J anuary start us over on a new calendar, but it doesn’t have to be a blank one.
Outdoorsmen are always planning ahead, even when they don’t realize it. Although the first month of a New Year does not always bode well for fishing weather, it does bring a time to start getting in gear—seriously—for the season ahead.
One of the best “tools” to use for laying out your fishing season is to attend the annual Houston Boat, Sport, And Travel Show. I’ve attended many, many Boat Shows—and “worked” booths in more than a few explaining new products and techniques (even selling a few of my books!).
This event has been an important part of my life for a long time. New offerings from manufacturers of boats and power systems will normally be shown here soon after their release, and the makers of fishing tackle depend on “The Show” to introduce their innovations.
New products from other walks of life are also usually present, and factory representatives are on hand to give a good reason why the improvements really ARE improvements. In the past I have met not just sales guys, but the owners of companies like Grady-White Boats, and the national sales manager for Bertram Yachts.
The outboard engine segment of the industry is in a constant state of re-invention, and those of use who remember some of the earlier outboards and their limitations are amazed at the modern offerings. In recent years, much the same can be said of marine diesel power, with lighter, stronger, and more “user friendly” diesel engines making a big push for the boater’s hard-earned dollars.
Fishing tackle is getting better and better, with new designs and materials offered in reels, rods, and lines that make our gear work better and longer. The latest “heavy” tackle seems fly-weight compared to the Penn Senators and broom-stick solid fiberglass rods of years back. Yet the new tackle is actually stronger and will undoubtedly last much longer.
I used to “build” all my own rods—and some for other folks as well. The components available now leave me shaking my head in wonder.
Because “the industry” marketers are ingenious at their craft, no segment of boating is passed over, with as many options available to kayakers as to pleasure cruisers. With all the new things to see, and all the new “players” to show them, one of the big satisfactions of attending these shows, for me, is seeing and visiting with all the long-time participants.
Some guys will have changed employers, others have made a career—a life, really—with the same company. The vast store of boating and fishing knowledge you’ll find strolling the aisles of the Boat Show is really what makes the cost of admission cheap, indeed.
Need new navigational and fish-finding electronics? This is the place to begin your search. Want a bigger or more efficient fish box/cooler? Ditto.
In the market for a good “pre-owned” boat? Many brokers have extensive lists and will gladly set up viewings and/or rides. Fishing clothes, fishing hats, fishing knives, fishing lures, fishing guides—all will be present.
Reps from marinas in and beyond our immediate area will be on hand to explain what their areas can offer you. Lodges will sell you a trip. Marinas will rent you a slip. Some folks will build you a new dock.
In the past I have written columns poking fun at the Boat Show experience. I still get a bemused chuckle when I see folks who actually paid to get in stand around and watch some guy demonstrate a product to clean eyeglasses.
A purchase I made one year that was a little off the usual boat show offerings was a sign boasting “Patrolled by the Catahoula Security CompanyMy wife and I have raised Louisiana Catahoula dogs for many years, so I HAD to have this one and the companion sign, which had a drawing of a healthy Catahoula with the warning, “I make it to the fence in 2.8 seconds—CAN YOU?” Never saw this stuff anywhere but the Boat Show, and never saw it there again, either.
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Location—Except on the occasional warm January day, deeper water is still the place to fish. Channels in marinas, between jetties, and those running through natural passes and river mouths allow bank walkers to cast to fairly deep water.
Species—Might include redfish, speckled trout, flounder, croaker — even an occasional pompano.
Bait—Natural baits with a natural scent to them are more effective in cold water, but fish-imitating plugs or spoons worked very slowly near the bottom can produce good catches in the right spots.
Best Time—Night fishing can be cold work, but often pays off in spectacular catches of trout under lights rigged from boat or shore based generators. The more or less constant lights of docks and piers are genuine fish attractors.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]