Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Quick Trip - Stripers Love the Swinging Hammer!

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The bridge was hopping last night as it looked like a parking lot out there at times.  Save for a couple folks that were a little inconsiderate when they ran too close to the bridge under power and threw a massive wake to kayakers and anchored boaters alike.  We were in the lighted area just away from the bridge and very visible, but I guess stripers affect the brain in many anglers differently.  What made this a little more concerning and dangerous was I was in the process of landing a striper and was next to a set of bridge pilings.  It could have been a little sketchy if I hadn't heard them coming and turned my PA 14's hull into the oncoming wake.

Had a decent night with only 4 hours on the water total - landed 14 stripers. Most were 14-15"ers, but the three biggest went 17 3/4", 18 3/4" and the last of the evening a nice 20 1/2" - all were released to come back a little bigger another day. The 17 3/4" looked almost like a Hybrid Bass as fat as it was for the smallish body.

All smaller stripers were caught using the PowerTeam Lures 4.5" Curly Tailed Grub on a 1/4oz. jighead. The three largest were caught using a PowerTeam Lures 4.8" Swinging Hammer (soft-bodied swim shad w/ paddle tail). Great night on the water with my buddy Patrick.

If you might be interested in trying out any PowerTeam Lures products, drop me a line or click on the PTL link

Tight lines and stay alert - not everyone has the same measure of awareness and safety as you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Missed It By That Much......

My quest for that elusive first saltwater citation almost came to fruition this past Monday.  Forecasts indicated yet another small craft advisory for the peninsula region and cooler air temps in the morning, only this time it was reserved for the Eastern Shore area and not so much for the inlets and bays in the Tidewater area.  Winds were supposed to lay down by midday and shift to out of the SE as the afternoon progressed.  So, having the day off, what better way to celebrate this past Veteran's Day as a veteran myself than to go fishing?

I was also equally anxious to get out and try my new custom spinning Spectrum Professional series inshore rods by Bull Bay Rods.  I ordered two of them - one in blue and one in red.  I paired the blue one with my Stradic 3000FJ and my Stradic CI4 to the red one.  I headed out to a nearby tidal flat known to many trout anglers in the region in search of a citation class speckled trout that has eluded me thus far this year.

I traditionally use only PTL plastics, but on this day, I promised myself that I would utilize the best trout catching lures on the market - the world famous MirrOlure (Series III and an XL) and of recent popularity, the Rapala Skitterwalk which was tied on already to my other custom Bull Bay casting rod.  I launched at 4:30am into a dead calm and a slack tide.  Flood had already maxed, so I knew I needed to pedal efficiently but with a purpose if I wanted to make the flats for the first couple hours of of the ebb tide.

I made my way to my target area, trolling the Skitterwalk along with a few subtle twitches every now and then on the off chance a hungry predator would blowup the surface walker.  Not even a swipe or halfhearted miss.  As I neared the creek mouth, I saw the ebb had already begun, so I knew my chances were right now.  I reached back and pulled the "blue arrow" from my rod quiver and fired off a rocket cast across the mouth of the creek.  Right away, I noticed how effortless it was to make a snap cast and have it travel a good 40 yards into a slight NNE breeze.

I was so pleased with my choice of rods that I didn't even feel the hit on the MirrOlure XL.  Once my haze of satisfaction wore off, I immediately felt the surge of a very large predator fish on the end of the line.  Drag started steadily leaving the bail but the fish gained no leverage on me.  The new Spectrum held it's own and just held the feisty creature at bay.  Even with strong surges to try and escape, the Spectrum loaded perfectly and turned the predator right back to me.  The fight was over almost as quickly as it had begun.  It felt like an eternity, but in actuality lasted a faint 45 seconds in total in real time.

A slight re-direct of the beastly speck at the side of my Pro Angler, a quick wrap of the leader around my hand and a smooth hoist into the footwell.  I looked down and thought to myself wow while simultaneously letting out a triumphant "YES!  Booyah Baby!  That's more like it!"  I was anxious to get this monster trout on the measuring board to see if my quest had been fulfilled.  I lined the trout up properly with the nose to the zero line and laid the tail naturally.  My eyes panned the length of the body in awe of the shear girth and size of this beastly speck.  My eyes neared the point of no return as I scanned the black hash marks for the singular hash longer than the other 1/4" increments and felt a glimmer of hope creep into my soul as I gazed at the magical mark of 24", and...........a whopping 1/4" short!   You have got to be kidding me!  I checked and rechecked just to be sure, but I felt it was short and no way was I going to cheat myself or the VMRC Saltwater Tournament program by pinching the tail and making the fish a citation.  I snapped a couple photos and let the speck swim away to grow that last 1/4" to become citation class.  While I was disheartened a little, this was my largest speckled trout to date so far.
I made a few more casts to the same area but didn't get any more hits, so I moved to the other side of the creek mouth and worked the opposite direction - no luck.  After 30 minutes of working that area with no signs of additional life, I moved around the point of the flat, beached the Pro Angler and waded out nearly 50 yards from shore into two feet of water.  I started making some more casts across the flat with the "blue arrow" as it felt more balanced that the "red arrow".  I alternated casting periods between the Skitterwalk and the XL.

After about a half hour of doing this, another fish strike occurred, only this time the bite felt different.  The fish didn't put up much of a fight at all.  After a real short fight, the guilty culprit emerged from the watery flats - a less than healthy looking redfish.  I lipped him and waded back over to the Pro Angler to get a picture.  If was only then that I noticed that he had a portion of his dorsal fin torn away with the wound still showing signs of blood, and there were noticeable linear scars and bruises on his body - most likely the result of getting caught up in a net if I had to venture a guess.

Nevertheless, a fish is a fish, and this portly slot red measured in at a nice length of 23".  My largest redfish of the year, and he too was released to go and grow even bigger.  Both of these fish were caught on the ebb tide and prior to 9am.  I kept working the flats for a total of nine hours on the day with no more fish to show for my efforts.  While the citation class speckled trout eluded me on this day, I could leave knowing I had accomplished a few of my goals for the day.

First, I was able to test out my two new Spectrum rods from Bull Bay Rods.  Second, I was able to dedicate my fishing styles on the day to utilizing Skitterwalks and MirrOlures - two methods I could use the practice in.  Third, I fished my target area from every possible angle managing only two fish, but they were both the largest saltwater fish caught this year for me.  Fourth, I was able to put my new rods to the test not only in casting but also in under load and during the fight.  A detailed review is forthcoming later this year after I have had several outings under my belt.

Am I disappointed - sort of, then again I know I will come back once the water warms in the spring and target the flats yet again.  I can always chase the big trout in some nearby waters as old man winter rears his ugly head, but I will turn my attention most likely to the striped bass and tautog that are now on the loose in our neck of the woods.

Hope you found this tale both entertaining.  I know next year where to go and what to use.  It is only a matter of time......

Tight lines!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Still Searching.....

Had a chance to hit the water for a brief outing recently searching for that elusive citation Speckled Trout.  I launched at the start of the flood tide in the pre-dawn hours into a slight breeze of 8-10 knots (believe me, that's practically dead calm for my outings these days).  I had three target areas for the day planned, and I needed to make haste if I wanted to be able to hit all three in the short window I had afforded to me this day.

After a short pedal, I made my way to the first area, a long shallow point that normally holds fish.  I made a cast to the starboard side of the Pro Angler and slowed my pace to a slow roll the Hammershad.  Within a minute, it was hammered but there was little fight.  I knew it wasn't a speck or red for certain.  It had to be only one other species that I know in this area this time of year - a juvenile striper........measured in at 15".

After a quick photo, I made another cast with the Hammershad to continue the slow troll until I made it to my second target area.  After I crossed another hole that rose to a significant flat, the Hammershad was literally hammered and drag started ripping - had to be a redfish.  The challenge in getting this fish in was the incoming tide had picked up in earnest and the winds had shifted and gained in strength.  Now I was battling a strong incoming coupled with a wind that was riding the current as well.  It pushed me directly into the bank and I risked getting hung up on something and losing the fish.  Fortunately, I wrangled the feisty 19" red to the side of the hull right as I reached the shoreline and just lifted him in.  Nice fight but not what I was looking for.....

At my second target area, I deployed the trusty 8' YakAttack ParkNPole and waded out onto the flat trying to position myself for any predators schooling and chasing bait.  Nary a bite to be found.  I threw topwaters, suspending plugs, moving plastics.  Varied my retrieves from the normal to the unorthodox just to try and discern the presentation that they were looking for.  Nothing.

I repeated this procedure at my third target area and finally found some baitfish, but I knew it was all for naught.  I had reached the end of my allotted time on the water.  I know if I could have hung around for just another hour or two the bite would have turned on.  I would have been in perfect position to ambush the monster trout I know were staging offshore and waiting for the outgoing to begin.

No worries - I will be back and pursuing that citation.  I will persist, and it will happen.

The lure of the day, as mentioned before, was a Powerteam Lures 3.6" JP Hammershad with a small drop of Hog Tonic.  It is a very versatile bait and can be rigged in a number of ways.  On a standard jighead, as a trailer on a swimming jig or spinnerbait, as a drop shot - the choices are only limited by your imagination.  the beauty of these baits is that they are flat on the bottom.  This is helpful in two ways - one, it helps with skipping under the canopy of overhanging trees, docks and cutting through the wind.  And second, it is awesome as a suspending jerkbait.  Rig it on a 3/0 EWG or swimbait hook with a keeper pin.  The neutral buoyancy of the lure helps it float or levitate in the water and exhibits a slow sink.

