Every year I plan a guy’s trip with some of my best friends. Often, we camp at Caper’s Island and surf fish, drink beer, and eat. It’s a great time and we have been doing it for years. This year I had a little surprise in store for them. Some fans of our products are the owners of a house on Goat Island. I discovered them on Instagram when they would tag pics of them holding up fish caught on Trout Eye jigs. If you’re not from Charleston, Goat Island is a really cool and unusual place. It’s an island just across the ICW from Isle of Palms and is only accessible by boat. The houses range from very rustic to very nice. I contacted them about possibly renting their place for my trip and we picked a weekend and it was on.
Well, their house “Goat Island Getaway” was really cozy and full of character. It has plenty of decks, porches, hammocks and is a great place to chillax. The fishing was not on fire, I believe due to the water temperature still being 80F in the middle of October. Usually by this time of year we have had a few cold fronts, dropping the water temperature and turbo-charging the catching.
Regardless, we searched around for a pattern that worked and eventually found a few fish here and there. We even went to the jetties a couple times and everyone had a chance to be on the rod end of a freight train. Unfortunately our landing ratio was not great…ok it was awful! But exciting nonetheless!
We ate like kings, as a few of our friends are great cooks and even enjoyed trout ceviche made with trout caught the same morning. It was an awesome trip and I took a survey of who wanted to re-up for next year and it was a unanimous YES!
If you have never visited Goat, you should give it a try. I think I’ll be back with my wife to spend a weekend away – a vacation in our home town.
Shortly after I first met Ralph, he shared a pic of him and a friend from the summer time holding up a nice striper. I couldn’t believe it! I’d fished here in Charleston for years and only once or twice heard of one caught and the details were always a mystery. He had been catching them for many years and so this was nothing special for him. Ever since, I have been on a personal mission to catch them and learn more about their behavior.
What do I mean by “riverine” striper? Well, these are different than striper caught in the lakes in SC. These striper exist in our coastal rivers that start as fresh water and end in the salt at our coast. They are either stocked by SCDNR or self sustaining.
In years gone by, the Ashley river had a strong self sustaining population of striper, and probably due to development far upstream where the water is fresh, the population has died out completely. Any striper you catch in the Ashley has been stocked by SCDNR. In the past many years, there has been a program to try to bring the stock back, but for mysterious reasons it has failed. I’m paraphrasing a DNR biologist friend of mine, but they seem to last approx 2 years after being stocked, then they disappear. When they are there, its fun because you can easily catch 10 in a trip, but they are all pretty small, generally under 14″ or so. Last year, I heard of exactly 1 striper caught in the Ashley. They haven’t been stocked in 2 or 3 years…
Same is true I believe for the Wando river. The Wando is unique because it isn’t fed by a large source of fresh water so its much saltier. But, when the fish are stocked you can catch a bunch way up at the top of the river (above Paradise Landing). I once caught a tagged striper below the 41 bridge and DNR told me that was as far down as they had had a recapture.
The Cooper river, however, is special. As is the Combahee and Edisto (but, alas, I have yet to target them in those rivers so I can’t comment on experience). Striper are fairly prevalent in the brackish portion of the Cooper and based on my personal experience, the numbers seem to be improving over the last several years. I base this on my personal catches, and also the fact that both the Youth (27″ by Grant Allison, caught on my boat) and Adult SSWA club records (29″ caught recently by your’s truly) for striper have been broken in 2017.
Here are a few observations I have made over the years
They are very hard to pattern, as they are kind of “marauders”, meaning they move around a lot – chasing bait fish schools around I believe. They don’t hold on particular structure on particular tides like redfish and trout do. For this reason, in the Fall, I never fish there without a rod with a topwater tied on and readily available.
In the spring time, around March, they spawn. I have caught a male that was as fat as a football, and it wasn’t eggs or food he was full of!
They seem to move down into the lower reaches of the river in the Summer. I’m not sure why, but it might be because of lower oxygen levels upriver due to the extremely hot water.
