Trial and error produces better fish
The horizon was filled with black clouds gathering over the gulf and lightning strikes were just enough to make you wonder “what am I doing out here?” A close look at the Louisiana shoreline through binoculars revealed no rain but that was just a matter of time. All of us in the boat were in agreement that we stay put until the weather began to clear. While we waited to see if we were going to get to fish or have to run for shelter I noticed the streams of finger mullet and shad rolling out of this particular little drain in the marsh. While we continued to watch the weather I caught a live well full of just perfect sized mullet, nice shad, and croaker that were just right. The outlook was getting better all the time.
After a short wait and with one eye on the weather we took off south down the lake in search of some bird activity that may lead us to a school of hungry fish. Our tour down the lake produced nothing so we rigged up a couple of rods with popping corks and live finger mullet instead of shad and began to drift. Our drift had just begun when suddenly a vicious strike took us totally by surprise, a missed opportunity but it at least let us know we were in the right spot. Before too long the corks were going under on a regular basis and we were catching some nice speckled trout. The plague of little fish that were crushing the shad didn’t seem to be bothering us and that was good.
After making a couple of drifts at our original stop and catching some very respectable trout the weather really got nice while the lake flattened out like you dream about. Just enough ripple on the water to stir the surface but not enough to hide a jumping shrimp or a feeding trout. Our trip south was halted as we came across a small group of gulls sitting on the water, every now and again the gulls would get up and hover as the surface of the water opened in a wild commotion. Finding the gulls over feeding fish was a blessing and curse, the non stop action was a blessing while the small size of the fish we were catching was the curse. It was incredible the amount of 10 to 12 inch trout that were in this school, plenty of action but only a couple of keeper fish. The school of fish finally played out and we were off to find another bunch, hopefully a better bunch.
It didn’t take long for us to find another bunch of fish; it seemed like everywhere you looked there were trout popping the surface and a gull or two somewhere giving hot pursuit. Finally we stumbled upon that one good school of fish where the keepers out numbered the dinks by a wide margin, our search efforts had finally paid off. The better trout seemed to want the finger mullet instead of shad, the bonus of using the mullet instead of the shad was fewer gafftop we had to deal with. As the trout continued to feed we were fortunate enough to spot another school of fish, this bunch was redfish and they were crushing bait on the surface. Unfortunately for us the reds didn’t stay up long and we only managed to boat one. By now the heat had taken a toll on all of us, the tide had stopped moving and we decided to call it day.
The lesson learned on this day was that through trail and error we were able to make sense of what the fish wanted and were able to find a pattern that worked. Don’t just accept that you can only do one thing to catch fish; the trial and error method will work wonders if you give it a chance. I have used this technique a bunch, especially with clients in the boat. It makes life easy when you are catching fish to start experimenting with different lures and presentations in search of better fish. It’s amazing to see one small difference in either a retrieve or color make a huge difference in the quality of fish that you are catching. Even when the action is good there is still a possibility that it could get better. The great thing is that if the experiment doesn’t work you can go back to the original technique and catch fish, that’s a chance any of us should be willing to take.