There are a couple of questions that a full-time fishing guide gets almost every day because our customers are curious about our lifestyles, income and equipment, but most of all, want to know where and what!

Some time ago when I was very active in conservation organizations we would host seminars and try to help our membership by being more effective on the saltwater. Most of these lectures and presentations were from area guides on the Texas coast and the common question from the group had always been where and what. What I mean by this is, they want to know where the fish are located, and what you’re using to attract them. It’s a simple question, but a complicated answer because it depends on so many variables such as cycle of the moon, temperature of the air, speed of the wind, time of year and skill level of the angler to mention a few.

WHERE

I realize that you do not spend 295 days on the water like I do or like my fellow guides do, where we can rely on each other’s fish catch information on a daily basis. However, there are certain things that you can focus on to make your trips more successful and give you the best chance for that bite that lead to a satisfying trip.

Let’s say you go out one day in the Fall and just hammer trout but you also catch redfish and flounder so the bite is obviously on! Make a note of that date and go back in your leisure time (while at work) and try to figure out what day that was in relation to the moon phase and the solar lunar tables according to the best time of day to fish. Maybe you fished on the day where the charts tell you it’s going to be the highest probability of a bite or maybe it says it’s the worst day of the month and you should not be out there on the water. I’m going to say most of the time the charts will tell you that was the day and that was the time-so that’s one way to approach this complicated puzzle of when fish eat.

Then you use that information and go fishing once again during the same period of solar lunar bite, commonly known as a feeding major, but the wind is howling and the bay is churned up and there’s no way you’re going to catch the fish you did last time because you cannot even make a set in the rough conditions. In that case, just go to Plan B look around find some new territory; to get out of the wind you may find that no matter where you go you’re getting bites.

You may be confused because you’re thinking ‘well my first spot didn’t work but my second one did, I have to go to the second spot in the future’. I say try to forget about where you were and focus more on knowing where the fish are in the many locations they’re all just eating at that time. Just because you didn’t try that distant reef last time doesn’t mean the fish weren’t there, you may have caught more fish on than you did before.

What I’m saying, fishing is about gathering information as you go and using all available resources to point you in the direction of a bite. Try not to focus so much on what other people are doing or where other boats are and what they’re using. This is fishing not catching and I guarantee you at the end of the day if you find your own fish based on information that you created in the past there is no better feeling or bragging right.

WHAT

Concerning the what portion of this equation, what you use for bait whether live or dead shrimp; live croaker; soft plastics; or top waters just like the where part is something that we figure out on a daily basis. Today I may get a limit of trout using live croaker and talk to a couple of buddies who just got theirs on live shrimp and maybe added a few redfish on dead shrimp and got a few on cracked crabs or cut mullet. It’s a good idea to do what we do which is carrying a variety of offerings with you on your trip. I have live croaker now during these Summer months which is really June through September. Also, I’ll carry fresh mullet that I can cut into chunks and soak on the bottom for redfish sometimes. I’ll carry dead shrimp to try to go after black drum under a popping cork or on the bottom, it really just depends on what the customer wants to do as well.

If I have one person on my boat who has hired me for a 8-hour day and we go out in the first hour and get five trout, which would be their limit, I do not want to take that person back to the dock and say ‘thank you very much your trip is over’! We want to have them experience more of what the bays offer especially if they’re from out of the area or out of state. Those other bait offerings including the live croaker that I have should work for redfish.

Going back to the ‘where’ part, ‘where do I go to catch a redfish?’ You may ask. I try many different options, for instance maybe they’re over shell or maybe they’re in the mud. If the wind is blowing like crazy check the downwind portion of the shorelines where the bait would be blown up against the shore, you really never know until you go try. Same goes for soft plastics on wade fishing, I get the same question every day when we hop in the water on a wade fishing trip, ‘what color are they biting on’.

The answer to that is really another question-what color do you have in your arsenal? Usually an angler will show me four or five packages of soft plastic baits and I say to them ‘well any of them really would work because the fish are eating and they’re going to hammer anything that vibrates or swims erratically in the water. The color matters to a certain extent but you won’t know that until you try a couple of different colors. That’s why it is a good reason to invest in a wading belt with a box for lures you can carry along or a shoulder sling type tackle box and load it up before you ease into the water, you may not catch the fish on your first couple of steps and casts but if you keep after it and find a combination that works you’re going to build confidence in that soft plastic lure; you’re going to build confidence in that slow sinking plug; you’re going to put to the top of your tackle box lures from Texas Tackle Factory like the Killer Flats Minnow the Redfish Killer and the Trout Killer not to mention my personal favorite the Killer Hustler or Hackberry Hustler. Someone once told me that the job of a lure maker is not to catch the fish but the catch the angler and that’s been true for me my whole life. I cannot go to the store without buying a couple of packs of soft plastics and I think that’s true of most Anglers. When a customer shows me, what lures they have I see plenty of offerings that will work and they are more prepared than they might think.

In conclusion, I wish I could tell you where and what for each day of the year but the flat truth is none of us really know. Rather, we go by what we’ve learned the few past moon phases and weather scenarios and try to apply that to today’s trip. What you need more than anything as an angler is patience and understanding of the body of water you’re going to fish along with an ability to get along with others on the water and a desire just to have a good old time no matter what. That’s what separates a successful fishing trip from an unsuccessful trip, your level of satisfaction.

So, do your homework and keep notes on what you’ve done and where you’ve gone and what you used and I promise you if you look at your fishing as a lifetime sport based on knowledge gained by experience you’re going to be a much more satisfied Angler!

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