Fall time is prime time. If you are in the right place at the right time, you might see an acre of fish push a bait fish school up and the water erupts with breaking fish. If you are prepared (see above) you can have an absolute blast catching them while it lasts. While it lasts, is the key phrase here
Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the aggressive explosion of a striper topwater strike in October, inshore anyway.
Well, they are an amazing sport fish, and I’d like to make a case for conservation. It’s my dream that riverine striper are made illegal to keep, at least until their numbers are much, much higher and sustainable. The lower slot is 27″ and I’ve only seen or heard of 3 or 4 taken at 27″ or above. This suggests that all keepers are kept, and I wouldn’t be surprised. Just because there are legal catch and creel limits doesn’t mean we can ignore them and release all fish regardless of size. These fish are truly too important to keep.
For the past several years I have fin-clipped the striper I catch for analysis by SCDNR. They analyze the DNA to tell if the striper are stocked and if so, when and where. If you would like to get involved, go to dnr.sc.gov and get a kit.
Lastly, it’s time for an annual challenge that I call the “Margarita Slam”. It consists of Redfish, Trout, Flounder, Striper, Largemouth. It’s a brackish water super-slam that is a real challenge and quite rewarding to accomplish. To count, it must be completed on the same trip. Plus 100 points if you do it using the same artificial lure setup. I’ve accomplished the latter exactly once 🙂
Ralph and I recently had the good fortune to be “schooled” by Mark Deschenes of VIP Adventures on jetty sheepshead fishing. Mark has a series of managed lakes that he manages for trophy bass in Summerville, SC. Needless to say he is a great fisherman. He was telling us about how he has been using our new Trout Eye Finesse jigs to catch sheepshead at the jetties. This was a completely new application for our jigs as far as we knew. We have caught a few sheepies on our jigs and Z-Man plastics in the dead of winter but this was something new. He offered to show us how so we eagerly agreed.
The traditional setup is to use a short Carolina rig which is basically an egg sinker, swivel, approximately 8″ of mono, and a small hook to which is attached a fiddler crab. If you have ever fished for these “convicts” you know that you must set the hook before they bite! Really, that means that they will suck in the bait very softly and crush it. If you feel a small vibration you are 99.9% of the time too late. It’s a learning curve for sure. The Carolina rig makes it a little difficult to sense the bite since the hook is free below the weight.
We arrived at the jetties a little early and the tide was still rolling pretty good. It was the end of the outgoing tide and we used the traditional setup at first. It wasn’t more than a couple minutes before Mark slung a 3 pounder in the boat.
Once the tide slowed we broke out the Finesse jigs and hooked a couple fiddlers on them. The weight being in contact with the bait definitely helps sense the bite, and Ralph and I started hooking up too using them. What a blast we had! We caught 25+ all good size and our family and friends all ate well that day!
The highlight of the trip was a 10 pounder that Mark caught using the Trout Eye Finesse jig. If you look at our Instagram page (@eyestrikefishing) you can see a short video of the hookset and fight. It’s pretty funny!
Mark prefers the Pearl eye because he feels that it looks like a chinaback fiddler crab. He also feels like the 1/0 hook is the perfect length for the sheephead’s mouth. We used 1/4 oz jigs for this trip because it helped get the bait to the bottom as quickly as possible. In general, we would let the jig hit bottom and get ready instantly because the jig got hit almost as soon as it hit bottom. The action was quick and fun!
Try it! Trout Eye Finesse jigs can be purchase directly from us in bulk at trouteye.com or at certain tackle shops in 3-Packs. Haddrell’s Point will have them as soon as next week.
By the way, Mark runs charters for jetty sheepshead, so if you are interested in giving it a try and learning what its all about, look him up at VIP Adventures.
You may have noticed that we have changed our business name to Eye Strike Fishing. We did this to better align our name with our products, and help with marketing, etc. For our logo’s we turned to non other than the designer of the original Trout Trick packaging, Jay Fletcher. He has won awards for that design, and I have long admired his Instagram account, which features his work. It is simple, creative and just amazing. We had a few discussions about what we were looking for and what he came back with was just perfect. Hope you like it!
