Tom & Huck in the Louisiana Bayou

Get a coffee, because this is gonna be a long post! 

We have been very selective in who we pick to be on our Team EyeStrike, and one of the things we are trying to do is spend some time fishing with each of our team members.  Last week we had the chance to do a “bucket list” trip to Louisiana to fish with Capt Judson Brock of Muddy Fly Guide Service.  You might be thinking…Fly?  Well, Jud does mostly fly guiding but also does spinning trips often, and also guides in LA in the Fall.  He’s a big fan of our products and an all around great guy and very professional guide.  

Ralph and I flew down to New Orleans with optimism, but low expectations due to a horrible forecast of 80 and 90% rain for both of our days.  No worries, we packed rain gear and were there to fish regardless.  We stayed at the Delacroix Lodge which is a set of little cabins with occupancy for up to 4 and catering to fishermen.  We had all the basics, bunks, fridge, sink, bathroom and shower.  It came with all the little necessities, like coffee, small grill, charcoal and lighter fluid.  Really cool place that we would recommend highly.

Enjoying an early morning coffee at the cabin

Delacroix is a pretty remote area.  One road in and out.  Plenty of wildlife.  We witnessed a coyote and large boar on our way to the marina, just as a “for example”.  We noticed that pretty much everything in this area is either raised on stilts to approximately the third floor height, or, its on wheels.  The effects of Katrina were significant – more on that later.  

We asked Jud about places to eat and he directed us to Charlie’s Restaurant-Catering.  It was a 20 something minute drive just to get a decent restaurant just to emphasize how remote this area is.  We tried to do it up cajun, so we had some gator sausage (delicious) along with our dinner.  If you go there, you gotta get the corn-crawfish chowder…its “slap-yo-momma” good.  

Socked in by fog
Headed for the fish!

We met Capt Jud at Hopedale Marina and hopped in his Maverick skiff in a thick fog.  Although we couldn’t really see where we were going, we knew we were covering a lot of ground.  To say the area we were fishing was Vast – is a huge understatement.  Just to give you an idea, at one point we were a good 30 miles from the launch.  We easily put 70 miles on the skiff the first day.  The fishery is mostly grass islands with bays inside of them.  Redfish will feed inside these bays and the fish can be anywhere from 20 inches to 30 pounds.  It is a sight-fishery.  It’s something we don’t get to do very often in Charleston with our dirty water.  I know that many people in Charleston do a lot of sight fishing, but mostly – Ralph and I don’t.  I feel I got a lot better at it this trip.  You’re basically seeing a fish, maybe belly-crawling with its back out of the water, and making an accurate underhand cast in front of it – then enticing it to strike.  Super fun! 

We saw huge black drum, all sizes of redfish, and even schooling trout that were breaking the surface – another behavior we don’t see in Charleston.  On one of these schools we decided to catch a few (stupid easy) and during this period Ralph let his lure get below the schooling fish and caught is personal best trout – that turned out to be a 29 lb redfish.  What a beast on light tackle.  

Ralph’s personal best trout – aka 29lb redfish

Day 2 started with breakfast at Penny’s.  A must do if you are there.  They are very proud of the fact that they have been featured in several fly fishing magazines.  This place is where a lot of guides go to meet their clients and vice versa.  We had a funny conversation with a couple guides that were waiting for clients.  Hard to imagine but after Katrina all of Penny’s was submerged.

Gotta go here!
Oyster boat – in LA, the oysters are submerged all the time, unlike ours.

Without the fog we were able to see what we missed on the ride out on Day 1.  Lots of oyster boats out working and water as far as the eye can see.  It was very windy and this made sight fishing difficult despite a little more sun.  Jud worked his butt off poling around and eventually we found some huge blowups along a bank.  One of these fish had a memorable take.  I made a cast out in front of it but it did a 180 and came toward Ralph’s lure.  It mudded like it spooked but really it was searching for the bait.  It took his lure just off the rod tip.  A 30+ inch fish full of fight.  

This fish hit 2 feet from the boat

We found a bay holding a large group of upper slot fish and we had a blast picking them off.  Toward the end of the day I still had not caught a real big fish which I was perfectly okay with.  But at the 11th hour, I finally got the thump I was looking for.  After a long fight a 26 lb red came boat-side for some pics and release.  

Tom and Huck with a double – we pulled about 10 out of this school

For the trip we were throwing RedfishEye jigs and the latest Z-Man Elaztech lures.  Namely the new TroutTrick Jerk ShrimpZ and the 4″ Scented Jerk ShadZ.  The latter in Pearl was by far the biggest producer.  Really a big fan of these new lures. 

