By Capt. Ryan Samsoucy
A tip from a flats guide’s tackle box. Going big is part of the business for most anglers. The next cast is driven by the desire to connect with the trophy. Let’s face it, we all love to fish, we just like the big ones better.
A Fly Angler’s Background
For a full-time guide who does 80% of his business with flies from a Maverick flats boat, using big soft plastics is not as strange as you might think. I, and other long rodders I roll with, throw 18- to 22-inch eel flies at night. We fish in 1 to 4 feet of water, mostly on the same flats we fish in the daytime.
My clientele has grown to more than fly rodders, so using soft plastics to catch stripers on the flats is now a part of a normal days work. Rigged tubes and jig heads or small fin-type baits have worked well but could not always turn the heads of the big bass as consistently as some fly patterns.
Big Soft Baits
So now I have a line of advice for you: do the “Hogy shuffle.” I used to use another brand of large soft plastics to prospect areas for fish. I was turned onto the Hogy baits at a trade show where I met Mike Hogan, the founder and owner of Hogy Lure Company. It wasn’t just Mike’s love and knowledge of fishing that drew me to Hogys®, but the variety of sizes and colors of the baits plus common sense design and durability.
I found that Hogys® are not just for rips and rock piles but are a fish slayin’ weapon for flats fishing just about anywhere. My favorites are the 6inch Skinny-, 7inch Original- and 10-inch Original rigged Texas style with an offset worm hook. Stripers cannot resist these soft plastics; bubble gum and bone are my go-to colors.
On The Flats
When fishing the flats for stripers in the daylight the easiest sight-casting is normally between 10 o’clock and 2:30 o’clock (if you imagine the face of a clock on the water). Whether “working the clock” from the casting deck of a boat, or working a full 360 degrees while wading, you need to see the fish you are casting at. If you start making long blind casts you will spook any crossing or laid up fish two states over, so be patient and wait for the good shots. Stripers can be as spooky as permit in skinny water and the last thing you want to do is ruin you chance of catching nice fish. So what do you do when you spot a big, wary striper?
When it comes time to cast at a cruising or laid up fish in skinny water you want to put that bait down 20 to 40 feet away from it so the fish does not get spooked – the bigger the bait, the more commotion it will generate when it hits the water so bigger baits should land at the outside of that range.
Once the bait hits the water and settles a bit, reel it toward the fish or on an angle that will cross its path. Move that bait fairly fast but quietly – stay in control. When the bait gets 10 to 15 feet from the fish it’s in the dance zone. Start to move the bait “crisp and twitchy,” not loud and splashy.
As the Hogy starts to zig-zag and dance through the water, the fish will most likely become very aggressive and chase the bait down.
If the fish does not give chase, cast again but this time even closer to the fish. That will either just about scare it to death or it will jump on the bait.Experiment with retrieves and distances for your local waters.