So, first let’s do a report. Once we got into May, the bait moved in with a vengeance and the artificial bite improved so much. The fact that we had our first major trout spawn of the year didn’t hurt. The trout were fattening up for the spawn and the bite was great! Topwater has been strong in the usual spots as well. I have been experimenting with our 1 oz Striper Eye jigs paired with a 6″ Z-Man SwimmerZ. This combo is proportionate and a great mullet imitation. I’ve been deep jigging this by dropping down to the bottom, anywhere from 25 to 40 feet, winding up a couple feet, and vertical jigging. When you get a strike you will know it! It feels like someone dropped a 10 lb weight on the end of your line. What a blast!
Here is a big redfish I caught this way. I texted this pic to Daniel Nussbaum at Z-Man and he replied “Is that a flounder?” It wasn’t till I looked at the pics that I noticed the flounder it has just eaten sticking out of its mouth! How cool is that?
This is something that is fun to try, and it has worked really well at the jetties, for example. It’s a lot more fun than soaking bait. I will say, please don’t fish for them unless you have a venting tool handy and have read up on how to do it. OHero sells an inexpensive venting tool that I recommend. You can purchase one here. These fish are old and valuable and should be respected by handling properly, venting them (if needed) and reviving them long enough for them to kick away strongly.
That particular day was notable for the trout as well. The big girls were chewing and I had 5 over 20 inches that day (all released to spawn).
I recently took a crew fishing in our Summerville Saltwater Anglers May tournament. It was one of those days where everything seemed to click and we did very well. We had many memorable things happen.
First, I was reeling in a small trout and noticed another larger trout chasing it. I kept it in the water and the larger trout didn’t leave. I told Ray to drop a lure down there. He did, and instantly hooked up! It was a good 3 inches longer than mine. I have seen this with largemouth bass and even cobia but never trout.
Second, I went up a small creek on a whim, as I knew from the past that a lot of bait was in that creek. We went all the way to the end until my Whaler was just about stuck (6″) and found a school of reds belly crawling around and feeding. That’s always exciting to see! One cast with a Trout Eye Finesse jig with a Pearl MinnowZ and I was hooked up to a 27″ red. After that, we had them pretty spooked and did not get another. A fly rod would have been deadly there.
Lastly, we all had nice trout and redfish sent in (we have a CPR format) so we needed flounder. On our second stop by a dock, Ray hooks up with an 18 inch flounder instantly, Josh gets a 15 incher right behind him. I went up front and made a few casts and put one of my own in (the smallest) the boat. We swept the flounder category in a span of 10 minutes. That was a great end to the day.
So, we have a number of new announcements to make.
We have added a new eye color to our jigs…Chartreuse. This color was a suggestion by Capt Justin Carter. We purchased a trial amount and fished them and sold a few. They really work well! So well, that we made them a new standard color option. We will have them available in about a week.
Announcing our newest product: Eye Strike Weedless Jigs. We have been working on them for about 6 months now, with various prototypes and trial and error. We now feel that we have the best of the best. These work great in spartina, turtle grass, across oyster rakes and fallen trees. Ralph and I used them to place 4th in the Southern Redfish Cup in Charleston. See our product page for more info.
I read somewhere that kids these days are the most stressed in history. It’s easy for me to understand, it’s because of social media. Being a teenager is hard enough, but add in social media and it’s so much worse. Why? Their social media feeds are filled with a constant barrage of images of other people’s “perfect” lives. Carefully selected pics of happy moments, amazing trips or experiences, modeling pics, winning races, etc, etc. You get the picture. Anyone’s real life can’t possibly compare.
The same is true in fishing. Look at instagram feeds. It’s full of record size trout, monster redfish, doormat flounder, tarpon on fly, etc etc. If you have a trip and don’t catch anything but small fish, or worse yet, get skunked, you must be a loser, awful fisherman, etc.
It’s all BS. Many TV shows take more than one attempt to get a few catch pics. Some even hook a fish, set it back out, and film it being “caught”. There are all kinds of games going on that aren’t apparent to the eye.
