When in doubt, whip out the soft plastics

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to fish from Sabine Lake to the Lower Laguna Madre, and during that time, I used a passel of lures to catch trout up to the 7-pound mark. One thing that I’ve found to be true for many years, especially here on Sabine Lake and East Galveston Bay, is this: When in doubt, whip the soft plastic out.

Last week about this time, I was fishing with Capt. Bruce Shuler out of Port Mansfield. The first afternoon on the water, four of us were out on the Laguna and wade fishing in about 3 feet of gin clear water. The only malfunction was that the wind was blowing a gale. I was thinking the afternoon fishing jaunt was blown out, that is until Shuler tossed a new soft plastic my way. It’s called Wedgetail Mullet, and it’s part of the all new Egret Saltwater line of baits.

“That’s a swimmer, or better known as a swim bait,” said Shuler. “It’s simple to use and will catch trout in just about any situation.”

I’m not that keen on swim baits of any type. That’s mainly because I have no confidence in them. The first rule of thumb when using a lure is to have confidence in the bait.

I tied on the 5-inch long Wedgetail Mullet, slipped out of the boat to begin a wade on the white-capped flat. This ain’t no lie: Within about 45 minutes, my new swim bait had caught a dozen trout to about 3 pounds. This particular soft plastic is 5 inches long, and it can be rigged on a conventional lead head jig, or with a SwimMax 6/0 hook. We ended up fishing them both ways last week. Much of that time we were fishing in some pretty thick vegetation. When the Wedgetail is rigged on a SwimMax hook, it’s weedless. The hook comes with a VLock screw in the center of the nose. You take the lure and twist it up on the screw, then slide the point of the hook up through and out the back of the bait. It’s simple and will not hang up on weeds.

I’ve never seen a simpler bait to fish. Once it’s rigged, you simply cast it out and reel it in on a slow and steady retrieve. On my first wade with this lure, the trout were shooting out of the grass and thumping it pretty good. We ended up catching both reds and trout on Wedgetail Mullets in a variety of colors. The best seemed to be red over yellow and chartreuse over white.

What makes this particular soft plastic so good is the signature wedge tail. It’s a fat wedge of plastic that produces a very tight thumping motion.

Another new soft plastic I’ve used with good success lately is the Bayou Chub. This is a 3.5-inch minnow-shaped lure that’s built with a round paddle tail. This past Sunday I used a copper Bayou Chub with a chartreuse tail to catch an easy limit of reds that were feeding in brackish colored water on a backwater estuary lake out of Port O’Connor. We had rigged the tails on 1/8-ounce lead head jigs.

Many fishermen along the Texas coast like to use the sickle-tailed soft plastics on a fast jerk/jerk/jerk retrieve. The paddle tail jigs seem to work best on a slow and steady retrieve. It’s the thumping tail that gets the attention of trout and reds.

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of difference in the lead heads that jigs are rigged on. They come in all sorts of colors, sizes and have various hook sizes and styles. I fish with a lot of professional anglers and guides and just about all of them agree that an unpainted jig head is best. Egret Bait Company has just come out with a jig head that’s pretty much close to perfect. The lead heads are not painted and have a pair of bright red eyes. Plus they are mounted on high quality hooks. Right behind the lead head are two ribs that hold the soft plastics snug without any slippage. They are made in 3/16, 5/16, 7/16 and 1/2 ounce sizes. The 3/16-ounce head is perfect for most shallow water fishing situations like you’ll find in Bessie Heights Marsh and Keith Lake. The reason why is simple – you want a slow falling soft plastic to get the attention of trout and reds. What you don’t want to do is fish a fast falling jig that retrieves a wad of grass.

The newest and hottest soft plastic jig color for reds is a copper/glitter finish. An olive/green or white/chartreuse is usually best for trout. The LSU color pattern is good for both reds and trout on Sabine Lake and East Bay.


East Texas freshwater fishing report

SAM RAYBURN – Water lightly stained; 68-71 degrees; 8.53 feet low. Largemouth bass are fair on chartreuse Senkos, lizards and Brush Hogs. White bass are fair on jigging spoons. Crappie are good on minnows and tube jigs in shallow areas. Bream are good on nightcrawlers and crickets. Catfish are good on trotlines baited with live bait.

TOLEDO BEND – Water stained; 69-72 degrees; 8.09 feet low. Black bass are good on chartreuse crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics. Striped bass are fair on minnows and silver striper jigs. White bass are fair on silver spoons and slabs in the river. Crappie are good on minnows and chartreuse jigs. Channel and blue catfish are good on trotlines baited with live bait, cut bait, and shrimp.

CONROE – Water fairly clear; 68-71 degrees; 2.28 feet low. Black bass are good on green pumpkin Carolina rigged soft plastics, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Striped bass are fair on minnows. Crappie are fair on minnows and green tube jigs. Catfish are good on stinkbait, liver, and cheesebait.

FORK – Water fairly clear; 68-76 degrees; 3.47 feet low. Black bass are good on BoHonk Echo Magic bladed jigs, Texas rigs with Jackall Casuteki Craws and watermelon/green pumpkin jigs. A few fish are still on beds with most fish in a post spawn pattern. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs. Catfish are good on cut shad and prepared bait.

HOUSTON COUNTY – Water clear; 76-80 degrees; 0.14 feet high. Black bass to 10 pounds are good on pumpkinseed, red, and black/blue craw worms. Crappie are fair on live minnows over brush piles in creek channels. Bream are good on live worms off piers. Channel and blue catfish to 8 pounds are very good on trotlines and juglines baited with shad.


Upper Texas coast fishing report

NORTH SABINE – Trout are fair to good on the Louisiana shoreline on topwaters and Corkies. Redfish are good in the marsh and the Louisiana shoreline on live bait.

SOUTH SABINE – Sheepshead and black drum are good at the jetty on live shrimp. Trout are fair to good around slicks and pods of shad.

BOLIVAR – Trout are fair to good on the south shoreline on Bass Assassins, Trout Killers and Sand Eels. Black drum, sand trout and redfish are good at Rollover Pass.

TRINITY BAY – Trout are good for drifters working pods of shad and mullet on Bass Assassins, Trout Killers and Sand Eels. Waders have taken better trout on the shell along the east shoreline.

EAST GALVESTON BAY – Trout are good on the south shoreline on Catch 5s, MirrOlures and Catch 2000s. Whiting and sand trout are good on the edge of the Intracoastal on fresh shrimp.