11th hour redfish – 26 lbs

A great, great trip and almost no rain whatsoever – except for some hard downpours at night that made for great sleeping – as if we needed help.  Glad to get to know Capt Jud and we are super proud to have him represent us at Eye Strike!  

An amazing fishery – can’t wait to return!


Bull Redfish – Catch & Release

As we wind up the “bull redfish” season here in Charleston, it seems like many people have had a chance to catch one, and no doubt, it is a favorite of charter captains.  They are a relatively easy fish to target and catch, yet there are things we as conservation-oriented anglers can do to ensure their survival.  These fish are majestic – and provide lots of fun for us to catch, yet they also are responsible for breeding new redfish for us to enjoy.  

I just had our annual “guys trip” and one of the goals was to get bulls for my brother Kevin and friend Keith.  Tossing out cut bait is way out of my comfort zone as an artificial lure fisherman, but I’ve done it in the past and it’s not rocket surgery – but more a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  

A great place to target them is the Charleston jetties.  They can be pretty much anywhere along the rocks and sooner or later if you set up, you’re likely to get a customer.  Use enough weight to get to the bottom (4 to 6 oz), heavy tackle and leader, and a big in-line circle hook (6/0+).  Cut up fresh cast-netted bait such as mullet or menhaden, or even a bluefish if you can catch one on rod & reel.  They are very prevalent this time of year. 

The jetties are no more than 25 ft deep and releasing a redfish there is more about letting it revive under your control until it has gathered enough strength to strongly kick away on it’s own.  I advise people to use a lip grip device and swim it along side the boat as long as it takes.  

Another popular spot is the “Grillage”, which is an underwater cliff located off Sullivan’s island.  It goes from roughly 30 ft to 75 ft.  In my opinion this spot should be a Marine Protected Area (MPA) as it’s a known spawning ground for mature reds, and also is a source of kill off of these big reds by anglers maybe unknowingly releasing them improperly.  I’ve witnessed two incidents in two trips that surely resulted in dead fish.  One was a guide, who kept the fish out of of the water for 5 min plus, then threw the fish in head first like a tuna.  Second was a group in a large boat with very high gunnels who caught a fish, kept it out of the water for a good 5 min plus, then dropped it back in because they could not reach over the side and get to the water.  Both of these fish were caught in 40+ feet and surely needed venting.

What is venting?  When brought up quickly from that deep, the redfishes swim bladder fills with air and it cannot release it.  It might kick away briefly but it will float back up downstream, surely to die.  The known best way to release them is with a descending device, which I am sure most anglers know nothing about, nor have invested in one.  The second best way is to vent them.  This is better shown by the attached resources but basically involves inserting a needle to puncture the bladder in a small spot, then gently pushing the belly to remove the air.  This will quickly heal and allow the fish to swim back to depth.

Here are some helpful resources on proper catch & release of these deep fish.  Hope you find these educational and if you target these fish, please do so armed with knowledge and tools needed to protect them for the future.  

And yes, mission accomplished, as the photo’s show.  Big fish and big smiles for my anglers!

CCA overview of best practices 

YouTube example of Venting

Here is a good venting tool from O’Hero

Bulls on Plastic

In my new Sportsman bay boat, I am trying to learn how to fish the jetties effectively with artificial lures.  Past experimentation has been hit or miss, but I have had a pretty good amount of success casting at the rocks and swimming a lure down the slope.  One of my best redfish was caught this way and it was a memorable one.  Ralph and I found our way out there one day and were drifting with the outgoing tide along the south jetty.  I was pitching a 1/4 oz Redfish Eye jig on a Z-Man plastic.  I think it was a rootbeer/chartreuse MinnowZ.  Anyway, I happened to be casting with my smallest rod at the time – at trout rod with a very supple St Croix blank and a 1000 Penn Battle reel.  I had a solid thump and about 30 minutes and a half mile later I boated a 38″ red on that buggy whip!  Did I mention 10 lb braid?  Yeah.  

Daniel Nussbaum with a beauty!

I’ve also had sporadic success using our 1 oz Striper Eye jigs on a 6″ SwimmerZ at the rocks.  Just drifting along the bottom of the rocks and vertical jigging.

