Grass beds are go-to spots in the summer
“Boy it’s hot. This is hot. It never got this hot in Brooklyn. This is like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.” Eugene Morris Jerome, the character played by Matthew Broderick in the movie Biloxi Blues
I quote that line about 8 a.m. every day I fish during the summer, which is usually followed by my wife lovingly stating, “Suck it up, buttercup.”
The older I get the more I’m affected by the brutal summertime heat, so to keep my trout hand strong I set the alarm clock early to ensure I’m on the water before the sun comes up.
Early got a new meaning when I scheduled a trip with Capts. Terry Snow and Alex Plowman of MS Charter and Guide Service.
I spoke with Plowman about the logistics of our recent trip, and I was a bit shocked when he told me to meet them at the ramp at 4:30 a.m.
I zoned out for a minute while I did the math in my mind on exactly how early I’d have to get up to make it to the ramp on time. I figured I’d have to get out of bed by 3 a.m. to have time to shake the cobwebs from my brain, limber up my muscles and get enough coffee in me to make the 30-minute drive to the ramp.
I arrived a couple of minutes late to find the duo waiting for me — with the boat already launched and ready.
I hopped in the boat for the 15-minute run down the bayou and out to the area we planned to fish. There was just enough ambient light to make out the shoreline of the bayou, but when we hit the Gulf it was rather dark, with the only visible light being shrimp boats anchored on the horizon.
I stayed propped against the center console, sipping coffee and let the captains go to work.
I made it sound like I was just enjoying the scent of the salty breeze and the view of the shrimp boats on the horizon, but truth be told, it was to keep from falling out.
Along with an intolerance of heat, my balance in the dark isn’t what it once was, so to avoid an embarrassing situation I stayed firmly planted on the floor of the boat with the center console as my crutch.
We had only been on our spot for a few minutes when Snow hooked a fat 3-pound speck on a smoke Sparkle Beetle. Capt. Plowman had several blowups on a Spook Jr., connecting with a few nice ones.
We fished around the flat for an hour or so while the duo caught trout on topwaters and Sparkle Beetles.
Snow is the trout guru of the two, so we talked summertime specks while we fished.
“By June, the water temperature has gotten so hot the fish just don’t move around a whole lot,” Snow said. “You’re looking for deep water or you’re looking for grass beds near deeper water — 6 to 8 feet deep — for these fish to get on.
“Grass beds provide two things for you. Bait hides down in the grass, so the specks and redfish are going to be there hunting something to eat in that grass. It also provides oxygen, which this hot water depletes.
“If you can find a grass bed, you’re going to find fish there. They might not stay there the whole time, but if you can find a grass bed your opportunity to catch fish is going to be raised.”
I shared with Snow how I like to start early but not as early as he and Plowman.
“We get out there early while the water temperature is as cool as can be for that time of year,” Snow explained.
Their also take a strategic approach to each trip.
“Most of the time Alex and I won’t start out with the same kind of lure or the same color lure,” Snow said. “We’ll start out different and keep changing around until we find out what they’re hitting.
“Most of the time, Alex starts with a topwater and I start with a jig.”
Obviously, their strategy works, so I pointed out the problems I have fishing a jig in heavy grass and asked for suggestions to avoid hauling in salad with every cast.
“Most of the time I’m casting it (soft plastic on a jighead) out there and popping it back,” Snow said. “If it goes down in the grass, in my mind, fish can’t see it.
“As long as you have it above the grass or right there at the top of it, jerking it and moving it along, the fish can see it. If they see something darting out of the top of the grass, they are going to run and grab it.
“We use Matrix Shad, sparkle beetles and Norton Sand Eels a lot,” Snow said. “I’m comfortable with a jig, so I continue to use them until I find the color or the presentation they like. Once you do that it’s pretty simple to catch the fish.
“The last time we were out here, I had something tied on that didn’t work out. I changed to a magneto Matrix Shad and cast to the same spot I had been with the other lure and started tearing them up. Same presentation, just a different soft plastic.”
When the sun got above the horizon and the duo felt the trout bite had petered out, we headed inside to do what Plowman is most fond of — chasing redfish in the marsh.
I thought we’d stick to the main bayou or the river but we ventured off into some shallow ponds.
“We come back inside, and start hitting points and little coves,” Plowman explained. “They’re going to hang in that grass because they’re in there eating or waiting to ambush something.
“I find in the summertime they’re more on outside points. In the fall you’ll find them on inside points because the water temperature is cooler. On the outside points you get wind current moving the water, it’s a little bit deeper and a few degrees cooler.”
Snow stuck with a jig when we went inside the marsh, while Plowman stayed with a topwater.
“I do better with a topwater early and a spinnerbait later,” Plowman said. “With spinnerbaits you can cover a lot of water and hit a lot of points.”
Plowman makes his own spinnerbaits by purchasing the blades and jigheads separately, putting the combo together before the trip.
“The main bait I stick with in the summertime is a spinnerbait,” Plowman said. “You can cover a lot of water with it; you can slow roll it; you can work it fast; it’s easy to change colors real quick.
“You can change the soft plastic out and change the color of your jighead.”
I prefer a Z-Man DieZel ChatterBait but have thrown the combo Plowman uses.
The ChatterBait comes through the grass easier and will hold up to the shell-crunching jaws of a large redfish better than most safety pin-type spinnerbaits.
When the bite slows, Plowman switches gears and goes to a more-subtle presentation.
“Sometimes in the summer when it’s really slow, if they’re not hitting good we’ll take a NetBait Paca-Craw, put it on a jighead and toss it out there,” he said. “They’ll eat it just like they would a crab.”
If the grass is thick, don’t hesitate to Texas-rig your craw on a stout worm hook and pegged Top Brass Tackle tungsten weight.
We finished the morning with a number of trout, redfish and flounder. We were done by 10 a.m., and headed in for lunch.
This was my kind of day: Catch fish, sip coffee and cold drinks, and then head in before the sun made it too unbearable to be outside.
Starting super early is a great idea during the hot summer months, but make sure you take some precautions — and I’m not just talking about plenty of water and sunscreen.
Make certain your know the route you’re taking like the back of your hand, have a second lookout watching for surface debris and channel markers, and wear your kill switch and a life jacket.
There’s no doubt that starting early is the way to go, but never sacrifice safety for a fish.
Live to fish another day.
Editor’s Note: Capt. Alex Plowman and Capt. Terry Snow can be reached by contacting them online at msguideservices.wix.com/gofish or by cell phone at 228-623-5727 or 228-324-4638.