Transitions, Timing and Tactics

By Captain Steve Soule’


Being consistent or successful in fishing presents a challenge to all of us. Whether novice or seasoned veteran. We all share this as a common goal, no matter what our opinion of success. For some success lies purely in numbers, for others it may be fish size or even variety of species caught. Success, for me, is achieved one fish at a time, and each one ranks differently on my personal success scale. The key is fishing with this in mind. It’s just one fish at a time". I say this because it’s rare that I have the opportunity to catch two fish on one lure and even less likely that I could plan for it to happen. You’ve got to keep your concentration through each and every cast and make each one count. The real issue with success is not just what it means to us but how we achieve it.

Casting and retrieving lures is a tedious task but the more you put into each one, the more likely you are to reap the rewards. If I was to take any given lure and do nothing more than cast it as far as I could and crank it back at a steady pace I would eventually catch a fish. I think! If I took that same lure and added twitches, pauses, or other variations in speed, the hook-up ratio would increase dramatically. Think about I, when was the last time you saw anything in the bay swim at a constant speed for any length of time? If the real thing doesn’t swim straight and steady, then our imitations shouldn’t either. It is the thought and input from the angler that makes the Jure work

Fish feeding can be tracked (to some degree) and related to many things. "Transitions" stand out as one of the most important especially for catching trout. I’m covering a lot with the word "transition" so here’s a little clarification; A transition can be a change of structure, a change of seasons, a change of tides, the passage of a front, or even something as small as a color change in the water. Some changes trigger feeding while others may provide the location for it to occur. Finding the transitions, and understanding how they affect the behavior of the fish, serves to increase our odds of success.

We are about to experience a change of seasons, winter to spring, and with it will come changes in our fishing patterns. Our winter pattern has been based around several key transitions. When wading, I’ve based my efforts around the transition from mud or sand to shell, there is often a depth change associated as well. The second is a change in temperature which is often associated with those already mentioned, keep in mind that mud silts more easily and both mud and silt hold warmth. A classic example of this change bringing success came on a trip about three weeks ago, while fishing a series of finger reefs that extend from a northwest oriented shoreline with Houston anglers Doug and Dave we found a small group of fish feeding in water that seemed lifeless. The first fish came as something of a surprise as I was close to giving up on the spot; no bait showing and very cold water were taking their toll. I saw something about three hundred yards up the shoreline and told the guys that I was going to investigate. I took of at a brisk pace with my titanium rod across my shoulders, after about twenty yards I came to an abrupt stop and made a short cast with the Corky. The cast resulted in a twenty-two inch redfish, the first fish of the day. The guys quickly waded over to me and asked what I saw that made me stop and cast and I told them that I saw nothing! I felt something under my feet though that was what made me cast. I had found the transition zone between shell and mud and with water temps right at 50 degrees I felt sure that was were the fish would hold. We walked over the next finger and found the same structure change and this time found trout. We proceeded to catch and miss trout here for the next hour or so before they shut down but I don’t think that the guys will ever forget that type of transition in the winter.

The passage of a front this time of the year is a change that I love to fish, timing is everything here, catch this change within several hours of its occurrence and you may find the bite of a lifetime. This is usually a "hero or zero" situation so don’t get discouraged and definitely don’t put yourself in danger during a monster storm. This time of the year we begin to see some fronts come through that are less violent but still bring the change of barometric pressure, these are the safest ones to fish. I fished a front like this last weekend released what would have made a very impressive stringer shot. In just under four hours I caught and released 13 trout, the smallest was 19 inches the largest was 26. The impressive part was that every fish in between these, was over 21 inches and averaged 22-23, and add to that the fact that I missed somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty more bites that morning. This was an aggressive feed triggered by the passage of a front and the increase of the tide movement. The bite occurred over the same structural transition of shell to mud but one day can make a world of difference, the day before only yielded half the number of fish (with none over 24) and no where near the number of bites.

Here’s the change, with the coming of spring we’ll rock back and forth over the transition of warm and cold. On the cold days look for the continuation of the winter patterns we’ve already covered, on warming days look for fish to move shallow and gravitate towards shorelines. The bite will change from being focused on a late afternoon feed to one that increases in the mornings. Fish will spend more time aggressively chasing baitfish and will be suspended higher in the water column. For those who have given up on the top-water bite, check your hooks and get ready! My top producing lures will still be the slow sinkers on most days but the top-water bite will be on a steady increase and on many days will out-fish the slow sinkers. Spring marks the return of much more aggressive retrieves, a welcome change for most. For the last three months I’ve talked about fishing Corky’s at an extremely slow pace, now I can begin to work them in a much faster manner. The retrieve will resemble that of top-water dog walking, more than the snail pace that I’ve been using. One key remains; you’ve got to give them some pause time because that’s when they are at their best.

In the springtime I’ll fish baits that have greater ability to aggravate fish and elicit strikes from this more than from feeding instinct. Rapid retrieves with 51mr series Mirr-O-Lures are deadly when fish are suspended and you need to cover the water column more thoroughly. Try varying retrieve speeds with aggressive twitches followed by short pauses, the twitches get the rattle going and keep the lure darting the pause is when it will get eaten. There probably won’t be a warm day that passes without me throwing a topwater plug this spring. Think noisy and big and you’ll generate more blow-ups. The two top-waters that I won’t be without are the She-Dog in white and chartreuse and the Super Spook in the same color scheme. Black will be a strong producer and so will a white body red head. If you find fish in extremely shallow water sometimes scaling down can change blow-ups to hook-ups. On the bright, sunny days try plugs with chrome sides; I’ve often found that an extremely aggressive retrieve will work best.

Last but not least look for the reds to invade the shallows again starting in March, this won’t be a consistent pattern yet but it will begin to materialize this month. They’ll start out on the deeper, muddier flats and work their way shallow with the incoming tide. They will also roam open shorelines following schools of shad and other small fish. The reds will smash a top-water with reckless abandon but as they reach the truly skinny water I’ll usually opt for something that hits the water a little softer. I’ll fish Bass Assassins or the B&L Sea Devil (currently marketed as Brown Lure Devil Eye) most but a quarter ounce gold spoon is another top producer. This is the time to drag the fly-rod back out and put it to use, as the fish get shallow their effectiveness becomes more pronounced. I’ll cover fly patterns another time, and more on redfish areas.

It’s time to get back to fishing and enjoy the warmer daytime temperatures. I’m already making my transition to more topwaters and less slow sinkers in the wade boxes. I also have some exciting trips coming to East Matagorda, Baffin and Lake Calcasieu. I’m most excited that the transition here along the Texas Coast is more like a transition from Winter to Summer and in reality, only lasts a very short period of time. Wet wading and big topwater bites are in our immediate future!!

Captain Steve

Leave a Reply