Let’s keep it real. Don’t compare yourself to what you see on social media. Be thankful for time on the water, time with family or friends, any fish that you catch – large or small. That’s where happiness comes from. Each of us have different definitions of a good day on the water. That might be catching one fish, catching many, catching a new species, or a personal best. Who cares what other people think!
I try to keep it real on our social media, by sharing as many of our customer’s pics as possible. My favorite are the kids pics. I will say that every pic that we post is caught on our products. We do not stick our jigs in a fish mouth when it was caught in some other way.
On this subject, there have been a number of recent reports in Charleston about how great the catching has been recently. Not for us! Not on artificials anyway. The last couple weeks have been extremely difficult fishing for us. We have struggled to find fish in usual good spots, often passing through very thoroughly without a bite. There may be a number of reasons for this, and it probably has to do with bait just starting to move in thick, so hopefully the bite will improve a lot soon.
I had the privilege of taking a youth member of Summerville Saltwater Anglers fishing this weekend in our member tournament. He had a good day, catching his first trout on top, and a few really nice redfish. You can’t beat that smile! Grant will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Very skilled young man.
Weedless Jigs – You asked, we listened. We will be announcing our new weedless jig line very soon. We have designed the head to shed grass, and added a wire weedguard. The hook is a 3/0 Mustad Ultrapoint. They work great dragging oysters, sliding through spartina or seagrass, or pulling through brush and branches. Most importantly, don’t lose as many fish as many weedless jigs do. Lots of hard work has gone into them and they have been called “The Ultimate Redfish Jig” by one of our collaborators. Stay tuned for more info.
One value we share here is fisheries conservation. You will never see us posting (or re-posting) pics of “fish-slaying”, with a deck covered up in dead fish. One’s fishing prowess is not measured in numbers of kept fish – at least not in our book. True sportsmen are interested in sustainability. Sure, keep a few for your families dinner – but handle the rest properly and send them back to be caught again. My years of fish tagging have shown that our fish will be caught at least once during their lifetime and often several times. If all these fish were kept, they simply would not be there – it’s not rocket surgery folks!
Our fishing club, the Summerville Saltwater Anglers has 6 member tournaments a year. These are low pressure, fun tournaments where traditionally we had weigh-ins at a boat landing. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, in these tournaments I have had the luck of catching some large fish, namely two trout over 5 lbs. As a personal rule, I release all trout over 20″, but in both of these cases I kept these fish since I was in a tournament. At the time, I requested whether we could look at the rules and see if we could submit a photo on a ruler in lieu of a weight in the case of an exceptional fish – so that the fish might be released. Well, for various reasons, we didn’t do that.
This year, I am proud to say that we decided as a board to go to 100% CPR (Catch, Photo, Release) format. Kayakers have used this format successfully in tournaments out of necessity – there is no way to have a livewell in a yak. One of the largest kayak tournaments in the world, The Jax Kayak Classic, uses this format. All you need to do is take a picture of your catch against an approved ruler. There are several metal rulers with a 90 deg bend on the end available online for around $20. Everyone these days has a smart phone. Simply take a pic of the fish on a ruler with your phone and attach the pic to a text or email to submit it. Simple and easy!
The real beauty of this format is that you can now “weigh” over- and under-slot fish. So, every fish can count regardless of catch and creel laws. This makes it a lot of fun for everyone. And, you can do your part for conservation by releasing your fish. Our club is one that leads by example, and is made up of a lot of conservation oriented families.
I’m very proud to be associated with SSWA, and I truly believe that CPR tournaments are the way of the future, for all fishermen.
Seems like forever since Ralph and I have fished together. We decided on the Wando river today, as we haven’t fished it all winter. We found the water to be the old familar “Wando Gin” color. You can see at least 12 feet down right now, no doubt partly because of the very slow tide today. The range was less than 4 ft. Here in Charleston, we have had our only real cold snap of the entire winter these last few days, with morning temps near or just below freezing. This snap has cooled the water from the mid 60’s down to the mid 50’s.
