Fishing Texas Grass Flats
Every fisherman in Texas knows the summer months are hot. Not only is the air temperature scorching, but water temperatures in Texas lakes, bays and rivers are also rapidly rising. To avoid the summer heat, fishermen have air conditioners. One of the best ways fish have to beat the heat is find the nearest stand of grass.
Bass fishermen on Texas lakes have long sought summer bass in dense grass beds. But, just about every bays system in Texas holds some sort of grassy habitat for fish. Whether it's a flooded grass shoreline, an expansive grass flat pockmarked with potholes or scattered grass clumps and beds over sand or mud flats, during the summer months, grass will attract speckled trout and redfish in reliable numbers. For fishermen to find success with fish in grassy areas, it is simply a matter of understanding why the fish are there and how to target them.
TYPES OF COASTAL GRASS HABITATS
In a typical bay ecosystem, grass provides two benefits to predator fish such as speckled trout and redfish. For one, it provides a bit of shade and structure in which to hide from the summer sun. Secondly, it is home to a wide variety of smaller marine animals on which specks and reds can feed. Shrimp, glass minnows, mullet, pinfish and juvenile crabs are just a few of the forage items found within the grass during summer months.
Large, expansive flats of turtle grass are what most Texas coastal anglers envision when they hear the word "grass" in relation to saltwater fishing. From the mid-coast to the Mexican border, numerous shallow water bays are blanketed with grassy bottoms. In summer, these grass flats are definitely the place to look for specks and reds.
However, as is the case whenever a particular feature is dominant in an area, not ever inch of a grass flat is going to hold fish. Anglers need to look for changes, differences and small nuances that set one piece of grass flat apart from another. Those differences - some of which are distinct, others subtle - are what will attract and concentrate fish and should be read like road signs by fishermen. Potholes, prop scars, depth changes, shell, edges, areas where different types of grass meet - these are all things anglers should keep an eye out for. Basically, anything that is different than the surrounding area, be it a pothole or old tire, will tend to attract and concentrate fish. Therefore, these areas are where the majority of casts should be concentrated.
Grass beds are virtually the opposite of grass flats. Whereas grass is the dominant feature over a large area on a grass flat, most grass beds are the "something different" on the flats on which they occur. Most often found over sand flats, grass beds may be clumps as small as a 5-gallon bucket or they may stretch farther than a good cast. In each instance, the grass beds affords fish shelter on the otherwise stark flat, as well as providing them a concentration of forage items.
Fishing grass beds is very similar to fishing oyster reefs in that they are an obvious structure in an otherwise featureless area. At times, fish will be buried in the grass. Other times, fish will be patrolling along the edges of the bed. Still other times the fish may be holding a few feet away from the bed. So, as is the case when approaching a reef, anglers should begin some distance away from a bed and work their way toward it.
Many bay shores, particularly on the upper coast, are lined with cord grass. Often times this grass is situated in water ranging in depth from a few inches to a couple of feet. In some areas, it is only a narrow swath along the shoreline which is flooded. Other areas boast large "marshy" areas of flooded grass. In any instance, flooded grass can be a magnet for fish.
Anglers can fish flooded grass in a variety of ways. Working the outside edges of the grass is probably the most obvious - and at times effective - manner of fishing flooded grass. In areas where the flooded grass extends for some distance, fishermen can actually cast into the flooded grass. Believe it or not, it is actually possible to sight-cast to fish moving through these flooded grass fields. Although it can sometimes be difficult to spot the fish as you would on an open flat, it is often possible to spot a tail or fin extending above the water's surface. Another way to sight cast inside flooded grass areas is to watch for pieces of grass moving unnaturally as fish push their way through.
FISHING THE GRASS
There are many ways to fish potholes. The common denominator is getting the bait over the relatively high grass and down into the deeper pothole. Often times fish are sulking on the sand at the bottom of the hole, so getting a lure down to eye level is essential. Carolina- and Texas-rigged soft-plastics and crankbaits such as the CW Crab, Heddon Swim n' Image, and MirrOlure LP29MR are two very productive methods. Anglers can also drop jigs into potholes and allow them to settle to the bottom, where a sharp twitch of the rod tip will cause the bait to stir up sand. A jerk and drop retrieve can also effectively be used with soft-plastic jerkbaits and weedless spoons.
Buzzin' Over Shallow Grass
Buzzin' is a great method to use on low tide or late in summer when grass is right up close to or on surface. In this instance, the fish will be buried beneath grass but will come up to hit bait sliding across the surface. Buzzing baits are weedless, so they will pull through dense grass without fouling while the buzzing noise gets attention of fish beneath. Artificial frogs sold designed for bass fishing over hydrilla beds are good choices for this duty.
Dredging Baits on the Bottom of a Grass Flat
At times, fish will literally bury under the grass and lie on the bottom. The only way to get them to eat is to drag a bait right in front of their nose. In this situation, Texas-rigged plastics or baits fitted on a weedless head are the best bets.
Hitting the Edges
Again, edges of grass flats, grass beds and flooded grass are the most natural areas for predator fish to lurk. Anglers should always concentrate extra effort along the edges. A wide variety of baits, including topwaters, crankbaits, jigs, soft-plastic jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and spoons can all produce well along the grass edges.
Spoonin' and Spinnin' Flooded Grass
Weedless spoons and spinnerbaits are both very weedless and can slide through flooded grass without hanging up. These baits can even 'bump' off grass without fouling, while the thumping vibration from spoon or spinnerbait blades help fish find bait, making them ideal for casting to fish "way back" in the flooded grass.
Beating the Beds
This sounds simple, but the key to working a bed is to work it thoroughly with repeated casts over, through and around it. It is usually a good idea to stand or stake out and keep casting. And, don't overlook small beds - especially if they're isolated.
Covering Water with Spoons
Again, large grass flats require anglers to cover lots of water quickly. Weedless spoons like the Johnson Sprite are cast-and-crank baits that are ideally suited for this purpose. This is especially true when the water clarity is good and fish are feeding visually, allowing the flash and vibration of spoon to attract fish from good distance away.
Targeting Fish with Topwaters
Topwaters are good for working every type of grass. Weedless topwaters are good for pitching back in cord grass. Anglers can also use topwaters to cover water and prospect on wide open grass flats. Additionally, surface baits are good for targeting spotted fish or specific structure like potholes or grass beds and clumps. In the clearer water generally found in grassy areas, smaller topwater baits like the Heddon Super Spook Jr and MirrOlure Top Pup produce the best results.
Crabbin' the Cord Grass
Often times fish feeding back in flooded standing grass are looking for crabs. It only makes sense to throw a crab imitation. The CW Crab and DOA Softshell Crab are two of the best.
HOW TO APPROACH
On large grass flats where fish are scattered, drifting is the best way to quickly and efficiently cover water. Large grass flats usually find fish in "ones or twos" around potholes, prop scars and other anomalies. So, it is best to set up drift to glide over as many potholes as possible.
It can be difficult to wade through dense grass on an expansive grass flat. And, since fish are usually fairly scattered over grass flats, wading is usually not the best option. However, wading is a good way to silently approach grass beds and shorelines, particularly over hard bottom. Wading is perhaps the best way to work a relatively small area or target specific structure or fish. This makes it ideal for working individual grass beds or isolated pockets of flooded grass.
Poling is a good way to target fish in a relatively small zone. When poling, anglers can keep up with slow-moving schools or stake down for repeated casts to specific structure or fish. In short, poling is a good compromise between wading and drifting, in that anglers can work methodically but still cover a good bit of water