Although the fall winds are blowing, inshore fishing continues to be hot with really big snook on the prowl along with a great redfish bite.
Big trout also are on the flats looking for a large topwater plug which lately has been my go-to lure choice for all three species.
Carry two sizes of Zara Spook or the equivalent topwater plug in bright chrome or gold for bright sky conditions and darker plugs for dark or night conditions.
Capt. George Tunison
Master the "walk-the-dog retrieve" (a repetitive side to side motion of the lure caused by reeling and a continual snapping the rod tip on the retrieve) then simply start casting and cover water.
On higher water, cast in and under, or as close to the bushes as you dare. Count to five then start the retrieve. If you are not getting hung up once in awhile you are not fishing close enough. If you are always hung up then go home and practice your casting skills before you drive your boat mates crazy.
On low water, wind drift, troll motor, or pole looking for any change in bottom, such as pot holes. The ticket here is simple, stay quiet, cover water, and keep casting as the fish could be anywhere.
Rig two rods, one with a large plug and one with a small and alternate till the fish show a response or preference. Fish often key on one food source and size and ignore other offerings. Tarpon are famous for this and sometimes drive an angler crazy with their famous tunnel vision behavior ignoring everything to get to a single food source.
The old fly fishing adage of "matching the hatch" applies to all fishing.
Try a slow and steady retrieve, then erratic again, letting the fish tell you what they want. Snook seem to respond to more of an erratic panicked retrieve verses the steady retrieve that reds seem to respond to better.
Some basic tips when topwater lure fishing:
Learn to feather your cast, that is, just before the lure splashes down like a rock from space, stop or snub the line causing the lure's forward motion to stop allowing it to drop lightly to the surface scaring fewer fish. Good lure anglers use this technique with all casted plugs.
As mentioned, try different lure sizes, colors, and retrieve speeds.
Don't be afraid to throw large topwaters. Big fish go for a big meal. A big predator would rather chase down one big dinner than expend the energy to catch and eat six little ones. Gator trout are suckers for a jumbo topwater at dawn.
Keep it Rolling: Fish sometimes swat at, taste, or miss a top plug. When this happens don't panic and don't stop or change the retrieve, Keep it rolling along and often times they will continue the attack. Thursday a 30-inch red attacked my Rapala Skitter Walk three times before finally nailing the lure. During the attack I never stopped my slow methodical retrieve. If I had gotten buck fever and snatched it away, well, end of story.
Trout can be the exception and often will hit the plug again if you stop the retrieve.
Use Sharp Hooks: It will make a huge difference in hooking and holding fish.
If all this sounds like too much work then catch a ladyfish and cut it up into one-inch steaks. Anchor up, keep it quiet, and fish them under the bushes on the bottom, with circle hooks. This is a sure-fire way to catch a big redfish and snook. Also use shrimp and cut mullet or ballyhoo.
Stay in one area for 30 minutes. If no takers, move and repeat. You will connect.
If this all sounds unfamiliar, but you still want to learn, then,by all means hire a good local guide for the day. Money well spent.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.