Silver Linings

Strange days, indeed.  As we weather this unprecedented time in our history, one of the silver linings is having family home and together with not much to do.  A side benefit is with factories closed, less transportation, etc, the environment gets a much needed time-out.  At least as long as our public landings remain open, it is a nice opportunity to go fishing.  My youngest son Ian has been home from UofSC and I offered a day fishing to help break the boredom – he gladly accepted. 

It turned out to be a beautiful day, with low winds and moderate tide.  I rigged up some small lures as a result of my prior trip with John (see above).  In this case I rigged up some 1/8 oz Trout Eye Finesse jigs with Z-Man Slim SwimZ 3″.  One in Space Guppy, and one in Pearl (pure white).  

As we arrived at our first spot we started making exploratory casts, and it wasn’t but a few minutes before I got a solid thump and landed a 22″ trout.  This is a good sign!  We drifted a bank trying to locate more fish and had a few quality trout but they were very spread out.  So, we ran back to the scene of the crime and tried again.  

Ian made a cast and located a pocket where some nice redfish were holding in a small pocket.  We landed three over 24″ in short order.  

As the tide slowed I made a guess that the fish were moving down the bank so we drifted again and found a few more quality trout.  

Around midday, the wind went from completely still to South at 20+.  We moved to some other areas and Ian was able to find a couple 19″+ trout despite the very difficult conditions.  

I was proud to watch him work his lure slowly and manage his line in order to feel the bite and set the hook.  He’s become a very good artificial lure angler.  

As usual for us, our fish were carefully handled and released to spawn and catch again.  We did keep a few smaller ones for dinner, but only to eat fresh, not frozen.

The best part was spending the day together fishing.  The excellent catching made it all the better!

Social Distancing with SCDNR

John Archambault, SCDNR

Yesterday it was my honor to have one of my heros on board the SS Eye Strike: John Archambault, a fisheries biologist from SCDNR.  I knew of John for a long time, because whenever I caught a fish with an orange tag, meaning it was tagged by DNR, it had John’s name on it.  I met John last year when I volunteered to go electrofishing in the Cooper river.  That was an extremely memorable trip, and you can see the report here if you are interested.  Since then, we have kept in touch, comparing notes about fishing, trout in particular.  So, we finally got to go fishing and had a really great time with very good results.  

Lately, I’m a once a week fisherman, so I don’t really have the fish patterned too well.  But, conditions lined up for a few patterns that have worked in the past.  The water being now 61F, I had tied on a topwater plug and was hoping to get my first fish on top this year.  John mentioned that it should work but in his opinion they are still keyed in on small baits.  At that point he pulls out – of all things – a shad dart.  If you don’t know what that is, its basically a worm body with curly tail or paddle tail, usually chartreuse, and the whole thing is under 2″ long.  He rigged it on a tiny jig head (smaller than anything we currently make).  I’ve never personally seen anyone fish a smaller jig inshore besides for shad.  

We pull up to spot #1 and first cast he rears back on a solid trout.  I cast my plug in the same general area without a sniff.  He unhooks and releases the first trout and casts back in an he’s tight again!  This made me scramble to find my smallest rig and I’m glad I did.  After making a few passes in this spot we had a lot of nice fat trout and he caught one up to 20″ on this little rig.  So cool, there is always something to learn.  

We headed off to spot #2 and after running the bank for a bit we finally found our target.  Another group of solid and heavy trout.  Nothing over 20″ but plenty over 17″.  Later we explored the jetties and saw a few false albacore chasing baitfish, and John even caught a sheepshead on his little rig.  A very rare catch in SC. 

I’m already looking forward to my next outing with my new friend, John.  

The day ended by picking away at a few more nice trout in different spots.  It was really fun to have a very good trout bite after a long winter. It should only get better in the next few months.  

Since nearly everything else is closed for COVID-19, a good way to keep yourself from driving your family crazy is to hit the water.  The fish are biting!  See you out there.

Gnat Season

March fishing in the lowcountry can be miserable if you’re not prepared. If there is low wind, you will be surrounded by clouds of no-see-ums (actually, you will see em – in a cloud!) and if you’re not ready for them they will drive you to insanity! I once had one bite me on the white of my eye!

There are a few good products like No-Natz that work pretty good, but I take a completely different approach.

I cover up.

