Passion and Inspiration

Passion and Inspiration
Author with a windward spoil island red - CPR.

Fishing along the middle coast continues to be unbelievable considering the extreme heat and upper-80s water temperatures. After an early-morning wade last week, I had a client ask how the writers of TSFMag continue to find material for their articles. Passion was the first word that came to mind, and then inspiration.

Passion for anything we do in life drives one to do well, and ability to continue doing it. I certainly fall into the category of guides and writers with great passion for what I do. This said, I still rely on inspiration to help with my articles as well as my guiding career.

So, after all these years, what inspires me? It’s the people and the moments that I encounter and experience that inspire me most. To put it in simplest terms, it’s the attitude they bring on the boat each morning. Sometimes its comments about what they get from fishing and being in the outdoors – nothing to do with what they caught or did not catch. Fond memories of family and friends and memorable days spent afield.

It’s that youngster excited about getting to go fishing. The person that tells me they could not sleep the night before a fishing trip. I remember tossing and turning in my bed in East Texas on Lake O the Pines, anticipating the next day’s fishing with my grandfather and dad. I can still see that quill cork at the end of the line coming upright and slipping below the surface.

It’s the sunrise over a slick-calm bay as we head out in grey light, the reflection of God’s brilliance rushing toward me as the boat pushes forward. The waking sounds of a coastal marsh, the birds and occasional grunt of hogs, and yes, even the distinct croak of an alligator. Osprey as they talk with one another atop an old duck blind or yucca. The bobwhites along San Jose and Matagorda, covey calling.

But mostly, personally, it is the anticipation each morning as I enter the water and make that first cast. The anticipation of that first strike that assures that today will be just as good as all the others I have enjoyed on this long journey. Passion and inspiration, you bet I’m touched by both, and both continue to provide me with ample material for you each and every month.

Now to what I do best, I think. Still very hot everyday but we have had a little rain and some weak frontal passages. Not really any cooler yet but it’s coming. I am still leaving the dock very early to beat the heat. Water is still in the mid- to upper-80s. Focusing on submerged shoreline structure that creates edges along the actual drop-off and provides access to both shallow and deeper water. Shallow water for nighttime and solunar period feeding and deeper water for refuge from daytime heating and boat traffic.

I probably sound like a broken record when discussing the proper working of deeper drop-offs. My guys and gals have to be sick of hearing me telling them to FISH the drop-off, not STAND on it!

I know that it’s easy for me to setup a wade and work a line parallel to shore, while staying on a not-so-defined line of bottom structure that follows the drop-off. Our water has been so clear most of the season that being able to see this structure and the line it follows is pretty darn easy. We certainly need our Costa Del Mar polarized glasses to do this but most I get on my boat have quality sunglasses.

The problem most anglers experience is not the initial line-up from the shoreline that allows them to reach structure such as drop-offs, it’s staying far enough away to avoid disturbing fish holding on it. The shoreline itself can be an excellent diagram of what lies unseen below the water further offshore. Points, for example, usually extent below the water where we cannot see, but we need to follow that contour to remain within reach of the relevant structure.

Drop-offs and underwater edges that I speak of so often have been easier to see the past several years due to better water clarity. Light winds, more rain, more bottom grass and circulation that Cedar Bayou has created have definitely aided in water quality in the northern Aransas, Mesquite, and southern San Antonio bay systems. FYI – Cedar Bayou and Vincent Slough will likely cease to flow periodically on low late-summer tides. Something the engineers and Aransas County officials will monitor closely, I am sure.

Most who fish with me know that I am a soft plastic and suspending plug angler, but topwaters definitely work over these deeper water structures if tops are your game. From late-August through mid-October, I see lots of anglers that do extremely well with topwaters, right alongside those of us throwing soft plastics. However, I continue to believe that I can get a fish in non-feeding attitude to take a lure that’s presented in its face more readily than one it has to chase.

My confidence lies in presentation and ease of obtainability for the fish. If it’s right there in my face and requires little exertion on my part, I’ll try it. That’s how I see it and I hope fish see it the same.

This type of fishing requires patience and close attention to detail when working your baits. I talk a ton and get anxious, which sometimes leads to working my lure too high in the water column. Knowing this, I constantly remind myself to focus on getting the lure down to the proper depth and then keeping it there. My rhythm changes very little most of the time as I believe that reaction strikes are accomplished through the action we impart to the lure.

My favorite lures for the situations described in this article are the 5-inch Shad Bass Assassin and MirrOlure’s Provokers and Lil John Series. I also love the MirrOlure Soft Dine and MirrOdine suspending baits. One should never overlook the Custom Corky Fat Boy and Soft Dine that for so long have been mistakenly considered effective only in cold water situations.

Dale Combs, good friend and excellent suspending plug angler, demonstrated the effectiveness of suspending soft plugs recently on a hot summer morning, without aid of a solunar feed period to help encourage strikes. Dale did not receive as many bites as my 5-inch Shads, but his fish were much larger!

Redfish have saved many a day over the past several weeks as they schooled and began heading toward the Gulf in preparation for spawning. Trout fishing remains as good as I have seen in a very long time, despite the hot weather. With the approach of our first real front not too far in the future, I expect fishing will only get better. It has been many years since I have been as excited about our fall fishing season.

I will leave you with this: “I have gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water.” -William G. Tapply

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins