If Chas Champagne, the owner Matrix Shad lures is cruising through marsh and duck ponds sight-fishing for reds — but doesn’t actually spot any fish — he’s typically keeping a close eye out for two other reliable indicators of reds in the neighborhood.
The first thing he’s looking for is stingrays.
“It seems like when you’re in ponds that stingrays are floating around in, those are the same ones redfish like,” Champagne said. “If I’m daydreaming, texting or my phone rings and I see two or three stingrays in a row, I’ll really start paying attention. However stingrays scavenge the bottom in those ponds and look for food, redfish must treat it the same.
“I see stingrays on a redfish’s back all the time.”
The second dead giveaway to redfish in the area is the stringy algae local anglers refer to as “snot grass.”
“When I’m up on my stand with the trolling motor and see stingrays, I start paying attention. But when I’m running around the duck ponds or canals or creeks and I don’t really know where I’m going, and I’m wiggling and winding and zigging and zagging and going from Spot A to Spot B, if I start seeing this neon green stuff, I just shut it down,” Champagne said. “I know they’re there somewhere.
“Typically, they’ll be on the edge. If it’s too grassy or the water is real low, you have to get to where they can float over it. If they can’t swim over it or around it, it pulls the oxygen out of the water and makes it hard for them to deal with. Once I find it growing on the banks or in the middles of the canals or ponds, I’ll find an area deep enough that’s got it — and that’s where some fish are gong to be.”
Champagne acknowledged redfish can get in all kinds of different grass, including coontail and hydrilla.
“But personally, my favorite is snot grass,” he said. “It makes the water pristine clean, so you can see the reds from a mile away. It makes the redfish contrast real hard against the bottom, so you can see them real easy.”
His go-to summertime sight-fishing lure is definitely the Matrix Craw, rigged on a ¼-ounce swimbait hook. Redfish slam it, but its versatility is key during the summer: He skin-hooks it to keep it weedless if he’s in the thick stuff.
“I only blind-cast if the clouds pop up and I can’t see them all that good,” Champagne said. “If we go out there and think it’s going to be a nice sunny day and it turns out to be a cloudy day, I’ll just run that thing like a frog on top of the surface by reeling it in kind of fast, because those crawfish legs flap real good.
“Then you can catch bass — plus a handful of reds.”