Try them out - you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Perseverance - noun \ˌpər-sə-ˈvir-ən(t)s\. : the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult.

"The National Weather Service has issued a small craft advisory for Hampton Roads and surrounding waters until 5pm today.......".  By definition, the National Weather Service defines this as "sustained winds or frequent gusts ranging between 25 and 33 knots (except 20 to 25 knots, lower threshold area dependent, to 33 knots for harbors, bays, etc.) and/or seas or waves 5 to 7 feet and greater, area dependent" as part of their Coastal Warning Display Program for the Eastern sector of the United States.

It was my day off and my only remaining opportunity to get on the water for the next week or so, so it only makes sense that a small craft advisory would be in effect.  I was fishing inshore today, so the advisory was not as applicable compared to if I had targeted the bridge or open waters.  I launched pre-dawn into a steady wind and building rains out of the west, but I knew according to the forecast that it would get worse by the time I made my way to my target area for the day.

I was determined to make the best of it regardless.  Sight casting was not very realistic, so I had to rely on knowledge of tidal movements, ambush points near structure changes and any visual indicators - namely nervous water and active fish feeding.  My first stop was a nearby dock that had a good light footprint on the water.  I worked a few offerings and had a strong hit on the PTL Swinging Hammer, but it never came tight for a good hookset.

My next stop was on the backside of a wind blown point on a feeder creek just shy of peak high tide.  The strong winds made positioning a little difficult, but my trusty YakAttack ParkNPole solved that problem. I worked a topwater across the creek mouth and was rewarded with a few half-hearted swipes by what looked like a juvenile trout.  No worries, maybe topwater would be manageable even in strong winds with the proper positioning.

I made my way to an area with some flats and quickly found some cover and structure changes to target.  With the building winds, I decided to beach the Pro Angler and wade for a bit.  I tried the topwater again and was rewarded with an aggressive under slot red trying to inhale the plug.  Even though it didn't come tight, the adrenaline started flowing watching this smallish red swiping at it.  While that was fun, it still wasn't what I was longing for.  By this time, flood had maxed and it was the start of the ebb tide.  With a strong wind and an ebb tide, casting topwater was not doable any longer.  I decided I would work the various nooks and crannies that had feeder creeks with ebbing waters and wind blown grass points.  After a few hours of this, I needed to try something different.

I decided that the only way I was going to catch any fish on a day like this was to go find them.  I made my way out to a subtle drop off of in 3-4' of water and started scanning.  The water was crystal clear, but sighting fish was limited to a narrow window right below due to the wave chop.  I stood instead to get a better viewing angle which was a wise thing to do even in the strong winds.  If I hadn't done this,  I never would have seen the three different reds all hanging on the bottom I rolled over.  I decided to switch over to a weedless jig and slow roll it through the submerged grass - a wise decision.....

Working the fan cast technique, on my third cast the PTL JP Hammershad gets slammed hard.  I didn't even have to make a hookset.  I knew from the head shakes and runs that this was a Redfish and a nice one at that.   I fought the waves and winds and landed my first of the day - a 20.75" bruiser that put my light spinning gear to the test.
Not 15 minutes later, the line came tight again when this 21" red slammed the Hammershad again.
By this time, the winds and ebbing tide had pushed me to the end of my drift, I was a long ways from the launch.  I knew the ride back would be a painful one, but I was satisfied with my determination to get on fish, so it was worth it in my mind.  As the tide turned, one look at the clock and I knew my day was done.  I made the long and grueling trek back in gusting winds, stinging rain and crashing seas.  I left a line out on the chance I could troll up an aggressive fish, but I ended up only having a smallish one tear the tail off the Hammershad.

It took me an hour and half to make the five mile trek back in those nasty head winds, and I was truly thankful for the Mirage Drive on a day like today.  As I stood at the launch, I reminisced on the day having felt thoroughly tested and beaten down, but a smile came across my face at the small measure of success I was able to achieve in unfavorable conditions when many would opt to stay at home.  It was only when I got home and researched the actual weather events on the day that I fully realized how brutal the day was......
In summary.......

Wind gusting 30-34 mph and sustained winds of 19-25 mph.
Total trip length - 10 miles.
Fish count - two slot reds
Feeling a sense of accomplishment - priceless!


One thing that can be said about my outings this year so far.  I may not have had the same measure of success as some of my peers in the region, but I certainly have given it my best effort when time permitted.  For this outing, I have to acknowledge several folks that have helped me stay focused and determined this year even though the last several outings that have ended in frustration.  I am very thankful for the knowledge, encouragement and positive thinking that Forrest, Richie, Bill and Rob have given to me - thanks guys,  You are the reason I continue my search for quality fish. 

Tight lines, stay safe and know your limits.