Anyway, I asked Daniel Nussbaum of Z-Man if he would help show me some spots.  A couple weeks before he had a great day catching bull reds.  We made a plan and he, myself and Ralph went out.  We had a great day.  We were casting 6″ SwimmerZ on 1/2 oz Striper Eye’s and swimming them along the rocks.  Wasn’t long before Daniel hooked up with a bull.  Shortly later it was Ralph’s turn.  I had a slot red and a 28″ er in the mean time, but by no means a bull.  

Ralph’s bull hasn’t missed many meals

Tide turned and I moved to the other side of the structure and was retrieving my lure when THUMP!  I knew it was  a big one based on the frequency of the head shakes.  Took several runs before it came to the boat.  It turned out to be my new PB Redfish at 41.5″.  What a thrill!  

My new PB redfish

Try this setup at the jetties or even the reefs.  Its a lot more fun to feel the thump than wait for a bull to take cut bait, I promise you!

Don’t hesitate to try artificials for the bigguns


The Ace of Spades

The following is a summary of an unbelievable situation that we and all anglers who fished the Mike Tolbert Spade Foundation Redfish Tournament on May 18, 19, 2018 continue to deal with.  You may have seen some things pop up briefly on social media then taken back down.  The following account contains only facts, not opinions.

This tournament was organized on behalf of the Mike Tolbert Spade Foundation by the Southern Redfish Cup.  The buy-in per-team was hefty…$750.  But, the Guaranteed Payouts were really large, as shown below in advertisements for the event.  With some trepidation, Ralph and I registered for the event.  We hadn’t been fishing much at all, and the trips we did fish we hardly caught any redfish.  But, we figured we had as good a chance as any, since we only fish artificial baits.

Facebook Ad for Tournament
Details of Payout Structure

We submitted our registration, which was received by the Spade Foundation

The weather for the event was awful.  It poured rain both tournament days, and we ground it out both days in full rain gear, along with the other 30 teams entered.  Each day we felt lucky to enter our limit of three mid-slot fish.  Turns out, due to the very difficult conditions, this was good enough for 4th place.  $7,500 team payout.  Pretty good, something to be proud of, considering the quality of the field of anglers we were competing against.  

Both days at weigh in, many pictures were taken, including us with each days catch.

On the final weigh in, when we found out we were 4th place, no checks were distributed.  Instead, we were told we needed to go to the Windjammer on IOP to receive our checks.  There was a country concert as part of the event.  Many of us were not planning to go to that optional event, but we hurried home, cleaned up and got back there.  There was a big presentation of the winning teams.  Ralph couldn’t attend, but I was called up for 4th place in front of the crowd, pictures taken, and no one was given a check.

We were told by Jeff of the Redfish Cup that we needed to fill out a tax form the following Monday and we would be paid by the Spade Foundation.  OK, that was unexpected, but understandable – given the size of the payouts.  Monday came and we promptly sent in our tax forms.  

Meanwhile, the final results of the tournament were never published.  Pics from the event were never published.  Starting to get suspicious…

Weeks passed and no checks. 

Ralph and at least one of the winners at last received checks via FedEx after continued pressure on the event coordinator.  All of them bounced.  I twice received a screen shot of FedEx tracking packages with promises my check was in the mail.  The package was never dropped off to FedEx.  It was never scanned into their system.  Jessica Walsh, of Cornerstone Sports Marketing, has repeatably lied to me and all anglers with false promises of payments.

Ralph and the anglers who received bad checks have since been paid via wire transfer by Mike Tolbert, under threat of lawsuit due to the multiple counts of fraud that Jessica was facing.  How is it that as a team we won $7,500 yet half has been paid and half has not? 

The rest of us have not received one cent.  

An example of the lies we are getting told

I have since signed a letter of engagement with an attorney to bring them to justice.  We have not been told the truth even once throughout this whole ordeal.  

Buyer beware.  Do not participate in an event put on by the Mike Tolbert Spade Foundation!

Update:  The situation was covered in the Post & Courier recently and a lawsuit has been filed with myself and 12 of the other anglers who were unpaid.  We will see how this turns out. 

Drama at the Boat Landing

Hot and hazy days of summer

With the growth of population in Charleston we have seen already busy traffic become pretty much ridiculous, as our local politicians seem to forget that with every neighborhood and apartment complex comes more cars and yet, no new roads or lanes.  Its frustrating, to say the least!  Well, the situation on our waterways has mirrored what we see on the streets.  More and more boats, many with inexperienced captains, and a complete lack of new or expanded boat landings.  A new landing to replace the all-but-useless Bushy Park landing is a can that continues to get kicked on down the road, for example.  