Not surprisingly, the fishing was sloooow. Another phenomenon which happens around this time of year near the full moon is an annual worm hatch. For several days after this hatch the fishing is awful, probably because the fish are so gorged they can’t eat another bite for a while – kinda like overeating at Thanksgiving dinner. We are between moons, so that is probably not the cause for the slow bite this time, but it’s something to be wary of. Same is true, by the way, when the crabs become “peelers”, but that’s another story.
Suspecting that a finesse approach was going to be needed, I went to my old familiar standard – the original trout trick with a 1/8 oz Trout Eye jighead. I still can’t explain it, but there is something magic about that combo – it’s been proven time and time again. After switching to this setup, I had what should have been an inshore slam in short order. I say should have, because I lost a very nice flounder boatside…doh!
We had only about 3 hours to fish, and at our last spot, I had a very, very light bite. Actually, no bite was felt – it was just a resistance. I lifted the jig and felt a couple head shakes before I lost it. I dropped the lure back and this time the resistance resulted in a good 16-17″ class trout. Subsequent cast yielded another and this was all it took for Ralph to switch to the same setup. Shortly after, he had 2 or 3 on the deck. Like I said, there is something magic about the original Trout Trick. It also demonstrates that you should keep varying your offerings and presentation when the catching is tough, as it can make the difference between going home with a skunk, or salvaging a pretty decent day.
Hope this helps you, and as always, feel free to come by the shop if you would like to ask any questions and talk fishing. We do carry the original TT here at the shop and would be happy to stock you up. I’m glad I had some on me today!
I’m not sure what is going on this year and I don’t think the fish do, either…Here it is, February 24th, and we have pine pollen in the air and azaleas in full bloom. The waters here in Charleston never really got very cold, so we never really saw the fish get in a winter pattern. The papers are saying we are at least 3 weeks ahead of time in terms of weather. We are even hearing of menhaden showing up…Well, one thing is for sure, and that is we are in for a banner trout year! I’m going on record to say that the Summerville Saltwater Anglers trout club record will fall this year (and I hope it’s me that beats my own record!)
Due to the uncertainty in the weather, the fish have been a little hard to pattern for us in our usual brackish waters that we like to fish. They are kinda spread out, like typical March fishing, but I suspect that March will be like April and that means big hungry trout fattening up for the spawn. Our recommendation is to keep your eyes peeled for bait fish and try to match the hatch with your size, color and profile and I think you will do pretty good.
I had the pleasure of fishing a club tournament and hosting my younger son Ian (age 17) and a new club member Grant (age 15) who has the fishing bug bad. It was a real pleasure with these two boys, both who know how to work a lure and cast accurately. The day-maker was Grant’s first fish while fishing off a boat – and it was a gollywhopper….a new youth club record riverine Striper at 27.5″. This fish also would have tied the adult record by the way. I was proud to have witnessed it. Unfortunately for Grant’s parents, I think he’s ruined!! Incidentally we have seen the striper busting bait which indicates the re-emergence of bait fish in the creeks.
The Inshore Journal
If you haven’t yet checked out The Inshore Journal, it’s a really cool podcast format that has interviews and product reviews. Recently, Episode 5 was on the subject of the Southern Redfish Cup. It has an interview with the owner of the tour and also Ashley Lowder, who along with partner Jeremy Espiritu won over $40,000 fishing the tour in 2016 including a win and big fish in the Georgetown leg and also a win in the Championship and Team of the Year honors. The episode can be listened to HERE and is worth a listen (it runs over an hour) but there is a great testimonial to our Trout Eye jigs by Ashley if you jump ahead to the 45 minute mark. Check it out.
I’ve caught 100% of all my tournament fish on Trout Eye jigheads – Ashley Lowder
Shop Hours Changed
We have changed our Shop hours to Monday through Friday 9AM – 4PM. Come on by the shop and chat about fishing and pick up some supplies. Remember, we have a great selection of Z-Man soft plastics including some hard to find larger profiles like the 6″ SwimmerZ and 8″ MagSwimZ that pair really well with our Striper Eye jigs for jetty or reef fishing. Some local guides have liked their performance so well that they are buying them for their charter clients to use at the reefs instead of live bait. A single ElaZtech lure can last all day and, well, Predators Strike the Eye and the results speak for themselves! We also have all our products including Trout Eye and Redfish Eye shirts, Original Trout Tricks, the new Trout Eye Finesse jigs, and our new Chrome eyes.
