The inshore bite pattern has been on "Wide Open" with our customers getting a serious opportunity to "Feel the Burn!" Our customers have been doing a lot of catching as well as releasing this past week.
I had a great conversation with Captain Matt Williams of Miss Judy Charters this past week. He offered up some interesting information. As I listened to his well-seasoned ideas it all came to light the reasoning behind his "unbelievable fishing capabilities!" In other words he’s real good especially when it comes to the "knowing of catching fish!"
Designer Popping Corks
Step One "Cork Set up"
The plain old popping corks work well! When popped it imitates the noise that a fleeing shrimp makes when it "slaps its tail" in order to make a quick threatening move. This sound is what a fish listens for. As a matter of fact fish such as the spotted sea trout consider it the "serious ringing of the dinner bell!" This cork works very well. However, as with all things there is always room for improvement! Get ready for Captain Matt’s personally set up "popping cork design!"
There are several popping corks on the market. The ones that I am most familiar with are the Cajun Thunder and the Bay Side Paradise oval shaped styles. Both are great and do the same job. However, when you fish as much as Captain Matt does you need to select the one that works the best. In this case it is the Bay Side. The reason being is that the shaft is considered much more durable. It’s made from titanium type metal, which has "no memory." In "Captain Matt’s fish catching all of the time world" it makes a difference! I have to say, "Cajun Thunder" popping corks work well for me, but then I don’t use them as much as Captain Matt. His set-up design can be used with either type of floats.
The first thing that you will need to do is to purchase a few of what I call "Dog Eared sinkers." I call them that, because the rubber insert gives them ears. However, the name "Mickey Mouse" also came to mind when I looked at them. I suggest purchasing ½ and ¾ ounce weight sizes. The next thing you will need to do is to pull the "Dog Ears" AKA Mickey Mouse ears from the sinker. This is simple; just pull the black rubber piece out. You are going to need a pair of pliers or something to crush the sinker closed with. (I don’t suggest using your teeth unless that’s all you have at the time!) Hold your popping cork, slide sinker on to the shaft between the brass balls, place in the center, and clamp down just enough to close opening. The sinker should move on the shaft in between the brass balls. Once a few casts are made brass balls will "wholler" out a cup like spot on each end of the sinker. The sinker addition doesn’t change the "popping noise." However, what it does do is add badly needed "control weight" to these too light corks. With this addition you are able to cast and reach further distances than before. Popping corks are a great design as they are. However, this addition makes them much more "cast-able and controllable!"
Step Two "Cork Reasoning"
Captain Matt then moved into the reasoning for using popping corks. The reasoning is almost too simple. A cork gives the fisherman something to watch while waiting for a fish hit. The fact of the matter it offers up and makes that badly needed connection with the fish long before it hits the hook. When bottom fishing, you drop your bait and wait for a hit. If you happen not to feel the hit your bait would be "stolen" without you even knowing it. This means "fishing without bait," which is not a great catching scenario! A cork offers a fisherman "a visual" in regards to "bite pattern received." In other words, when using a cork you are put on notice the first tenth of a second as to the fish’s arrival. It’s also a "fishy attractant noise maker" giving all that use them an opportunity to come up with a tune that the fish like on any given day!
Step three "Working your Cork"
Here are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of working your popping corks. Firstly, there are times when more and less are suggested. When you have "moving water" Captain Matt suggests popping the cork every 20 seconds. If the current is "still" he suggest every 30 seconds. When the current is really "screaming" it’s necessary to pop more so as to keep your line from bagging. (Bagging equals too much slack in your line meaning "a quick set of the hook is impossible.") However, when you pop it, it’s necessary to take the slack line "caused" out, which means reel in a bit. Too much erratic popping can and will scare fish away. Please remember, "Keep all/any movements as natural as possible!"
Some fishermen come up with their own "popping tune." It’s said by many that the sequence of "two snaps, a pause, followed by a single pop" works like a charm. I know this for sure, because I have personally tried it my self and it’s my personal fish catching tune!
Step Four "Rod Positioning"
It has been proven time and time again that a fish normally hits the second after the "cork is popped." Most fish hits are lost before they are even discovered. During the "popping stage" is just about when the fish takes out after your bait. The reason being is because ambush feeders are watchers "first and then attackers!" Captain Matt suggests that you be a "rod pointer!" This basically means that it’s best to keep your rod tips low and always pointing at your personal cork. Rod tip location is important when you are "popping or setting" giving you better chances for hooking the fish!
Step Five "Leaders Down-under"
Lets get the "short leaders types" out of the way first. While using a popping cork leader lengths used is basically up to you. This means your leader can be as short as 6 inches and as long as 5 feet. Short leaders and heavier pound test are normally used when targeting red fish. These fish don’t fit into the "sight-feeding department." They fall into the "smellers and rooters department."
Leader material used can be anything from standard monofilament to fluorocarbon line. As far as I am concerned standard "Ande" monofilament line is more "flexible and manageable" than the fluorocarbon. However, sometimes it’s necessary to change leader pound test until you get the right combination for your fish day. Whether you go with expensive fluorocarbon or others I suggest having 12, 15, 20, 25, and 30-pound test leader material on board at all times! I have experienced many fishing days that would have been minus "catching opportunity" if I hadn’t had an array of pound test leaders to choose from. I’m not just talking about inshore either!
The bottom line when you're fishing are that "some change" is always going to be the answer to the catching problem. This boils down to fact that on some fish days they can see better and look even harder at what they are going to eat. For those that just want to fish go with "what you have and normally use." However, for those that want the best scenario for catching "much changing up" is going to be in your future.
Arm Length Leaders!
Long leaders are used when targeting fish that are sight feeders such as the spotted sea trout. The best way to get proper length of leader to use is to go with the "arms length method." Hold one end of the leader with one hand and allow the leader to just lie in the other hand. Then stretch both arms out as far as they will go and "that’s your long leader length!"
This is the perfect length to use when targeting spotted sea trout in around 10 feet of water. I am always talking fish holding over structure and it so very true, because they do. However, structure doesn’t have to be something that you can see. Sometimes it permanently stays submerged offering fish a "target rich environment." To find these spots I suggest watching that fish finder a little closer and making notes!
Step Six "hooks and bait control!"
The most used hooks when associated with popping corks are going to be a #1 Kale hook. It can be any color you wish, but it needs to be this size. The reason being is that this size doesn’t over power baits and its thin tinned meaning almost un-detectable by a rushing fish. For those that find this size hooks bends a lot that would be correct. The reason being is that your "drag is too tight!"
Captain Matt’s best and most used leader size when he going long (arms length) is "15 pound test" standard type monofilament line. After tying on his #1 Kale hook he smashes on a "BB" size spilt shot about 18 inches up from the hook. This seemingly insignificant added weight keeps your bait in check with the deeper holding fished.
Step Seven "Finally baits best used!"
The good news is that when using popping corks there is movement involved. This means that this cork is not only a float, but also when worked it’s a combination lure of sorts! When you move your float your bait follows. When using the live stuff such as shrimp or mud minnows movement is important, but you have natural movement for sure! Now when going with the artificial stuff such as shrimp DOA’s or Berkley Gulps I strongly suggest some sort of movement!
Here’s a tip: Save all of your torn up gulps and return back to the secret fishing attractant solution, because you can use them later. I simply cut damaged pieces like a loaf of bread and use them on a small hook. You will be shock what might find this small bait offering enticing as well as luring!