I’ve recently seen plenty of arguments about boat landing etiquette and I think on a Saturday morning about 10 AM in the summer, there is just no way to NOT have problems, simply because there are too many people trying to launch and you know, shit happens.

Often, I think to myself that if people understood one cardinal rule about boat landings, that everything would go a lot smoother.  And that rule is….

Get in and out of the landing ramp as soon as possible!

Most arguments on the landing arise because something prevented the above.  Done right, with two people, a boat can be launched or loaded in under 3 minutes.  One person, maybe 5 minutes.  Some things people do that cause problems are:

  • Using the loading lane as a make-ready area (there are designated make-ready areas available for this purpose, if not, make-ready in another place before pulling up to the landing)
  • Docking on the inside of the lane, thus blocking people from launching (dock on outside of lane.  If two people, have one idle away from the landing then do a touch-and-go pickup after your vehicle is parked)
  • Not knowing how to back a trailer down (this can be learned in an empty parking lot.  Most people try to make too big of a correction with the wheel, in my observation)

Just think to yourself, what can I do to make sure I’m in and out of the landing lane in the absolute minimum amount of time?  This will help immensely!

What are your thoughts on things people can do to make things more efficient at the landing?

Eye Strike Conservation Notes

As former events coordinator for Summerville Saltwater Anglers, I began a partnership with SCDNR’s SCORE (Oyster Restoration) team to begin planting oysters in the Ashley River.  One of the missions of the club is to provide community service to the Ashley River to improve it as a whole.  This was 5 years ago, and each year we have had a planting event in July, peak time for “spat” or larval oysters to be floating around looking for something to attach to.

A “bucket-brigade” brings the oyster bags from the barge to the planting site

We recently had a speaker from SCORE come to the club and review our progress.  This past weekend we planted 400 bags of oyster shell substrate.  They have a formula that predicts the number of new oysters that will “recruit” on each bag and what it will filter at maturity.  When mature, the reef we planted will filter an estimated 40,000 gallons of water per hour.  Well, since we began, we have planted approximately 3,000 bags of oysters, and if you go back to the first year’s reef, it is now a full grown, live, oyster reef with big blades growing up off of it. Really good stuff.  There is nothing better you can do for our marine estuaries than plant oysters.  From filtering the water, to creating the beginning of the food chain that leads to our desired game fish – and beyond – think dolphin and osprey, for example.  There are many opportunities to get involved.  Check out the SCORE program for a calendar of events.

The end result. Oysters need to live in the “intertidal zone” where they are sometimes submerged, sometimes not.

Secondly, really good news to report – regarding the full funding of the Community and Professional Response Initiative (founded by Redfin Charters, Z-Man Fishing, and Eye Strike) and our first project, named Project ReSpeck.  The goal was to raise $25,000 to aid Waddell Mariculture in their spawning efforts that eventually end up as stocked fish in our waterways.  This was in response to our record freeze last January and trying to think of a way to help somehow.  I’ll let the press release speak for itself.  Just want to thank everyone who contributed to our cause.  Every little bit helps, and every penny goes to the cause.

Angling community unites to give Mother Nature a boost
Project ReSpeck to enhance stock recovery capability at Waddell Center
Columbia, S.C. – This past January, record cold weather set in across the Southeast causing a noticeable fish kill along the entire Palmetto State coast and calling into question the future of several popular species of fish important to recreational saltwater anglers. A conversation by a group of concerned industry parties focusing on what action could be taken to hasten a recovery began and out of that came Project ReSpeck; an initiative to provide $25,000 in funding to establish the ability to spawn, grow, and release spotted or “speckled” trout into South Carolina’s estuaries. This past Saturday, after months of collaboration, Project ReSpeck and the Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA SC) presented a $25,000 check to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for the installation and operation of five maturation tanks at the Waddell Center in Bluffton, SC.
“Based on what we were seeing on the water ourselves and as reports came in from across the coast, we knew some action was going to be needed,” said Joel Levine of RedFin Charters in Charleston, SC and originator of the effort. “We felt the recreational angling community would see the need for and be willing to enthusiastically support a campaign that would provide a meaningful path for recovery. With funding for five tanks, it has obviously surpassed that capability.”
The tanks will provide the SCDNR staff at the Waddell Center in Bluffton, SC with a powerful stock enhancement tool. By simulating spawning conditions in a controlled environment, species such as red drum, spotted sea trout, and even flounder may be produced for the purpose of releasing them into the wild to supplement existing populations. The process could be expanded to include a variety of species in the future.
CCA SC was contacted by Daniel Nussbaum, president of Z-man, as wells as David Fladd and Ralph Phillips of Eye Strike Fishing (all Project ReSpeck contributors and supporters) bringing the campaign to the recreational angling advocacy group’s attention. Within 48 hours of learning of the effort, CCA SC had eagerly committed to RedFin Charters, Z-man, and Eye Strike that the organization would match half of the projects goal of raising $25,000 for the tanks, providing $12,500 of the total project investment.
“This project provides a real world asset to biologist and state fisheries managers; a constant goal in the organization’s mission of improving both fish and fisheries,” said Scott Whitaker, CCA SC executive director. “A collaboration of this magnitude that brings together industry leaders, conservation & science, and the recreational angling community represents what can be achieved regarding the enhancement and improvement of our state’s envied marine resources.”
Contact: Scott Whitaker |

