Wadefishing is the sushi of coastal bay fishing. It is raw and unapologetically in touch with its core ingredients. It is a consuming experience (pun intended) that immerses you (last one…) in the elements. It is so beloved by some anglers that it is simply all they want to do. For those who do not get it, wadefishing is nonsensical.
Along some areas of the Gulf of Mexico coastal states, wadefishing is an anathema among anglers. The combination of cultural angling mores and some physical impossibilities make wadefishing the pursuit of outcasts, but along much of the Texas coast, it is a treasured tradition.
Much of my time fishing the Texas coast both during my time as a fish guide and currently as an amateur has been spent wadefishing for speckled trout and redfish. To be consistent, an angler has to be able to be proficient from the deck of a boat as well as walking the bay bottom, but it is hard to match the intense level of focus and attention to your surroundings one finds while wadefishing. The key to remember is that there are no definitive rules for what will produce fish. Through leveraging the unmatched contact with your aquatic surroundings and remaining adaptable, this fall and winter could hold your best wades yet.
Topwaters aren’t just for breakfast
There are many misnomers and misleading tenets in fishing. There are “liar birds” that don’t lie. There are fish that feed on a dead tide and catfish that strike topwaters. But, among the most egregious fable is that topwaters are only effective in low light periods like early morning. I cannot imagine how many memory making topwater bites have been smothered by this grossly incorrect advice. Indeed, topwaters are often a fantastic morning choice, but they can be incredibly effective any time of day in high sun and in surprisingly deep water as well.
Commit to yourself that this fall and winter you will try a topwater in a variety of new applications. Often, on the heels of a waning morning bite, wading out deep with a jig or slow sinking plug can grind out additional bites. But, it is surprisingly common for a lumbering topwater to entice just as much if not more action from fish that have fed and are suspended under a line of deep and inactive baitfish.
Remember to vary sizes of topwaters as well, particularly when significantly changing depths. Although color can be an important factor in attracting a topwater strike, I honestly believe the size, shape and rattle of topwaters are what induce bites, particularly when the fish are sluggish or off of a feeding period. Before abandoning your topwater, scale up or down in size. It might unlock a new pattern.
Try everything on the menu
One of the advantages of guided bay trips is the guide can utilize different members of the party to try different baits at different depths and begin to decipher the pattern. When fishing alone or with a single companion, unlocking the bite formula can be a bit more challenging. The key to addressing this is staying nimble in your approach. Make sure and zigzag the shoreline. Vary depths and retrieves with some regularity. It is very easy to pick a comfortable depth, utilize a fast-action bait and simply mow down the middle of the flat or shoreline. That is a great approach if the fish happen to be in that zone and want that particular bait and retrieve, but often that is the exception. It is important to remember that you are tracking a cold-blooded creature that will use everything it has to not be caught by you. Utilize your distinct perspective advantage by identifying where baitfish are concentrated, what type of structure is at various depths and subtleties in water clarity. Adjust everything you can until you start getting results.
Just because it’s crowded, does not mean it’s good
Be it a hot restaurant or a popular fishing spot, crowds do not always equate to quality results. Like anyone, it is hard to not look longingly at a crowded shoreline and imagine that it is the place to be. And, at times, it is the place to be. But, a crowd alone should never drive your choice of a place to fish. If indeed there is a consistent pattern on a given shoreline that is overrun with anglers, use that insight to your advantage. If the fish are staged on a mud flat adjacent to a series of bayous and marsh outlets, attempt to find that pattern in another area. Often, different schools of fish in different parts of a bay can behave surprisingly similarly. Perhaps the fish are targeting baitfish and shrimp as they move from the protection of a flooded marsh. If that is the case, that exact pattern may be manifest in multiple places throughout that bay or in similar, nearby bays.
The flipside of this pattern is to not let the crowd intimidate you. There are more people fishing every year, and crowds are consistently a part of the conditions. Remaining focused, even with other anglers around, can be daunting. It is easy to get distracted by the wader who cuts you off or the boat that runs to closely to the structure you are targeting, but if you remain calm and attentive to the pattern, you can fish around the disruption and sometime even have it work to your advantage. I have been surprised how many times a frustratingly aggressive boat driver can stir inactive fish and even induce a bite. Additionally, boat traffic can push fish on or off a shoreline. If you are able to correctly decipher the impact on the pattern by another anglers’ negligence, you may find a whole new pattern to exploit.
The lure of the wade
Fall and early winter offer some of the best times of the year for wadefishing Texas flats and shorelines for speckled trout and redfish. Water temperatures abate after the usually boiling summer pattern. Baitfish can be plentiful and the crowds subside….at least a little. If you have never wadefished or have allowed it to drop from your repertoire, slip on a set of chest waders and immerse yourself in it. Wading is not for everyone, but if you do get the palate for it, everything else just seems like filler.