We have been working on some new things and have a couple announcements to make – and still a couple BIG irons in the fire that are not ready for release as of yet. We will keep you waiting for those…
(1) Chrome Eyes. We have a new eye color, we are calling “Chrome”. These eyes basically have a mirror background and are very shiny and eye catching. Mirrors reflect all wavelengths equally so the thought is that they will even reflect UV at depth. They really do look great and give our jigs an even more “high end” look to them. But, the proof is in how do they CATCH. Well, in our testing they catch really, really well. Trout and redfish approved! These are only available from us (our physical store, and online at trouteye.com) but also as another new product line, which leads us to….
(2) Shad Eye’s We have heard a lot of feedback that freshwater fisher-people won’t pick up a Trout Eye or Redfish Eye because of the saltwater name. Which is kind of ridiculous but nevertheless, we have decided to also market our full line of jigs as Shad Eyes with freshwater targeted labeling. For now, they come in only two eye colors. Red and Chrome. We already know that our jigs work on ALL species of fish, fresh and salt, so this will be a chance to market them to a wider audience.
(3) Trout Eye “Finesse” jigs. We had some discussions with Greg Peralta about finesse fishing. Greg has been really successful using Z-Man TRD’s in the salt for finicky post cold-front fish. We discussed whether we could put a smaller hook on our heads to use for smaller lures like TRD’s or the super productive StreakZ 3.75″. The shorter shank allows the jig tail to float up and also gives it more action. We did some experimenting and found that with some very small adjustments that we could put these into production almost immediately. Thus, we now have the Finesse jigs for sale on our site now. Incidentally, Greg has started a new blog which I think you will like, that gives more in-depth how-to on using these jigs at www.captgregp.com. Check it out.
We will have more announcements in the next several weeks with some even better stuff, so stay tuned.
Southern Redfish Cup
The 2016 Southern Redfish Cup championship was last weekend. 25 teams qualified to compete over this two day event, and it was very difficult. We had a cold front with high winds and a full moon tide, followed by rapid warming on day 2 with more high winds. Needless to say, the teams had to really earn this… Coming out on top by more than 1 lb was the team of Jeremy Espiritu and Ashley Lowder. This win also earned them Team of the Year honors. The win had particular importance for us, as they caught ALL of their fish exclusively using Trout Eye jigs! You may recall that this team also won the first leg of the tour in Georgetown plus “Big Fish” honors also using our jigs. Ralph and I earned 4th place and Big Fish in the second leg (in Charleston). Plus, we personally know the 6th and 10th place teams were also fishing our jigs (and likely more teams that we just didn’t know about). We are very honored that our products had a role in winning easily over $50,000 for the fishermen over the course of the season. Really awesome stuff – we are grateful.
Ashley River Cleanup
Last weekend we had our 4th annual cleanup of the Ashley River. I organize this effort for Summerville Saltwater Anglers fishing club and am proud to do so. I estimate that over these 4 years we have removed over 20 tons of trash from the river! Well, this year, the river was remarkably clean. We still removed a lot of trash (including 3 tube-style TV sets) but it was much more difficult to come by. A very gratifying event to know that we have made a huge difference in the river. Now we need to stop the source of the litter….
We want to wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2017…Before getting to some reports, a quick retrospective on 2016. 2016 was a year of highs and lows. Beginning the year we had just our one product, the 3/16 TroutEye jig. We expanded our lineup to three different weights in TroutEyes, added the 4/0 hook for the Redfish Eye line, and the 6/0 hook StriperEye line in 1/2, 3/4 and 1 oz weights. That is a lot of new products… Not to mention, we learned an entirely new manufacturing process in order to meet volume demands. I spent 10 years as a Process Engineer at Corning in the semiconductor industry, and I can tell you that starting from zero to getting a robust jig head manufacturing process in place with good yields has taken all of my knowledge and experience. There were times I wanted to quit and just contract out the fabrication of our jigs like most places do. But we stuck with it, and tried, and failed, and tried, and failed and tried again. Starting around September we really got firing on all cylinders and the future is very bright. We make all our products right here in Charleston, SC. Not China. Not in some other state. We have been fortunate to have some great workers join us and without their help and great attitude, we would not be where we are. Period.
