I’ve always been of the opinion that one of the best things about the sport of fishing is that there is always a challenge. That’s especially true here in Charleston where we have so many opportunities to catch a fish. I feel like I could spend a lifetime simply learning our local waters, and a couple hour drive up or down the coast would be a whole new world of opportunity. Once you figure out the basics such as when to be where and start to catch fish pretty reliably, you soon start to get tired of feeding shrimp to fish and start looking for a new challenge. That might be using only artificial lures or maybe fly fishing. Some people even start out fly fishing. That’s a challenge unto itself and the rewards may not come until after much personal suffering (speaking from experience!)
One way to challenge yourself is to try to intentionally catch a certain fish. For example, let’s say you set out to catch a Cobia, but never have targeted them before. A logical way to start is to read up on it. Once you are informed and go purchase the necessary gear, it’s time to try. I did this very thing.
As a side note: Thanks to research at the SC Department of Natural Resources, a lot has been learned about Cobia in recent years, one being that we have a separate and unique population of fish that is mostly resident to South Carolina. They spawn in the vicinity of the Broad river and St. Helena sound and return every year, unlike many Cobia that migrate up and down the coast. Several years ago, it was popular to target these spawning fish in shallow water in the sounds. It was not yet known that doing so was decimating the population of these fish.
Back to my story: I read an excellent article on the subject, geared up, and took my youngest son out to target these fish. We had a few embarrassingly bad attempts to catch one and we slowly learned what to do, and what not to do. Then came a morning that I will never forget. We caught our first Cobia, and a nice one! It was 42” fork length and we were very excited at having accomplished our goal. An “old-timer” was watching us from a nearby boat and noticed that we obviously hadn’t planned on what to do if we actually caught one. He complimented us on our catch and suggested we tie her off to the back cleat and let her swim. He said to keep an eye on her because she will attract more fish. Later that morning, my son was keeping one eye on the fish and, sure enough, another one appeared. I rigged a live “greenie” to a rod, handed it to him and said “See if you can catch it”. He kept presenting that bait and eventually the fish took it. “Dad! Dad! I got it!” A great memory…
Although this particular fishery is temporarily shut down while populations recover, my point is that this approach can be applied to any species you choose. The feeling of accomplishment having achieved your goal is priceless.
Another great way to challenge yourself is to make up your own “slam”. A slam is a select group of different species of fish, with best known locally being the redfish-trout-flounder slam. Add a species of your choice and it’s a grand-slam.
My favorite slam is one I made up, and in a discussion on a local fishing forum a name emerged: The Margarita Slam. This slam consists of 5 species; redfish, trout, flounder, striper, largemouth. These fish swim in sweet (fresh) and salty water, thus the name. Almost any river that starts well inland and ends near the coast is capable of yielding a Margarita Slam. Salty water will be found near the coast and as you go upriver you encounter brackish water, where salinity is mixed. Keep going up and you eventually end up in fresh water. In Charleston, the Cooper and Ashley rivers fit the bill. South, the rivers of the ACE basin (Ashepoo, Combahee, Edisto) do, and to the north, the Santee, Great Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers can all yield the slam.
I like to try to achieve this slam at least once a year, with the month of November being optimal. To set out to accomplish this slam requires strategy. For example, speckled trout generally prefer salinity and largemouth bass prefer fresh water. It is extremely rare to catch a largemouth and a trout close to each other. However, striper, flounder and redfish are all quite happy in the brackish zone. Each species has their quirks; for example, striper are marauders – they move around a lot and are difficult to pattern. Flounder are ambush predators and are found laying in wait to ambush prey. Redfish are easier to catch on low tide, and trout arguably are easier to catch on higher tides. I personally find striper and flounder to be the hardest to catch intentionally.
For a further challenge, you can try the following, in order of difficulty.
• As a boat (Anyone on the boat can contribute to the boat slam)
• As an individual; Using various lures
• As an individual; Using a single lure
Of course, improving the quality of fish of your slam is another way to measure yourself.
It’s quite rewarding to set out to do this and actually achieve it. Last year, I was lucky to achieve the “holy grail” of a solo Margarita Slam on the same jig head/plastic combo. Best of all, it was on a brand-new lure I was prototyping. It has since been released – the Texas Eye Finesse jig. I’m not sure if I can ever do that one again. But as my business partner Ralph likes to say “You never know when lightning might strike the outhouse”.
Try catching a Margarita slam, or better yet make up your own slam. It’s one thing to catch the slam unintentionally, but far more rewarding to do it purposely.
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing