Pro Tips: September 2010

Pro Tips: September 2010
Ryan Watkins, future bass pro, with oversized red caught with dad and Jay Ray in the Charlie Robinson Redfish Bash at Rockport.
Hot! That has been the weather pattern throughout July and into early August and I doubt we'll see much change until the last week or so of September. Quite often we get a weak front that pushes through at that time bringing slightly cooler temperatures for a few days. For now however, we are stuck with 95F with the heat index soaring to 105 and above most everyday.

My approach to the fishing day is simple this time of year. I hunt trout early and then turn to redfish for the rest of the day. Granted, there are situations that allow focusing on one or the other all day but in general it's trout first and reds second.

Redfish often save our day, especially in late August and September before the maturing reds make their way to the Gulf to spawn. The majority of these fish will range from 28 to 30-plus inches and most never return to the bay they have called home for the past three to four years. As with many creatures, not all reds reach sexual maturity at the same time so this explains the difference in age among the schools. Catching these larger reds is extremely exciting when you're able to observe the entire school feeding along the shorelines. Casting into the school with just about anything is met with aggression. I prefer Bass Assassins rigged on 1/4 to 3/8 ounce jigs and 1/2 ounce weedless spoons for two reasons. The first being the ability to cast heavier lures farther. Second, both have single hooks. These fish are very competitive and it is not uncommon for other fish to attempt to steal a lure from one that is hooked. Multi-hook lures can suddenly have two fish attached and this normally results in a limp line and a slump-shouldered angler. It has been my observation that the mature redfish in the Rockport area school most consistently during the first two weeks of September. Schools will appear earlier but these do not normally hold as many mature fish.

This is also a prime time for sight-casting to tailing redfish. I have been fortunate to experience a couple of angler's first taste of tailing redfish this season. Both were successful in taking fish over six pounds once they waded within casting range. I think the stalk as they closed the distance between man and fish was as enjoyable as the catch. Low tide and light wind will allow you to see fish movement in shallow water much easier. To me, the only thing more exciting than a big red charging a perfectly placed lure would be a big trout. Never discount the possibility that the wake behind your lure might be your trout of a lifetime. High-quality polarized eyewear is an absolute must. I currently use Costa Del Mar and have found the new 580 series lenses in amber or copper to be the best for seeing fish in shallow water. I own four pairs for different weather and light conditions but have found the amber and copper work best, most of the time. The 580 Corbina is my preferred frame style.

On the trout scene this time of year I look for moving water. Windward shorelines with moderate tidal current work best for me without a doubt. Structure, whether shallow or deep, still needs some form of water movement. Bait is always a key; without a food source trout are seldom present in any number. I also prefer structure that is near deeper water when water temperatures reach the 85 mark. My records indicate that some of my better numbers of quality trout come from structure adjacent to quick deepwater access. I would guess some are tired of my lecturing but what held true thirty years ago still holds true today. Certain patterns for certain bays change very little when conditions are normal. 2010 has brought an end to the drought and rainfall is now above average. This is an absolutely wonderful pattern we are trending into right now and our winter fishing should reflect its effects.

I still consider the nighttime feeding pattern best for catching bigger trout. I like coves or points with abundant submerged grass near a slough that leads to a backwater area. Dog day heat can drive big trout into a totally nocturnal pattern. Big trout are close to being nocturnal feeders anyway in my opinion, but this time of year Mother Nature nudges them even closer. Trout enter shallow water feeding zones in darkness and use the grassbeds and current (when available) to setup and ambush bait. The cloak of darkness allows cooler water temperature and additional cover for trout to gain the upper hand. Big trout slip from grassbed to grassbed in search of food. The keys to catching these fish are many so I'll stick the major ones.

Arrive early. Leave your boat at least 100-150 yards away from the area you plan to fish. Approach with caution, stopping often to look and listen. If you're pushing mullet you're walking too fast! Locate the line on which bait is exiting the area. The increasing daylight and coming heat are what push the trout and bait off the feeding area to the deeper water nearby.

Stop immediately on the first bite and do not enter the area further. Lure choice is your call but I'd suggest something you can cast a good distance. If a topwater, not too loud, and clear with a slightly darker back would be my pick. The floating Corky Fat Boy would be killer if the grass does not come up too close to the surface. The 5" Bass Assassin rigged weedless-weightless has fooled many a big trout as well. I believe in letting the fish come to me; in their own time at their own pace. If you allow this to transpire your odds of catching the quality trout that reside in such areas goes way up. Some of my best big trout experiences have come in areas such as this all up and down the Texas Coast.

Sorry if a lot of what I wrote this month seems old hat but it still works for me. Sometimes we out-think ourselves. Why stop running a dive play in football when the opposing team is not able to stop it?

May your fishing always be catching. Guide Jay Watkins