We had some very notable catches on our jigs reported to us in 2016.
Captain Justin Carter’s 10lb Trout (an absolute monster for Charleston)
“Dolphin” Dave’s tarpon
Overall Win and Big Fish for Ashley Lowder at the Southern Redfish Cup Georgetown
Big Fish for Ralph at the Southern Redfish Cup Charleston (a fish that I tagged previously)
Countless others… See our Instagram page for proof!
So, on to some reports.
Well, it’s now January 3 and the surface water temp is still around 53-55F which is just fine. I love this time of year. The bite has been very good for us. As you know, this time of year you need to find the fish. They are around, but will be schooled up or near deep structure as we have said many times in this blog and elsewhere. There continues to be big trout around. There is also a million little trout around which is great for the future. Also, maybe even more significantly, is an absolute abundance of small redfish around 15-16″. These fish will be mid slot by summer and probably good tourney fish come next fall. Of special interest to me is very good numbers of these smaller fish in the upper (well mid) Ashley river. That river has been hit hard by natural disasters (flood, Matthew) over the last 2 years and the upper reaches of the river are still quite lifeless. So, indications of a recovery are very encouraging to hear.
Hot colors for us recently have been the Shrimp Po’ Boy and Festivus, along with the ol’ mainstay 3.75″ StreakZ in Ralphs Shad color. The latter lure exists because Ralph asked Z-Man to make a version of a similar rat-tail profile that he practically made famous over the years. It works! Now is the time of year when you need a very sensitive setup to feel the bite. The trout bite is often kind of a mushy feeling rather than the familiar *tick*. Redfish bites will often be the same. A kind-of weird feeling when hopping the lure along the bottom. It helps to wait for a count of 1-2 seconds before setting the hook with them. Having fished with and learned from Ralph, and very often catching smaller fish with the same setup and same location – I have come to the conclusion that feel is the difference between catching the big trout and not. I bet most fishermen have had a gator bite and spit out their lure and they never knew it. This is when every detail makes a difference. Braided line is a must in my opinion. With the clear water a leader is not a bad idea. A fast or extra fast tip is a must for me also. Lastly, the Tennessee handle that we use on our custom rods really is a game changer too.
Recently, we acquired most of the remaining Original Trout Tricks from Z-Man. Their plan is to sell them till they run out then discontinue them. There are some hard-core enthusiasts of the original and we are selling them in bulk only at the best price available. We have already sold a couple thousand of them – I guess I didn’t realize how many fans of them are out there… My last trip, I decided to try some of the originals, on a 1/8 oz gold trout eye jig – and dang it if they don’t still work. I had two absolute gator trout on them in the trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ElazTech version too, and have caught a million fish on them but there is something about those originals…
So, a little preview of the spring…It will soon be time for the cobia run and tarpon down south. I really believe that once people try our StriperEyes on them, that they will really take off… I’ve been having a blast deep-jigging the rivers for big fish (Redfish, Striper even Catfish). Recently, our friend Martin went offshore with Capt John Irwin (flyrightcharters.com) and caught double digits of bull redfish on them paired with a 6″ SwimmerZ. Martin said they never reached the bottom before getting nailed. So cool…
Lastly, the annual Ashley River Cleanup that I organize for Summerville Saltwater Anglers is coming up soon, on Saturday, February, 11th from 9:30 AM to approx 2:30 PM. We have a 7 ft high at around 11AM and collecting trash should be a breeze. If you care about our environment and want to make a difference in our community, please come help us! Bring the kids and family. Its a fun time and we give out some awards for funniest piece of trash collected, etc. Last year we had 50+ boats and kayaks and collected 11.5 tons of trash. Please see www.summervillesaltwateranglers.com or our Facebook page Ashley River Cleanup for details. Thanks!