Photo:  Steven Juranka took this 9 pound 5 ounce largemouth from the south end of Toledo Bend on shallow flat near much deeper water.

For the Record

Capt. Chuck Uzzle

Show me an angler who shuns deep water and I’ll show you a fisherman

who’s missing plenty of fish. With so much attention being paid to shallow

water angling these days it’s no wonder your local fishing hole is growing

more crowded by the day, everybody wants to be in the “skinny water”

because that’s where the glamour happens. Well if you have fallen victim

to that line of thinking don’t despair because you are not alone, it’s an

epidemic in the angling world that has one simple cure and that’s deep

water.

Defining deep water is up to each individual, to some folks deep is 3 feet

and to others it’s 30 feet. For all intents and purposes let’s define

deep as anything greater than 10 feet, this is where most folks get

uncomfortable fishing because it takes a different set of skills than that

of the guy in ankle deep water. Probing deep water takes time, good

electronics, an understanding of bottom structure and patience. If these

pre-requisites don’t sound to difficult or hard to handle and you want to

find fish that receive little or no pressure then read on because that’s

what you get when fish deep water.

Here on Sabine Lake we are both blessed and cursed with plenty of deep water

all around us, namely the Sabine and Neches rivers. For all the misery they

deal out with run off from up north they more than make up for it by

providing miles of under utilized, productive, and protected water. There is

absolutely nothing like knowing you always have a back up plan when you hit

the water, there is a security knowing you have a place to fish even in the

all but the absolute worst conditions. On Sabine lake we routinely take

advantage of the shelter provided by the Sabine river to catch a huge

variety of both fresh and saltwater fish including speckled trout, redfish,

striped bass, flounder, largemouth bass and so on. The secret to truly

taking advantage of the opportunity is understanding how to fish the deep

water.

In the Sabine River you have several different forms of structure to fish

with most popular being drop off’s and points. The drop off areas are key

spots to find hungry fish ambushing their next meal. Along the banks of the

river you have defined shelves that drop off from 4 to 8 feet of water and

then into the 12 to 20 foot depths and beyond. Baitfish will routinely

travel parallel to the bank in these shelves or troughs during tide

movements and the predator fish will not be far behind. One simple way to

locate a shelf or drop off is to look for the lines of crab trap buoys; they

are normally right on the drop off and make locating a productive area

mighty simple. Once you locate a stretch of bank where you intend the fish

the drop off look for a secondary piece of structure like a point or flat

along the bank. These areas are by far the most productive because the fish

have a shallow water area to chase bait with deep water access near by for

escape. The deep water also allows these fish a constant climate where they

will get comfortable and suspend.

Now that we have located our area to fish we need to decide what type of

bait we will use, live or artificial. For many Sabine anglers there are a

couple of proven choices both live and artificial. For the folks wanting to

throw natural baits the number one choice is live shad. Sometimes in the

colder parts of the year the shad can get scarce so mullet is the next best

thing. Another option that we have been using with great results is live

crawfish, especially when it comes to catching stripers. Now a standard

Carolina rig with a half ounce weight and a #4 kahle style hook on a 2-foot

leader works well in this situation. Under stronger or weaker tides you may

have to adjust the size of the weight accordingly, use just enough to hold

your bait in place but not so heavy that you can’t feel the soft strikes.

Now if live bait is not your game then you will need to look into some crank

baits or tube jigs. The most popular crank bait is the Hoginar, a small

blade style bait with a lead belly. The Hoginar is super simple to use

because you can work it in a variety of ways and still catch fish. The

standard “chunk and wind” method does well due to the huge amount of

vibration given off as the bait runs through the water. The vertical

“yo-yo” approach for suspended fish is also a big time producer. Other

crank baits like Rat-l-traps or the Manns Minus series crank baits will hold

their own as well under these circumstances.

Digging into deep water fishing can be an intimidating task for the beginner

but certainly is well worth the effort. The next time you cruise down your

favorite shallow shoreline and see the crowds lined up you will be glad to

know there is some uninhabited water out there with your name on it. Break

out the depth finder, have an open mind, and unlock the secrets to some

great fishing down in the deep.