Anyone reading this blog knows that I almost always fish artificials (by almost all, I’m talking 99% of the time). I enjoy watching fish chase topwater plugs, and trying to find patterns that enable me to fool them. This almost certainly results in catching fewer fish, but my personality has always found it difficult to sit somewhere with a bait on the bottom waiting around for things to happen. There are times when my philosophy is shaken. With a customer on board, when you can’t find any fish active enough to chase down a lure, anything is on the table. I have had a prior fishing trip with my brother-in-law, Mike Holman, who lives in Isle of Palms, SC, just north of Charleston. Unfortunately the time we went was deep in the winter. We tried several areas, and I was impressed with how fishy the creeks looked, even though there were no baitfish or redfish in the area. When the opportunity to go again presented itself, along with the opportunity to see some of my in-laws, I was delighted to give it another try. We fished two days, and as usual, I started every day with plugs of various kinds. Mike noted that most people don’t find artificials very effective, and that the guides mostly don’t use them. Naturally, that confirmed my choice….I would find a way. We began by running Mike’s Pathfinder to a creek about five minutes away from the marina at Isle of Palms. The water was brown, the tide was low with oyster bars lining the creek, and hordes of mullet moving along the shoreline and even out in the middle of the creek, which was about 4 to 6 feet in depth. I threw topwaters, suspending plugs, jigs and a spoon, all to no avail. Meanwhile, we had caught several small redfish, and then a 29 incher arrived and caught my attention. That was followed by a 28 incher. These fish were all caught on cut mullet. Check the video for live action.
We caught several more fish and then had to head back for family business. Mike and I decided to go out very early the next morning to an area closer to the inlets to try and both fish and net some live bait. Again the area we ran to looked incredibly fishy. The water was a little clearer but still very murky. Mullet and glass minnows were everywhere. We managed to net a few finger mullet for the livewell and threw plugs for a good 45 minutes and never had a swirl. Very disappointing. We picked up our late-arising guests and returned to the same area as the day before. I again tried a few plugs and was again rebuffed by the redfish migrating up this creek. This time I gave up earlier, and switched to Mike’s rig. He was fishing 30 or 40 pound braid attached to a shock leader of 30 pound fluoro, with a quarter ounce sinker above a swivel, then to a short 8 inch terminal 30 pound leader tied to a relatively small circle hook. These are hooked to either a half or whole finger mullet. This rig works very well, as no hookset is required, and for people who don’t fish frequently, allows the rod to simply sit in the holder while the fish hooks itself. We pretty much had non-stop action, anchored just above a small side creek. The reds were clearly moving into the larger creek and the mullet were more concentrated around the bars at the mouth of the smaller creek. We ended up with a number of excellent fish, including two nice flounder.
When we got back to the dock for lunch, we were chatting with a guide who was docked next to us. He looked at my topwater-rigged rod and kind of chuckled “using topwaters, huh?”. He didn’t even ask how I did. It was a great trip, lots of nice fish, and I certainly changed my attitude about the best way to catch redfish is in that area. In our area, if we had fished that way, we would have been beset by 40 pound sting rays, hardheads and small sharks….none of whom made an appearance on our trips. But I’m still thinking there has to be a way, so I’m hoping for another invitation to this great fishing area to give artificials another try. As Jim Valvano said, never give up.