Think outside the shallow when it comes to topwater plugs
“That’s just stupid, that is just stupid” said my partner for the day Mike McBride, “I can’t believe you can get these fish to eat topwater plugs in 7 feet of water.” Our drift along the east shore line of Sabine had produced some very respectable fish that no wade fisherman could have ever reached. The pattern was foreign to “McTrout” and he made no bones about it, drifting in deep water and throwing topwater plugs was just too strange a concept for this shallow water angler extraordinaire. Now give my boy “McTrout” a foot of water over a gin clear flat and he makes magic happen, the guy is a stud when it comes to chasing them in the skinny. Knowing all this made the chaos that much more enjoyable for yours truly.
April and May are terrific months for making long drifts over deep structure, the southeast winds allow anglers a chance to set up on a particular stretch of deep water and fish it with minimal boat noise. Sabine and Calcasieu are perfect places to drift deep, the trout cooperate and the crowds are usually all bunched up in the shallows. It’s not uncommon to see 50 or 60 boats on a reef in Calcasieu, that’s just standard practice. The smart angler will fish the outside edge of the big crowds and use them to their advantage. All the noise produced by the boats will push trout off of shell and out into deeper water where they tend to gang up on the next piece of structure. Bink Grimes, his dad Danny, and myself used this technique to dupe a 30-inch Calcasieu trophy trout. Our drift allowed us several hundred yards of water in the 3- to 4-foot depth range with crowds on both sides of us. We had an alley of roughly a hundred 100 yards between the two big groups, just enough room to keep our success hidden from most of the spectators. On our initial pass through the alley Danny hooked the huge trout on a Top Dog and was successful in bringing her to the boat. The next couple of hours were filled with solid trout; one after another they crushed our offerings and stretched our string as we did everything we could to hide our good fortune from the fiberglass army that surrounded us.
The notion of throwing topwater plugs in areas that normally are reserved for sub surface offerings is backwards for most folks along the coast. Sure there are some times when fish are schooling and it’s just natural to throw a topwater, who could resist watching fish under the birds or a herd of surfacing redfish seek out and destroy a She Dog or a Super Spook. That same pattern normally reserved for summer months and schooling fish works well in the spring, especially on the upper coast. The largest trout I ever caught was in April while drifting 6 feet of water and throwing a She Dog, the huge fish weighed in at 11 pounds 1 ounce so you can understand why I am a believer in this method. Conventional wisdom and history says you must attack big fish while wading and they have to be in shallow water, that’s all well and good but it’s not the gospel nor is it the whole truth.
So far this spring we have seen the deeper areas around the flats we wade hold more fish some reason. Several times this year the big flat on the lake side of Stewt’s island was covered with waders who were struggling to figure the fish out while just a few hundred yards away anglers drifting a little deeper water with same plugs were doing a number on some better than average fish. In normal years these same areas off the flats are reserved for drifting live bait or plastics. I can’t tell you how many times during the spring that we have big trout come up and strike at a cork while we drift live shad or chunk Mansfield Maulers. These fish are perfect topwater fish only they are in a different area than most anglers associate for the spring and they usually don’t have the pressure that the shallow fish have either.
Don’t paint yourself into a corner this spring with the idea that your topwater plug won’t catch fish in deeper water; they produce well as long you are willing to try them out. Also don’t worry about a little chop on the water either because the fish don’t care; as a matter of fact it’s really preferable to have a little ripple on the water. The spring is tailor made for big fish, just remember they swim in the deep stuff too.