A NEW STUDENT came to me after a particularly fast-paced session on creating a chart to map out how you would block, plan, and perform a chosen script. She was smiling and shaking her head.
“G-Dog,” she said, calling me by the nickname my students gave me (long story). “You don’t teach anything like my other drama teacher. You look at things differently; not black and white, but kinda polka-dotted.”
It was an esoteric comment from a very esoteric student (I can already tell she is going to be a remarkable actress) but I got what she was saying. I don’t necessarily look at things from typical angles and perspectives.
I come from a long line of thinkers who look at things a bit…differently. I’ll throw an eephus pitch; use a Flea Flicker on the first play from scrimmage. If being a little different may help me achieve my goal, I’ll do it.
The very nature of successful anglers necessitates an occasional plaid view to their pastime. There are times where all the old tricks don’t work. Sometimes, fish want something other than what you’re offering, and you’d better find a solution quick or it’s pizza for dinner.
Walk the Dog doesn’t always work, nor does twitch-twitch-pause. Red and white doesn’t always treat you right. At times when the orthodox doesn’t produce, you need to dust off your eephus and let it rip. In short, look at things a little differently, and try different things, the sort of things your partner will look at and ask, “What in the world are you doing?”
No one can argue the effectiveness of leadhead jigs/plastic tail combos for inshore species. The biggest trout I’ve ever caught, a 30-inch beast that was lurking around the Brazos-Santiago Jetties back in 1999, inhaled a four-inch, pink Queen Cocahoe.
I’ve caught several limits of trout, redfish, and flounder over the years on a variety of soft plastics, as have many of my counterparts up and down the Texas Coast.
There doesn’t seem much to the technique: tie on a 1/8, ¼, or even 3/8 ounce jighead, thread on your favorite tail, and go fishing. Honestly, it can actually be that easy. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t hurt to change things up just a bit.
Great Lakes anglers were the first to use football-shaped jigs then plumb the rock-strewn flats that are spread out around the perimeter of the big lakes. The jig heads would drag along the bottom and bump into gravel and rocks and imitate the movement of a crawfish or goby scuttling across the bottom. Both are preferred forage for smallmouth bass.
The erudite angler who thinks in plaid can also use football jigheads for bottom huggers such as flounders and redfish. It doesn’t even take very different equipment. Many smallmouth fishermen use four-inch tube baits on these jigheads to imitate the action of a mudbug or goby. The same tail and colors work quite well in saltwater. If tube baits aren’t your thing, then a shrimp tail works just as well.
My best results have been fishing football jigs around and in sand potholes on flats, and around jetty rocks. The common technique calls for slowly dragging the bait along the bottom by lifting your rod from 9 o’clock to 12, lowering your rod tip and repeating the sequence (reel in the slack as you drop your rod tip). An occasional twitch of the rod will hop the bait and cause a puff of sand or mud.
Of course, this technique isn’t the only way to work a football jig. Use your imagination to vary the retrieve. Who knows what you’ll discover?
A Turn of the Worm
Sometimes, even the most aggressive fish won’t bite. Whether it’s because of post-frontal conditions, moon phase, tide conditions, or some other factor, I don’t know.
I have dropped chunks of fresh ballyhoo in front of a pod of redfish and saw them just cruise right by it without even a sniff. Fish with the mullygrubs can leave you talking with yourself.
Thanks to C.A. Richardson and his WFN show Flats Class, I’ve learned a technique that is effective on lock-jawed fish. Take a six- to eight-inch worm such as a Senko, then thread it onto a 3/0 thin-wire circle hook such as the Eagle Claw 2222 In-line Circle Hook (only thread the hook about ½-inch into the worm, and move it until it bumps up against the eye).
A bead of Super Glue will prevent the worm from slipping. Cast it into a likely-looking pothole, weightless, and work the worm slowly through it. The non-mechanical, undulating action drives fish crazy. Once you feel resistance, raise your rod tip up to set the hook. You’d be surprised at how well it works.
Go big or Go Home
Sometimes, a predator wants a big meal. In fall and winter, fish look for more protein to survive during winter. Anglers habitually throw big topwaters such as the Super Spook and Top Dog, or Corkies to give what the big trout and redfish want. Even then, most fishermen can probably go bigger than that.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with swimbaits as big as seven, eight, and even nine inches long. The results have been very impressive. Soft plastics such as the venerable King Cocahoe, a six-inch Sassy Shad, and DOA Big Fish Lure have proven very effective for winter trout that are looking for an XXL meal.
The size of the lures requires a slower retrieve, which is exactly what is needed to get a cold fish to notice and strike. I’ve fished side by side with anglers throwing smaller, similar plastics, and I have out-fished them almost every time. By the end of the morning, they’re trying to sling the industrial-sized baits with their light, whippy trout rods (you can rightly infer that you will need stiffer, slightly heavier rods for this application, which is good because you have an excuse to go buy a new outfit).
Fishing isn’t always a cut and dried endeavor. Sometimes you need to change your views, or at least start seeing the plaid for the colors.
Email Cal Gonzales at ContactUs@fishgame.com