ICAST 2018

One of the things we look forward to every year is going to ICAST.  This is the biggest fishing convention in the world, and we are lucky to get passes from our partners, Z-Man Fishing.  We try to see what’s new and also drop by the Z-Man booth several times a day to check in with them and see some of their partners and pro-staff that we usually only get to see once a year.  The main draw is the New Product Showcase, where all the new products for the year are shown. 


Weedless Eye Display at Z-Man Booth

Often, my personal best-in-show doesn’t match the show’s best-in-show!  I’m impressed with true innovation and not gimmicks, and both last year and this year, my best in show were bait casting reels.  Last year it was the 13 Fishing Concept Z reel, that eliminated ball bearings for bushings.  I own one of them and its a really good reel, and 7 months in, its still going strong.  It does have its issues, but overall a very good reel.  This year, for me, it was the Shimano Curado DC.  DC stands for Digital Control, and it uses a chip to control the spool instead of feathering your thumb.  We are told that it has settings 1 through 4.  On setting 4 you can throw it against a wall with no thumb and it won’t backlash.  That’s incredible!  The lower the number the more you might have to feather it, but the farther it will go.  Pretty cool innovation from our friends at Shimano!

Summary of Z-Man New Products for 2019
Trick a Trout

We are very honored to have one of our products be one of Z-Man’s featured products this year, the Weedless Eye jig!  As you can see, it was prominently displayed in the Z-Man booth and really well received from what we heard.  It’s incredible how fast Z-Man’s profile is rising in the fishing world.  ElaZtech rules.  Nothing else will stand up off the bottom like ElaZtech.  They smartly had several aquariums and tanks displaying the product in-action, which is to say, dead-sticked and floating up. 

With Team ShallowTails (Mark and Michael Cowart) who we collaborated with on the Weedless Eye

Z-Man also has released a 4″ scented jerk shad that will match up perfectly with the Weedless Eye, we are looking forward to trying this ourselves.  There is a new Trout Trick Shrimp that was released that has swimmin’ antenna, and is meant to be presented in a fleeing orientation.  Also looking forward to trying these.

Each year we get to meet up with the O.G. Team EyeStrike member Dylan Tarducci

ICAST is not open to the public, but if you ever get a chance to go, it’s worth it.  Till next year…


We are proud to announce our latest new product, Texas Eye(TM) jigheads!  This product uses our weed shedding head design from our Weedless Eye jigs and uses a custom through-wire and Mustad UltraPoint hook to create a pivoting head for more action.  We have also integrated a bait keeper into the hook to securely hold your soft plastic up around the head.  It is a really great and effective weedless presentation that swims great with a great hook up ratio.  We are really proud and excited for this product.  We have been using it all spring with great success, even using it almost exclusively to win 4th place at the Southern Redfish Cup / Spade Foundation redfish tournament.  It excels in fresh water applications, just like a Texas Rig and as you will see below, the freshwater fish dig it!

They are available exclusively only direct through us at our shop or online at our STORE.  Give them a try!

By the way, YES, this is “Product X” we have been hinting about!

It’s Time….Weedless Jigs Now Available in Bulk

With Z-Man now distributing our Weedless Eye jigs world wide, it’s time to start offering them in bulk quantities at a discount.  Since their release, these jigs have taken the market by storm and allowed us to cross over more into the fresh water world, where people have quickly discovered how great a bass lure these are!  If you haven’t tried them, now is a great time to “test the waters” by using a bulk discount and we think you won’t be disappointed!  Bulk Weedless Eye jigs… available now, exclusively at our store