Fishing Tips PLASTICS FOR BAYOU REDS & TROUT Posted 3/6/2012 When fishermen think of Biloxi, what comes to mind? Sure there are the usually calm, blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which offer a wide range of fishing opportunities from blue marlin to redfish, but there is a whole different fishery found on the other side of town that makes you feel like you’re light years away from the tourists, sandy beaches, big hotels and the lights and excitement of the casinos. It’s called the bayou, seemingly endless back water channels that meander into the marsh for miles, intersecting and opening onto shallow bays and coves filled with strange, and not so strange animals, amazing birdlife and great light tackle sport fishing for sea trout, redfish and even the occasional largemouth bass. This past November during the SKA® Nationals, Bobby Carter of the Isle Casino suggested spending a day out back fishing and arranged a charter. Just the term “bayou” conjured up thoughts of alligators and swamp people, but upon meeting John Swartz and seeing his beautifully equipped, Yamaha-powered skiff, it became obvious he was not exactly swamp-people material. John came to Mississippi from New Jersey for a job over 25 years ago, and fell in love with fishing the bayou. Sometime later, he decided to share his passion for this unique environment with other anglers. For the record, John is a absolute wealth of knowledge on bayou fishing, wildlife and ecology. He is also great company with his unflappable fishing companion, a slightly on-in-years cocker spaniel that sits next to him on the leaning post, and seems to enjoy the bayou at least as much as John. The two most sought after gamefish in the bayou are redfish and speckled trout. Both are plentiful and can be found most of the year, unless water temperatures really soar. Some of the more seasonal residents include sheepshead, black drum and white trout, a smaller, paler version of the speckled trout. Even largemouth bass are found in these slightly brackish waters. John’s favorite lures for trout and reds are soft plastics, but he also carries an assortment of plugs like Heddon Zara Spooks and L&S Catch 2000’s for those times when the fish get really active and are more willing to attack a surface lure. The night before the day of the fishing trip, the area experienced a hard cold front, so mist was rising off the warm water into the cooler air and there was even a little frost on the boat. But by midmorning, the temperatures had risen back into the 70s and the fish started cooperating. The tackle best suited for these techniques are 7-foot light action spinning or baitcasting outfits loaded with 14-pound test braided line with fluorocarbon leaders. The lures John fishes mostly include a variety of plastic fish-shaped bodies mounted on light jig heads that range in weight from 1/8 to 3/8 ounce. He likes to use the lightest jig possible, but when the fish are feeding near the bottom in 10 feet of water or more, additional weight is necessary to get the plastic lures into the strike zone. His favorite plastic bodies are fish-shaped with paddle tails, and are made by the H & H Lure Company® and V & G Lures. Both are local companies just across the border in Louisiana, and their lures are designed specifically for backwater fishing for these species of fish in the south. Both have gained huge followings. The H & H® Cocahoe Minnow has a smaller paddle tail and more subtle action, while the V & G Deadly Dudley has a slightly fatter body and broader tail so it puts out a stronger vibration. They both have their place in John’s tackle box and when he is searching for action, he will switch back and forth between them until the fish show a preference. Favorite colors are black/chartreuse, red/chartreuse, silver sparkle and silver flash. The lures are cast and retrieved in a variety of manners from a straight, slow retrieve to a jig-and-reel motion, always adjusting lure speed and depth until you start getting bites. John lets the fish tell him what they want on any given day and fishes accordingly. John’s 24’ Sea Fox® skiff is equipped with a powerful trolling motor on the bow and a PowerPole® fast anchoring system on the transom alongside the F250 Yamaha outboard. When he enters an area he feels is holding fish, he will work it using the trolling motor. If he finds a particular ambush point holding significant numbers of fish, he will drop the PowerPole® to stay stationary and fan cast the area. Much of the fishing is done using the trolling motor working along the channel edges, casting toward the swamp grass and then working the jigs back to the boat. A good number of the hits, especially from redfish, come within feet of the bank so be ready for a strike by having the reel in gear and your hand on the reel handle as soon as the lure hits the water. Reaction time is important with this fishing. When the water, tide and barometric pressure put the fish on the feed, the action can be very fast. Trout are fun to catch and put up a good fight on the light outfits he uses. Redfish, which can be considerably larger, are also much stronger and will tax your ability as an angler by taking lots of drag, making longer runs and swirling and splashing on the surface. Fishing these great gamefish in the bayou is a unique experience. The scenery is idyllic, the atmosphere incredibly tranquil and the wildlife frequently undisturbed by human presence. For more information on the area and these techniques, contact Capt. John Swartz: http://www.shallowdraftcharters.com.