If you’ve not yet tuned in to Tom Rowland’s podcast, you ought to. You may recognize Tom as one of the hosts of the popular Saltwater Experience TV show. I’ve been a fan for a while and recently listened to this one about the science of fish vision. If you have read my posts over the years you probably know that as an optical scientist I don’t believe in using the color red in my lures (even EyeStrike jigs) because that color disappears quickly underwater and most of our inshore species can’t see it.
I’ve also stated an opinion that is unconventional among fishermen and that is that I believe in contrast rather than the usual bright day- bright lure, dark day-dark lure opinion of most. In other words, I like to fish light-dark or dark-light for contrast. Dr. Schwiekert backs some of these opinions up and offers a whole lot more that we can all learn from.
Check it out, and there is plenty more nuggets available on Tom’s other episodes.
The Jail Bait is a revolutionary new Sheepshead and Reef jig. It uses a feature called the Bait BakPak. This is simply a rubber band, but how its used is the true innovation. The Bait BakPak allows crabs to remain alive, and other baits to be positioned directly above the hook points. We have found the best way to use it is to double the rubber band over the eyelet. This prevents it from slinging off while fighting a fish.
There’s a New Sheriff in Town, and the Sheepshead are Scared
Eye Strike Fishing’s Jail Bait™ Reef Jigs use a new approach to round up convicts
North Charleston, SC – (May 2, 2019) – “You gotta set the hook before they bite” is a common way to describe the difficulty of hooking a sheepshead, one of the most desirable inshore game fish. Eye Strike Fishing®, a leading designer of fishing tackle featuring oversized eyes and high-end components, is proud to announce Jail Bait™ Reef Jigs; a new concept that aims to solve many of the challenges of catching these evasive fish.
Consisting of a double hook embedded in a lead weight featuring – you guessed it – an oversized eye, the jigs feature a simple, yet innovative feature called the Bait BakPak™. The Bait BakPak™ is simply a rubber band, but how its used and where its positioned is key to its effectiveness.
“Rigging fiddler crabs or other baits such as oysters or barnacles on a small hook has always been a problem – either it kills the crab or it falls off.” says David Fladd, product designer for Eye Strike. “The Bait BakPak™ allows a crab to be held firmly and keeps it alive, and when a sheepshead tries to bite, those double hooks are right there below the bait resulting in better hookups.”
Any sheepshead angler knows that there aren’t many places inside a sheepshead’s mouth for a hook to hold. Ralph Phillips, a legendary Charleston angler and Partner at Eye Strike®, agrees, “Their teeth look like a dentist’s nightmare. Because there is a direct connection to your line, and the hooks are directly below the bait, you tend to hook them in the outer lip. You can truly feel the bite better with the Jail Bait, and when you set the hook, they find the lip.”
Why an eye? Phillips and Fladd admit part of it is marketing, but the few sheepshead they have caught on their Eye Strike® jigs have been on a pearl colored eye. “They may associate the color with an oyster or barnacle, we don’t know, but it sure adds to the eye-appeal.”
Captain Justin Carter, former IFA Kayak National Champion & Angler of the Year, and full-time guide for Redfin Charters in Charleston, SC has been the primary field tester for Jail Baits in the prototype phase. “When I take clients sheepshead fishing, they often struggle to feel the bite. Jail Bait™ jigs have taken the hookup ratio to the next level. Because of where the hooks are positioned, the fish get hooked in the lip almost every time”.
The 2/0 black nickel VMC® hook is plenty strong and sharp, and due to its positioning, the rigged bait tends to make it semi-weedless. This is important when fishing reefs, where plenty of snags are around to grab your hook.
Since the Jail Bait™ is designed for vertical jigging, its not just for sheepshead. “We have done very well on our nearshore reefs using them, and have even caught grouper in relatively shallow water” says Phillips.
Eye Strike® Jail Bait™ Reef Jigs are available in ½- and ¾-ounce weights and pearl colored eyes. For more information, including rigging tips, visit eyestrikefishing.com
Click here to download the press release in PDF format
About Eye Strike Fishing
An innovative designer of original jigheads featuring oversized, 3D eyes, Eye Strike Fishing has been steadily increasing its offerings since 2014. Product lines include TroutEye®, RedfishEye™, StriperEye™, WeedlessEye™ and TexasEye™ jigheads and range from 1/8-oz to 1-oz. Six eye colors are offered and all products feature premium hooks.
David Fladd, Eye Strike Fishing, 7341B Peppermill Parkway, North Charleston, SC 29418 email@example.com (843) 324-4272
By popular demand, we are going to start offering brief tips to help you improve your catching and enjoyment on the water. Our latest is the following video, we are calling “Stay in Your Lane”. When fishing three people it is so annoying when you’re about to make a cast to that perfect little piece of structure when suddenly out of the corner of your eye you see a line coming from the back of the boat all the way across your “zone”. Sometimes the person in back finds that structure too tempting to wait for, and all you can do is put your hands on your hips and wait till the line is clear. You don’t want to cuss out your fishing buddy, but man, it’s tempting! Follow this tip to keep everyone happy and trust us, you will still catch plenty of fish in the middle or back of the boat. In fact, on this trip Alex caught the day-maker (year maker?), a 23″ trout, off the stern!
