There are some deep-water tactics used by bass anglers that work just fine in deeper coastal bays.
Story and Photography by Danno Wise
By January, most Texas bay fishermen spend more time thinking about fishing than actually fishing. Perhaps because bay fishing is something most people associate with warmer weather, few think to brave the winter chill in search of speckled trout and redfish. Although the winter weather may not be inviting, fishing action can still be hot, even on the coldest days of January and February. Part of what keeps the average inshore angler from experiencing good winter bay fishing is the fact they never leave the house. The other part has to do with them having little more than cursory knowledge of how to target fish during winter’s worst weather.
First, the easy part — where to look. Most saltwater anglers know cold winter weather forces speckled trout to take shelter in the deeper portions of Texas’ coastal bays, lakes and rivers. And, considering most Texas bays have relatively little deep water, the guesswork is largely removed from finding fish during winter. As an added bonus, these fish are usually much more concentrated when found at depth during the winter than they are doing other times of year. Anglers are usually able catch plenty of them once they located their hiding spot and determine the right depth, bait and presentation.
Presentation is usually the variable that gives most inshore fishermen fits. Again, some parts of this equation are common knowledge. For instance, virtually every angler knows to slow the retrieval pace when there is a chill in the air (and water). But, far too often these same fishermen rely solely on bouncing jigs off the bay floor to tempt trout and redfish in deep holes and channels. While ‘bottom bouncing’ is a Texas tradition of sorts and does, at times, produce good results, it is but one technique and actual utilizes only a narrow slice of the water column. By contrast, bass fishermen have learned to effectively probe every depth seeking largemouth bass suspended in a thermocline in order to be consistently successful. And, by taking a page from their bass fishing brethren, Texas inshore anglers can successfully employ a number of vertical fishing techniques that are often more productive than simply bouncing jigs off the bottom.