May issue of this fine magazine hits newsstands. By then, the transition from winter to spring will likely be over until next year. Bays will then be filled with mullet, larger-sized shad, brown shrimp and glass minnows. We will then be on our way to more predictable trout patterns.
Despite facing adverse conditions at times, I truly believe that by staying motivated and always maintaining a positive attitude will not only increase your odds of having a more successful day on the water but through every facet of your life as well. This is true in any profession you choose. The benefits are many when your attitude is in the right place. It will also usually cause those who are around you to perform better.
I used to play a lot of golf back in the days when I had more time. I almost always shot better when playing with guys who not only had better God-given skills but radiated positive energy over the course of 18 holes. The ones who were much better than me (which were most of them) were willing and eager to teach as well. This made me a better golfer.
This same sense of selflessness and real-time tutoring parallels what we try to do with clients on our fishing charters. So much of this fishing game is mental. A little taste of success can result in achieving even more with every cast. Once you discover a way to trick your target species, confidence increases to the point where you’ll expect bites with every cast. You will actually visualize strikes or blow ups.
I witnessed this the other day with one of my clients. We were wading alongside a slight trough leading up to a reef when beautiful small slicks began to emerge. This occurred at the onset of a midday minor feeding period, which also happened to be during a tide change. Hopefully this doesn’t sound like bragging, but I found my rhythm rather quickly with solid trout and redfish coming to hand about every third or fourth cast.
My client, however, struggled to get bit. After discussing the situation with regard to how our fish were reacting to a certain retrieve method, along with the proper cast angle and a few other details, he finally caught one. He then tricked another and found his groove.His confidence was restored and the rest is history.
For years I’ve heard folks talk about the “magical 70⁰ water temperature” but until it gets there and stays there there’s nothing really magical about it. When forage species increase in size and water temperatures STAY in the seventies, good things will begin to happen with regularity.
Consistent warmer water temperatures increase gamefish metabolism which requires more frequent feeding to sustain necessary energy levels. With trout becoming more active more often and forage species growing to a larger size, actual “schooling” will occur as opposed to the spread out and random transitional behavior that we experience during the two months leading up to May. Knowing what this natural progression will offer us from a catching standpoint is enough to send my confidence level through the roof. I love always having something to look forward to!
Early May will provide us with many options. Working shorelines and flats lined with scattered shell and grass will be a solid strategy on the breezy days. Mid-bay reefs will reward us on the calmer days. Slicks, bait concentrations and color changes are always aspects to focus upon, whether we’re wading or staying in the fiberglass.
After a few months of going back and forth between topwaters, tails and MirrOlures, our bait choices will more often be narrowed to include only soft plastics and topwaters.Waking baits such as Strike Pro’s Hunchback will work great at times too. I’ve had days when I could hardly buy a bite on surface plugs or tails but the erratic wobbling action and loud rattle of the Hunchback would entice aggressive strikes.
On a side note, make sure to change out the factory treble hooks on the Hunchback as they typically won’t last more than four or five trips. I prefer replacing them with VMC 4X Strong O’Shaugnessy No. 2 trebles (model # 9626PS).
One of my favorite things about this month is the fact that every angler in just about every part of our 600 square mile bay can spread out and catch fish in a variety of ways.
There will be fish at the passes, on the shorelines, on mid-bay reefs, and under birds for all to enjoy. Those who prefer better quality fish will target coves and passes along shorelines as well as oyster reefs, while anglers just out to get a bunch of bites will work gulls and terns over shrimp. The jetties and beachfront will also produce fantastic results when conditions allow. And don’t forget about schooling reds in the back lakes.Regardless of how good or bad the fishing is, there is always something to be gained from the experience. I continue to be intrigued by the behavioral shifts of our fish during these seasonal changes. Just being able to be on the water is a gift from God in itself.By learning to soak in every ounce of what’s happening around us while maintaining positive energy we will achieve more. Those with whom we come into contact will benefit, which will in turn reward us with gratification. Then the cycle will continue to repeat – Hopefully!