Take plan b to the bank
“Those are either the laziest or the smartest birds on the lake,” said Sam Creel as he pointed his rod in the direction of a small group of gulls hovering just above the partially submerged marsh grass.
Every clump of grass was home to schools of finger mullet, shrimp, and piggy perch and because the water was so shallow, the birds dined at their own leisure rather than having to wait on the fish to push dinner to the surface.
A bass fisherman, by choice, the importance of structure and food in the life of any game fish was not lost on Creel. “This is as close as you can get to bass fishing,” he remarked as we drifted across the shallow flat swimming weedless plastics through the vegetation.
Immediately following Ike’s departure, I was both disappointed and shocked to discover that one of the best stretches of fishing real estate in the lake had been covered with uprooted marsh grass. It all but eliminated the wade fishing and at least initially, was too thick to even navigate in a boat.
One year later, much of the mud has settled out, the remaining clumps of grass are thinner and I now find myself bemoaning the fact that this fish magnet may not last much longer. On even the toughest of days, the patient angler knows the fish are holding close to these flooded buffets and it is simply a matter of waiting out the next tide change to score well.
The ability to eliminate non-productive water is second only to confidence when it comes to consistently catching fish. The assurance that the fish are already there means that you only have to select the right bait in your arsenal to be successful. Surprisingly enough, more often than not, color is not even a factor in solving this bite.
Nothing good or bad lasts forever, but the following approach to exploiting this new structure has been very good for me this year. If I idle up to the thinner outside edge of the exposed grass and see fish blowing up closer to the shoreline, I will troll motor to those fish immediately. I am not that fortunate on most days!
I usually enjoy the advantage of having two or three clients with me so we can fish different lures, but I will usually start hunting the fish in the grass in four to five feet of water. At least one of us always has a medium sized topwater lure like a She Dog or Skitterwalk tied on and we fish it on a slower “twitch and pause” retrieve, stopping it near every clump of grass.
Until we fish our way into the thicker grass, we will also throw a plastic tail rigged under a Kwik Cork, a spinner bait, or a tail rigged on a 1/8th ounce jig head. As we work our way into the thicker grass, a topwater will still generate some eye-popping strikes, but the exposed treble hooks are a liability once a hooked fish starts plowing through the jungle.
If we find that the fish are feeding in the thicker stuff, we opt for a half-ounce gold weedless spoon or five inch plastic tail Texas rigged with no weight. You can dissect the thickest of cover with both of those lures without hanging up every cast. If the fish in that thicker cover prefer something on top, rather than speed up the retrieve, we swim a plastic frog across the surface.
Another lure that has proven to be exceptionally deadly, not only in this grass, but in every other application as well, has been the Swim Bait rigged on a weighted hook. The paddle tail body generates a surprising amount of vibration and you can fish it around any type of cover at any depth and catch a variety of fish.
As a matter of fact, Sam, Eric Robichaux, and I left the grass in a panic strut rather than wait the fish out that day and did very well with the Swim bait in the river that afternoon. When fishing the grass I prefer the five-inch tail, but seem to do better in deeper water with 3 to 4-inch plastics.
Before you know it, we will be enjoying the annual user-friendly bite as trout and redfish chase shrimp all over the lake on the heels of each passing cold front. Should you hit the lake with high expectations, however, and the birds not show, give the grass a try.
This is one of those “good things” that will not last forever!