By D. Digby
May 2, 2019 - We’d bided our time for weeks and weeks as late winter cold fronts barreled through again and again, kicking down the road our annual start to the spring fishing season. Finally, it came together on a calm weekend in May with very light winds after a seasonably warm week. We were hungry to get out there and held hope the fish would put on an aggressive show of hunger in the form of a hot topwater bite.
Slick calm conditions greeted us for the ride out, with a picturesque glow across the marsh. Our sights were firmly set on points south seeking fish transitioning to open waters from their winter haunts. A light rising tide would be bringing in clean, salty waters from Breton Sound, all the ingredients for an early spring bonanza. Fuel efficiency be damned, the throttles kept sneaking down to get us on site as quickly as possible.
On arrival to the chosen shoreline, it was time to unleash the big dogs. Full size offerings from Bomber and MirrOlure were soon at the ready. It was a Badonk-A-Donk for me, in bone, with my counterpart throwing a Top Dog in a mullet pattern. I eased the trolling motor down as a long cast ripped from the bow toward the bank. Twitch, twitch, twitch, as the tried and true Walk the Dog action had the plug’s rattles tantalizing anything within earshot. It wasn’t long before our question of whether or not the fish were as hungry as we were for spring was answered, violently.
Not three feet from the grassy shoreline, something erupted from beneath like we’ve all seen Discovery’s Air Jaws do every summer. The brute’s bronze back breached the water as he took the plug down to where he’d come. With run after run, line was gained and quickly lost as we followed along in pursuit using the trolling motor to cut distance. After ten more minutes, the beast was boat side and coerced into the net for photos before prompt release.
This pattern stuck for the remainder of the morning as we worked shorelines of outer bays watching aggressive redfish abuse topwater plugs. By the end of it all, the surviving lures were well broken in, lines frayed. One brute of unknown size even escaped us by bending the hooks from which it was hung. The fish’s incredible power led to metal giving way, though not all that uncommon in today’s world of modern braided fishing lines that don’t stretch. Easing up on the drag a bit may have been the difference in what might have been versus a heroic photo op in victory.
These outer shorelines are often dominated by oversized fish, many well over the 27-inch designation for “bull” reds in Louisiana. If looking to target smaller fish as a better fit for the table, looking to ponds will often be the ticket. My go-to’s are ponds with broken shorelines, ideally with some water passing through to target slot fish from 16 to 22 inches. Chasing them with anything from a gold spoon, spinner bait, or the trusty combination of a dead shrimp hung beneath a popping cork is sure to load the box. If grass beds are present, targeting holes within or the outermost edges usually produces handsomely as well.
Though a blast with the redfish, this same approach can be similarly effective and exciting on springtime speckled trout. Early season fish are often feeding on small baitfish, busting up large swarms of mullet, pogies, etc. making for an ideal setting to target them with a large topwater offering. It may not be the most efficient way to put numbers in the boat given the reduced hook-up rate, but it certainly can’t be beaten for sheer exhilaration.
It can be as simple as riding around until large pods of bait are found. It usually doesn’t take long to discern whether or not they’re nervous, and for good reason. In the outer waters we target during the spring and summer, it's just as likely to be a shark or jack crevalle as it is a trout or redfish that’s got baitfish constantly on edge. It’s what makes spring fishing so exciting, the area waters are often teeming with life of all shapes and sizes, be it winged or finned. After all, diving gulls will often lead you right to the frenzy.
Spring fishing patterns are upon us. Get up earlier than usual and head out plenty early to be on the fishing grounds in time for first light and optimal topwater action before switching to another pattern later in the morning if necessary. Better yet, take someone who has never fished that way. It takes but one blow up to get them hooked on topwater fishing for life.