We recently created a seminar space at our HQ at Eye Strike. We used it to host the Lowcountry Kayak Anglers club Toys for Tots Tournament captains meeting, along with hosting the Summerville Saltwater Anglers January membership meeting.
We have decided to start an event we are calling the Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar Series, named for our Facebook private group Eye Strike Artificial Army. Our intention is to offer seminars that are “above and beyond” in terms of information and instruction and in general focused on improving your inshore fishing using artificial lures.
To promote our seminar series we have created a new page on our website named Seminar Series
Our first seminar we are very excited about. It involves a subject that many people want to learn about: How to better understand your sonar so you can set it up and interpret it to use it to its fullest. After all, what good is it to invest in all this technology if we don’t know how to use it. Most seminars on the subject gloss over the setup and interpretation. We intend to “dive deep” into this so that we all understand it better.
Our speaker is Capt Ben Powers of Reel Time Charter Adventures. Ben is a Shimano pro-staffer, local guide, and commercial oysterman and has been mastering setup and interpretation of his sonar lately. He has been taking snapshots of some of the amazing things he has found using his side imaging sonar and is excited to share his learning with our group.
We are very excited and proud to announce that Texas Eye jigs have joined the offerings of our business partners, Z-Man Fishing Products!
It was announced to the media last week with a press release and on their website.
Since they will now be available at tackle shops and online at Bass Pro, Tackle Warehouse among others, we have started to offer Texas Eyes in Bulk at a discount. Pricing tiers are aligned with our WeedlessEye line, and you can save up to 30% by purchasing in Bulk direct from us.
Stay tuned for a bunch of upcoming press releases on social media and, as always, thank you for your support!
Our TeamEyeStrike member Judson Brock has made a new YouTube channel (search on “Jud Brock Fishing”) and he has already posted some great product review videos that I think you might find useful. Make sure to subscribe to his channel to get all his new videos when they drop.
Here he is reviewing some of his favorite soft plastics and jig heads he uses on his guided trips in coastal North Carolina. A review of some of our Eye Strike jigs starts at 10:05. We agree 100% with his soft plastic recommendations by Z-Man, as they are the same profiles and colors we throw personally.
Its funny because he also has a review of topwater plugs for redfish, and between these two videos, I found myself nodding and going “yep…”. Great stuff.
We are proud to have Jud represent us on Team EyeStrike and you may recognize him from our post about fishing for reds in Louisiana last Fall.
South Carolina has one of the nation’s best recreational fish tagging programs thanks to our Department of Natural Resources. To be a tagger, you simply need to ask, and in order to save money and make sure you’re committed, you need to purchase your own tagging gun for about $30. I’ve done it now for about 5 years, and although I don’t tag every fish I could, I usually average between 80 and 150 fish a year. The link above will take you to the tagging page.
One of the main purposes for having a recreational tagging program is to encourage catch and release, and for anglers to self-educate themselves on the fishery. In my case, I have learned a lot. In fact, I had a catch yesterday that reiterated some things, and thus caused me to write this post.
Yesterday, I caught a nice redfish with multiple spots, approximately 27.75″ long. It had an old rec tag covered in growth. I had an idea it might have been one of “my” fish based on where it was tagged. I always tag them on the left side and in a particular location. I also keep my own copy of the tagging reports that I send in, and when I got home I looked it up. It was, in fact, one of the fish I tagged. It was tagged almost two years ago to the day at just 15″ long (1 year old) and in the exact same place, or within 1/4 mile anyway.
So, what does this say about the impact we as anglers can have on a fishery? Well, obviously, redfish are creatures of habit. They return to the same place year after year. Often on the same piece of structure. This time of year, the fish tend to bunch up in tight groups of 50 to hundreds of fish. People who fly fish the flats can see the schools visually. In the areas we fish, we can’t see them because they are in deeper, more murky water. Its become clear to me that if a particular spot were heavily fished in winter time and most people kept their limit each day they fished there, it wouldn’t take very long to completely clean out a location of all the fish there. Now, I will occasionally keep a redfish or two for a meal, but certainly not a limit every time I fish. I’d much rather have a fish like this one to catch in the future than a meal in the short term.
Catch and release can even have monetary reward, as Ralph and I found out a couple years ago. We were fishing a local redfish tourney and Ralph caught a “line-painter”, which is a perfect tourney-fish. Right at 23″, our upper limit in SC. It was tagged, and come to find out I had tagged and released that fish 6 months before. We ended up winning $1000 big-fish money for that one!
