If you lost a brand new tackle box in Sabine Lake recently, I have a bit of good news. It is now on dry land, intact, and waiting for you to call and ask for Sheldon at (409) 504-9248.

He called Sunday night in the hope that one of the readers of this column may have lost the box or knew someone that was lamenting the loss. He found the box floating in the middle of the lake. It is folks like Sheldon that make you proud to live in this area.

We fought a very stiff wind over the weekend and were rewarded for our efforts. Even in the lip-chapping gale, the gulls were still working, but we opted to drift the flats with soft plastics hoping to catch fewer, but larger trout and it worked!

When all was said and done, we returned to the dock a little soggy and beat up each day, but what a weekend of fishing. We released several big trout Saturday and Sunday over six pounds. The largest fish I took the time to weigh before releasing her was an 8.4-pound trout that was a shade over 28-inches in length. She ate a pumpkin-chartreuse Assassin that I was swimming through the whitecaps in four feet of water.

The slightly different game plan has been successful, but what I cannot figure out about the incredible run of big fish is why we are not catching at least a few of them under the birds. Before you jump up and shout, “You know you don’t catch big sow trout under the birds,” consider the following.

Long after the gulls have abandoned an area, we are drift fishing the exact same water with tails and catching fewer, but significantly larger fish. We are not upgrading the size of our lure, just fishing it a little differently. You would think one of those big fish would occasionally make a mistake, but I have not caught a trout over five pounds nor has anyone else I have talked with while working the birds.

When we fish the gulls, we hold a long cast off the flock and cast our plastics right in the middle of the action If the fish do not hit it on the drop, we swim it back and make another cast. Sometimes we bounce it back across the bottom and other times we keep it suspended with a quicker retrieve. There are no gulls or other boats when we return to these areas, but we are not changing the size of the lure or the retrieve. The key has been to keep it off the bottom, but that is not an earth shaking revelation.

We do catch most of these larger fish at the end of a long cast, but that is to be expected with fish that are more wary than are their smaller relatives. When guiding folks with limited casting skills, you tend to get more innovative in order to give them a better chance at success. Some of them just cannot cast far enough while others are unable to retrieve their plastic at just the right speed. They derive very little pleasure from paying a guide to watch him catch fish while they flail the water with little or no success.

I do two things to give those clients a legitimate shot at hooking up with trout that are suspended in water less than six feet deep. My first choice is to rig up the same bait on a 24-30 inch leader under a popping cork like the Paradise Popper or Mansfield Mauler.

A large number of fishermen rely on smaller plastics and a quarter ounce head with this rig, but I tie on the same size plastic that we are swimming back on long casts. I may downsize the size of the lead head because the length of leader determines the depth the lure will fish, but if the big trout want a big bait then give it to them. If they cannot cast that combination, I have them throw it behind the boat, feed out about twenty yards of line and occasionally pop the cork to attract the fish. We fool very few large sow trout any closer than that to the boat. A braided line like Power Pro is a distinct advantage in that type fishing in that you have no stretch factor to compensate for with the hook set.

The second thing that I have started doing that may become number one on the list is rigging the same plastic on a Carolina rig with a 3-4 foot leader. When doing this, I do not rig the tail on a lead head.

Unlike bass fishing there is no reason to Texas rig the plastic tail as there is usually no structure to get hung up on, but I do use a 3/0 wide gap worm hook for this application. The only difference is that I leave the barb exposed. The weight has to be only heavy enough to get to the bottom and stay there throughout the cast or drift. A five-inch Assassin or one of the other larger tails will trail well off the bottom rigged on just a hook. This is a very effective way to fish that same column of water from the bottom up.
A word of caution that will result in far fewer missed trout with this rig: “When they do hit your offering, do not set the hook like you do when bass fishing. A quick upward snap of the rod tip is sufficient to hook a trout already swimming with your lure.”

The tackle industry has produced any number of both soft plastic and hard plastic lures to better exploit this upper column of water and I will use most of them at one time or another. The good news is that if you cannot make them work for you, these two techniques will keep you in the hunt.