One of the best inventions in fishing to me is the buff.  There are a million variations around there but they are just a thin fabric in a tube shape that you can put over your neck and pull up over your face.  These IMHO are the best gnat deterrent you can buy.  Wear closed shoes, socks, long pants, long sleeves a buff and a hat and you’re all set.  Pull that buff up over your face and ears and up the back of your head.

This will allow you to fish through the clouds of gnats.  But!  You might still get bit on the white of your eye….I haven’t found a solution to that yet 🙂

See you on the water, through a cloud of gnats!

Don’t Be So Cranky!

My article for the March, 2020 edition of Coastal Angler Magazine – Charleston


Every year Ralph and I auction off an “educational” fishing trip to help teach people how to better fish artificial lures. One year I tried an experiment. We had two novice anglers that day. I offered to one of the anglers a rod with a 1000 size spinning reel. The other was using a 2500 sized reel, a common reel for inshore fishing. I then watched and waited. Sure enough, the angler with the 1000 reel caught more fish, almost 2 to 1, over the other angler. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
People want to crank their reel. Heck, I’m guilty of it sometimes too. As I discussed in last month’s article, fishing slower equates to more fish caught – not just in winter, but pretty much all year. How much line retrieved per crank comes from two main factors, the gear ratio (number of revolutions of the spool per crank), and the diameter of the spool.
To demonstrate, I laid two lures on my driveway, one connected to a 1000 spinning reel (5.0:1 gear ratio), and one with a 2500 spinning reel (5.6:1 gear ratio). I then made one full crank of each. You can see that the 1000 retrieved about one third less line than the 2500. That’s a significant difference! Incidentally, the shorter of the two retrieves was still 27 inches; the longer, almost 40 inches.

More than you would have guessed? Probably.

Next time you purchase a reel, many times you have a choice of gear ratios. I always purchase the least ratio I can. Because I, too, like to crank – but I will be 30% slower with the same amount of crank – and therefore fishing slower.

In summary, I hope your takeaway from all this is that we are human, and we like to crank our reels – and we all will have better results fishing artificial lures by simply cranking slower.

Give these methods a try this month and let us know how it works.

David Fladd
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing
dfladd@eyestrikefishing.com
eyestrikefishing.com

Fish Slow In February, but How?

My article for the February 2020 Edition of Coastal Angler Magazine Charleston:

Our water temps historically bottom out mid-January, but they are still awful cold in February. Since fish are cold blooded, they are going to be pretty sluggish as a result. You’ve probably heard the following advice; “If you think you are fishing slow enough, slow down”. It’s good advice, but how is it applied?
Think about what your lure is doing underwater. This month we want our lure on the bottom, and for it to move just a couple inches at a time. Watch your rod tip and consider how small a motion equates to a couple inches on your lure. At the end of a 6 to 7 foot lever (your rod), the amount of motion required is tiny. A very small motion of your wrist is all that is required. If you have access to a swimming pool, try this and you will be surprised to find you’re lure probably moves a lot more than you thought.
A good technique is to use very small hops bringing your rod tip from about 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock a few inches at a time, then take in line as you slowly lower the tip back to 10 o’clock. Manage your line! How much reeling is this? Maybe half a turn depending on your reel.
A cold redfish will suck that lure in and often it won’t feel like a bump, but rather kind of a mushy weird feeling. Unlike other times of year, you might need to give him a second to eat before setting the hook. Similarly, a February trout bite will often go unnoticed, even with the best gear. All you will feel is a mysterious weight that wasn’t there before and pulling up the rod will reveal tell-tale headshakes.
A small finesse soft plastic rigged on a light jighead makes a good choice. A favorite is the Z-Man StreakZ 3.75” with a TroutEye Finesse jig. The ElaZtech material is buoyant, allowing the tail to stick up when sitting still.

Give these methods a try this month and let us know how it works.

David Fladd
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing
dfladd@eyestrikefishing.com
eyestrikefishing.com

Jail Bait Reef Jigs – Opinions and Personal Experience

Since we have released our Jail Bait Reef Jigs, we have heard some strong opinions from hard-core sheepshead fishermen that generally fall into the following categories:

  • Sheepshead will be afraid of the enlarged eye.  What is the eye for?  The eye is a turn-off.  Etc
  • Sheepshead can’t fit their mouth around them
  • There is not enough relief between the lead and hook so you can’t get a hook set

I’d like to address some of these concerns, based primarily on my personal experience fishing them.

“Sheepshead will be afraid of the enlarged eye.  What is the eye for?  The eye is a turn-off.  Etc” – So, in the prototype stage, this was also a concern of ours.  Would sheepshead be afraid / wary of the lead on the back of a fiddler.  Fishing these in clear water where we could actually see the fish, that concern was quickly put to rest.  Sheepshead are curious fish and instead will swim up to the jig to check it out.  They go to it and immediately try to bite the crab.  This makes sense because all day long they are biting at crustaceans on rocks, seawalls, pilings, etc.  They are used to having a crab or bait attached to something.  The eye in the case of this product is not “functional”, in other words unlike our other products, it’s not intended to act as an eye.  Honestly, it’s more for marketing – everything we make has a large eye.  It does add to the appeal of the product as it looks better than raw lead.  In the future in fact we may replace the pupil eye with other patterns that represent a crab carapace or something like that.  Will it make a difference?  I doubt it!  Sheepshead are absolutely not afraid of the Jail Baits.  Claims to the opposite are BS.

“Sheepshead can’t fit their mouth around them” – While this may be true, it doesn’t matter.  They are not designed to be swallowed by a sheepshead!  These fish crush the crab with their incisors, then go back and swallow the bits.  The Jail Baits are designed so that when the fish goes to crush the crab, they get hooked in the lip. In just about every pic you see that is where they will be hooked.  Yesterday, fishing at the reef, we caught many sheeps that were around 6″ long, and a few that were approaching 6 pounds on them.   

“There is not enough relief between the lead and hook so you can’t get a hook set” – This is not an issue in my experience.  I have personally experience a great hookup ratio with them.  A trusted guide who has fished them extensively claims the hookup ratio factor approximately 2X better. 

Some general thoughts about fishing Jail Baits in comparison to the typical “Carolina Rig” consisting of an egg weight and short leader with a small hook.  Fishing both at a 40 ft reef yesterday, I am confident that the feel of a bite is significantly better with the Jail Bait.  If you keep a finger on the braid you will feel every slight touch.  For that reason, I was able to catch a juvenile red snapper, an octopus(!), a sheep approximately 5 lbs and a few very small sheeps, easily out-catching two others using the Carolina Rig.  When the current and wind/waves picked up (at end of trip was 4-5 ft waves and 12 knots out of the NE), I was not able to use the Jail Bait in that depth of water due to not enough weight.  Switching to the traditional Carolina rig in swifter water, the rigs got cleaned off much faster due to piercing the crab shell with a hook and also not being able to feel the bite as well.  We did lose a few big fish to broken hooks on the Carolina rig – a problem that won’t happen on the Jail Bait.

I know that some people will make a snap decision and never try something new.  That is fine, but we suggest that if you’re on the fence, to give these a fair shake and decide for yourself.  

A few pics from yesterday’s trip.

Artificial Intelligence – Coastal Angler – January 2020

Rule #1 For Artificial Lure Fishing:  Master Your Line

As the title of this column suggests, I’ll be writing about the art of deceiving a fish into believing a piece of plastic and metal is something to eat. A bit of an introduction first. I started saltwater fishing in 2006 and started in the way probably many of you did: I was invited by a friend trout fishing in the Fall and thus began an obsession that is now a large part of my life. I’ve been very fortunate to stand on some high-profile shoulders and learn from the best, most notably my business partner Ralph Phillips. Another mentor is Bob Sanders of Trout Trick fame. If you know Ralph you’ve probably heard him needle you a bit if you caught a fish on shrimp or bait. To Ralph, if you didn’t catch it on artificial bait, it doesn’t count! Not surprisingly, a few years ago I decided to fish artificial lures exclusively, knowing my catching was going to suffer for a while until I figured it out. Countless times I would be standing by as Ralph wore me out using the same tackle, in the same hole. Slowly but surely and with a lot of work, I began to understand why. My goal with this article is to pay it forward. Not having a strong fishing pedigree and learning the same as anyone else I hope will make my column relatable. If I can do it, you can too. Being an engineer, I’m a pretty analytical guy and I’m going to interpret what I’ve learned along with personal experience and try to help you become better at fooling them too. There are a lot of benefits to catching fish on artificial lures. One of which is not needing to net bait or visit the tackle shop for minnows or shrimp. Once you have felt the subtle tick of a big trout on a jerk bait you will find it’s an addiction that will last the rest of your life.
In my opinion, the single most important thing a new artificial lure fisherman must master is line management. It’s the reason one fisherman may have a banner day, while the other gets the dreaded skunk, even if fishing the same lure and fishing where the fish are. Pretty much every fish is going to hit a lure on the fall, in other words, when the lure is dropping toward the bottom. The thing most people do wrong is drop their rod tip after jigging a lure up. This causes a bow in the line and dampens the sometimes very subtle bump of a fish. Most people will never feel the bite if they do this. Its imperative that you keep in semi-contact with your lure by minimizing bow in your line. This is done by jigging the lure up, then keeping the rod tip high – only lowering it slowly as you slowly reel in a very small amount of line as the lure falls. It takes practice, but I promise you that you will feel many, many more bites than you ever did before if you follow this simple advice. Its one thing to fool a fish into biting plastic, but it usually won’t be long until it spits the lure back out, realizing the mistake it just made. Make sure you set the hook after feeling that bite by simply raising your rod tip and holding it there until you feel some head shakes. Try it and be sure to let us know how it works for you!

David Fladd
Partner, Eye Strike Fishing
dfladd@eyestrikefishing.com
eyestrikefishing.com

 

Coastal Angler Article Series for 2020

We were approached by Coastal Angler magazine recently about advertising in their magazine.  We agreed to give it a shot, and put together a piece we are happy with (below).  In addition, they mentioned they were always looking for authors.  Truth be told, I have considered doing one for a while but I have so many things on my plate I was hesitant.  But I decided to give it a go.  The local section of the magazine is full of reports and “What’s biting now” kind of pieces.  I thought that a fresh take would be to do a series on techniques associated with fishing artificial lures.  

I racked my brain for a while on what to call it, and found one I really like:  Artificial Intelligence.  I have a genuine fear of AI in the future, but that’s another story.  So, its kind of tongue-in-cheek for people that know me.

I’m going to publish each article as a blog post and I’m thinking of including a video companion to each one as well.

Hope you like them and get something out of them.  

If you have further questions, contact me through social media and I’ll answer as best as I can.

Happy Thanksgiving

We at Eye Strike Fishing are very thankful for you, our customers, for supporting us.  We have several great sales coming up in the next few days.  In addition, we have a bunch of gift packs we have put together for the fisher in your family.  Can’t decide?  We now offer gift cards as well.  They can be used on our online store, or redeemed in our shop.  Here is a preview of our upcoming sales.

  • Black Friday – We have 25% off store wide, and orders of $50+ will get a free pack of jigs (your choice, just indicate on the comments at checkout.  If no choice is given we will pick one for you) and of course free shipping.  Use code EYE at checkout.
  • Small Business Saturday – 20% off store wide, use code SMALL at checkout
  • Cyber Monday – All bulk jigs will be discounted 40%!!  No code is required!  

Hope you have had a chance to get out fishing in your area.  Here in Charleston the bite has been fantastic!  

As always, send us or tag us in your catch pics. We love to see them and will repost and make you famous 🙂

Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving from Eye Strike!

Flounder Pounders

After being off the water for a couple weeks, Ralph and I took an R & R day and hit the brackish waters for a well needed break.  With zero expectations we started out just following our noses.  We quickly discovered that the redfish were hitting extremely hard – a very good sign.  When I say hit hard, I mean like almost dropping your rod when it hit!

We were going along picking at nice slot fish here and there (and a little striper) and suddenly we doubled up on flounder drifting by a piece of structure.  I put the MinnKota on anchor and we proceeded to pick one after another out of this one spot.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They were also hitting extremely hard like the redfish.  When it finally slowed we were into the teens in numbers of fish boated.  

At this point, I was thinking we might have a shot at a “Margarita Slam” (redfish | trout | flounder | striper | largemouth) since we had three of the species already.  I never said anything for fear of jinxing us, but about an hour later Ralph hooks up and the fish jumps…Ditch Pickle!  With a photo snapped of the largemouth I finally said “Thats it!  We need to head for the salt and get a trout for the slam”.  So we picked up and ran way down river and shortly thereafter got our trout.  

A super fun day and a great preview to what should turn out to be a stellar Fall for fishing!  Now let’s keep those hurricanes away…

Every fish we caught was on 3/16 Texas Eye jigs with Scented Jerk ShadZ in various colors (nuked pilchard, perfect perch, smoky shad).

Margaritas are both Salty and Sweet!

Huge Labor Day Sale

Now through Labor Day we have a big sale on all jigs, sampler packs and apparel on our store.  Use code LD15 to save an additional 15% over our usual discounts.  That means our max bulk jigs discount of 40% now becomes 55%!!  Trout Eyes for under a dollar…

Time to stock up for Fall!