Note that if you have never caught a tagged fish, that if you catch one, to take down the tag number and date and make a careful measurement of its length by pinching the tail. You can call the info in or submit online. When you report the info, you can opt to receive a gift in the form of a T shirt, visor, towel, buff, etc. You will also get a report of the tag and recapture history of “your” fish. Please release it to continue the research.
Next time you’re on a hot redfish bite in the winter time, please consider releasing them for the future. And, maybe start tagging them yourself!
If you follow my posts on social media you probably already know that I am a huge fan of our SC DNR, and I try to support them in any way I can. Something I have wanted to do for a long time was go along on one of their fish sampling days. So, I sent along a few messages and was able to get on their list of volunteers. I was interested in going on a trip to the upper Cooper river – Bushy Park as we know it – as the brackish water has an amazing variety of fish to offer and its one of my favorite places to fish.
As luck would have it I was able to go along with two people I admire very much. Brock Renkas is an incredibly smart and really cool fisheries biologist who I got to know about 5 years ago when I organized an event called the “Cobia Flotilla” for Summerville Saltwater Anglers fishing club. He joined us on one of our events and we have messaged back and forth occasionally since then when I have had questions about fish that only a scientist would know the answer. The other was John Archambault, who if you have ever caught a fish with an orange tag you probably know his name. I had never met John before, but he pretty much was exactly as I imagined him: a kind of patriarch figure, full of wisdom and knowledge of everything related to our fisheries. I knew John’s name very well, as we have traded tagged fish over the past several years. He is also the one who sends you a recapture report on fish that you tag. John was really patient and had lots of information to offer on everything from the smallest silverside minnow to red drum. Lastly, we had Helen, a college intern from Charlotte, NC along with us. This was also her first sampling trip.
I met them at Bushy Park landing and we loaded up the electro-fishing boat. This thing is the perfect tool for the job – there seems to be a place for everything – but they assured me it wasn’t so great when the water is rough! So, this boat has basically two long arms with cables hanging from them like chandeliers. These stick down in the water and create an electric field between the arms and the front of the boat. Any fish within the field gets temporarily stunned and floats up to the surface where they are netted. You net everything, from the smallest minnow to the largest fish. I want to ensure you that, although some of these images may look like dead fish, that ALL of the fish we sampled eventually recovered and swam away.
This is a working trip. Volunteers are crew members and part of the data collection process. The way it works is there are pre-determined spots located approximately every 1/4 mile, mostly along the main river, but a few located up the creeks. Six sites are chosen at random prior to each sampling day. At each site, the boat is idled along the shore for 15 minutes. After the time limit you pause and process what you captured. Whether or not you are able to hit all six sites depends on how many fish are collected at each site. Its a time-consuming process especially if you have a lot of baitfish or a lot of redfish, for example. Redfish are tedious as each one is carefully measured, inspected for lesions, fin-clipped, and an orange anchor-tag is inserted in the abdomen. This requires making a small incision in the abdomen. A couple of the stops we were pretty darn successful and it sometimes took an hour to process all the fish. We also took measurements of salinity and water clarity during the day. My job was managing the fin clips – I would take the piece of fin and place it in a small vial and make sure the number was recorded correctly. These fin clips are used to check the DNA of the fish.
Our first stop was along a random bank well upriver. We collected a few minnows, a small eel, a catfish, and several largemouth bass. The second stop was a lot more interesting, as it happened to be in a location that is one of my most productive fishing areas. We started the troll and a couple largemouth came up, one was pretty large. As we approached my usual spot I was waiting patiently to see what would happen, when suddenly a mushroom-cloud of redfish floated up! We netted as fast as we could and by the end of the run we probably had over 50 reds in the holding tank. Included in the catch was a couple yellow (recreational) tags which I think might have been mine.
Our third stop was nothing short of stunning. It was up a creek in another area I have fished many times. Really, I still can’t believe what we found there. We started the troll and approached an area that held a lot of fish in prior sampling runs. Nothing. We kept going and came to another piece of structure when all of the sudden carp estimated to be 20 to 35 lbs started floating up all around us. I have never seen a carp in these areas and they were absolutely huge. They were hard to lift into the boat. We were laughing because once they started to wake up they were really hard to handle. I think we all got a good soaking – that is a strong fish! In this same area we also had catfish, redfish, striper, largemouth, and big bream. By the time our sampling ended in this spot we had no more room in the holding tank! We estimated that we had over 300 lbs of common carp. We had to process these first so that the other fish had room to breathe. It was crazy! Needless to say this spot took a long time to process…
We had time for one more trial so we went up another creek and found an unusually large flounder (21″) for February in the creeks, and a couple decent trout.
This was a really memorable trip and I’m so glad I did it. We should all be very thankful for our SC DNR and the dedicated biologists that work there. I know I am!
Hope you enjoyed this description of our day of sampling fish in the Cooper river. As John pointed out, our day did not represent a typical day. It just so happened that our sampling spots that were chosen at random were productive ones. Brackish water is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get! That’s why I love fishing there so much.