Making ready for my two month stay in Port Mansfield, I took a break from packing to reflect on what was a pretty darn good year for me on my home waters of Aransas Bay. I feel better about our trout situation but by no means should this be taken as my endorsement of the current ten-fish trout limit. I still believe we need a five-fish limit along the middle Texas coast. Upper coast gurus can call it as they see it up there but, down here, I think we need to cut it back to five.
Due to the growing popularity of black drum fishing in the Rockport area, many guides and anglers are now targeting this species, reducing the pressure on both trout and redfish and Im all for it. These fish make excellent table fare when we run across them and theyll eat a Bass Assassin or a small Gulp shrimp you can bet Ill string a few and recommend my clients do the same if they want fillets.
Redfish were at times harder for me to pattern this year. Having said that though, my primary focus is usually trout and many days we found the reds by accident. The fish we were able to pattern were heavier and often more plentiful than what the flats guys were reporting. Makes you wonder whether pressure on the flats may be changing the way redfish now use deeper water on average.
I get lots of questions from those who fish with me or read my articles in this magazine. There is no such thing as a stupid question even though we might think differently at times. If you dont ask questions you dont get answers and without answers you cannot learn. So Id like to try something different this month. I want to ask you some questions and I want you to be honest in your answers as this is the only way we can ever hope to improve our game. Here we go:
What is it about fishing that you love most?
Are you comfortable with your present level of angling skill?
What about your abilities with your rod and reel?
Does lure selection confuse you?
How about your fish-finding skills?
Are you the run-and-gun type or more of a grinder?
Do you consider yourself coachable?
Do you ever practice before you play?
Are you able to see underwater structure in a clear-water fishery?
Do you understand how predation really works?
Whats your feeling about consulting the tide and solunar charts prior to your fishing trip?
Do you depend on others for fishing information or do you use theirs along with yours to gain a clearer picture of what is available?
Does your phone battery go dead before days end? (Just kidding.)
Are you comfortable running your boat in rough seas or shallow water?
Do the articles in our magazine enable you to become a better angler? (Of course this applies most if this is your reason for purchasing it.)
Do you see lifes cup of coffee half full or half empty?
When I went over these questions in my mind, my answers did not surprise me, although that first one really made me think a little. Fishing has been mine and my boys life for over 30 years. Never really had a woman stick around long enough to use the words my family here, but Renee seems to be ok with it so far. Granted she is very independent and has her own career to which she is very dedicated and successful. Anyway I thought I might take a few lines and give you my answer to that first question.
What I love most about fishing is the way it tests me. If every day was a gimme Id have probably quit a long time ago. To me, it is not about what I already know quite the opposite it is the challenge of making what I think I know become reality. When I leave the dock I think I know how the day is going to play out. Truth is; I hope the day plays the way I see it in my head. The real truth is that it seldom does.
What I thrive on is the challenge of making adjustments to my game plan when the opposition runs plays that are not in the scouting report. Great coaches all make critical game-winning changes at halftime. Its what makes them great.
By nature, the priorities of the fish are simply eating, reproducing, and adapting to conditions. We are not even in the equation as far as they are concerned. I think this is what makes fishing such a challenge even after a lifetime of doing it almost every day. Yep its the adjustments we have to make that I love most about fishing. I also like winning and, maybe someday, Ill be one of those great winning coaches.
Now I want to tell about a few things that will be new in my program for 2013. I am going to make some changes in the tackle department. I am a big believer in using the best tackle I can afford. I love the toughness of many of the composite rods on the market today and I appreciate everything all the rod companies have contributed in the past and continue to offer this industry. At nearly thirty-three years in the business I am going back to custom-built, lightweight, high-modulus graphite rods. I have a client/fishing club member who is a premium rod builder and he will be building all my rods for me. I have several that we are testing as I write this article. I will have a limited number of these rods to sell for those interested. Tons of good stuff on the racks at tackle stores no doubt, but I want the best blanks fitted with the best components, so custom is the route for me. In the reel department I will be switching to the Quantum EXO 100. This reel weighs a scant 5.9 ounces with three different gear ratios available and a silky-smooth drag system. I need light weight and variable speeds of retrieve for what I do. If Kevin Van Dam uses them, they must be good.
Last but not least, Ill be running a 23 Haynie Cat with a 250 Pro XS Mercury while in Port Mansfield this winter. The shallow draft will aid in shallow water adjustments and the boats length and beam width will still allow for rough-water performance. I have been running the boat the past few days and love it so far. Ill get another 24 High Output when I return in March for my home waters. If you want to order any of the Haynie boats I certainly would not wait too long.
Alright enough of that Whats the game plan for January? Simple for me, Ill be in Port Mansfield from December 26 until March 1 chasing that trout of a lifetime and making adjustments in a fishery that I dont know all that wellyet.
Oh, and just for the record, that cup of coffee is always half full to me.
May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins