Lots of action on the coast
July 20, 2001
July and August are traditional vacation times for many people in our area. Most try to take a trip with the family before the school year begins in August or September.
While many people plan fishing trips, my family prefers trips centering on things the whole family can do together. Although we do fish together often, I usually forgo fishing on our family trips to be with my girls. Usually that means trips to the beach or state lakes for swimming, canoeing and a little R and R. This year the girls wanted to go to the beach. For some reason I snuck in a bass fishing rod along with a few topwater plugs and bass baits.
One afternoon, the ladies were tired and needed a short siesta. Seizing the moment, I grabbed my bass gear and headed for the beach. This wasn't a crowded beach, just a small swimming area used by locals. I didn't have time to search for the best spots or to plan an offshore trip. I just wanted to see what I could catch on freshwater equipment.
After wading into the surf I spotted a shallow, sandy flat that stretched out 200 yards. Baitfish were being swept across the flat by the current and wind, and many different types of fish were feasting on the unlucky baitfish. Shortly I hooked a nice speckled trout on a favorite topwater bait, the Rattlin' Chug Bug.
Often a trout would smash the bait several times before getting hooked. At other times one would knock the bait clear of the surface before engulfing it. If it missed, I would continue to work the lure back in a steady retrieve and the fish would follow until it homed in for the kill.
Many speckled trout would miss the bait a few times, but another acrobatic fish of unknown species would smash the topwater bait and sail skyward. These fish were about 2 to 3 feet long and resembled baby tarpons. After I set the hook, the small dynamos would explode from the water and head skyward like they had been shot out of a rocket launcher. There was almost no end to their jumps and skyward maneuvers. Many times they would rocket upward 10 or 12 times before succumbing. Some would throw the hook on the first or second jump.
If they were hooked well however, they put on quite a show with their endless array of jumps twists and skyward spirals. Some of the locals told me that these fish were too boney for good table fare. I was not there to catch something to eat however. My only intent was to have some fun battling whatever would strike my bait. By releasing the fish, I gave other anglers a chance to feel the thrill of their fight again and again!
After that first afternoon I checked the local bait shop for jigs that might catch a few more trout. At the shop I located popping corks and jigs. As fate would have it, I got to go back to the water once more. After a long evening, the girls slept and I took advantage of the situation. On the very first cast I hooked a nice trout on my popping cork. My grandfather Nolen showed this rig to me many years ago while fishing for stripers at the Ross Barnett spillway.
If fish are schooling in either freshwater or saltwater, they will fall victim to the popping cork rig. It is a simple rig with a 6-inch popping cork on the front, followed by one or two jigs tied 3 to 4 feet behind. By casting past the feeding fish, an angler should jerk the bait back in short, fast, steady jerks to attract fish. They often attack these lures when they won't hit anything else.
By catching several more specks, I confirmed that the striper rig would work in saltwater. If you want to try a different type fishing, carry your bass fishing equipment the next time you go to the coast. If you get a spare minute, break out the tackle. You just might get hooked!