Techniques For Season Long Success
Article by Capt. Matt
On Tried & True Tactics for
Improving Your Fishing
As Well As References To Some
Fine Tackle Choices.
Keeping a few tips in mind can make all the difference between
a successful day of “catching” and a not so successful day of
just “fishing” (looking and casting for hours with little
Many anglers fall into the routine of fishing the same spots
over and again without thought and many times don’t take into
account all of the factors that can be the difference between
catching and not catching. This leaves an angler thinking
where are the fish, when is the best
time to go, what lures or flies to use and
how can he/she be more successful, especially when
he/she may only have a short time to fish.
Being a guide, folks call or email me all the time for
information about scheduling a trip and want answers to these
questions. They are also interested in learning my area and
learning, in general, what to do to be a better fisherman
wherever they fish. Paying attention and being observant is a
tried and true method. When asked, I tell people to key in on
certain things on your outings whether with a guide or on
their own until they come to pick up on little things and it
becomes routine. Jokingly, I like to say “just pay
attention and you might learn something that you’re missing”.
In truth, as the saying goes “it’s not just what you
know but how you use it”
Follow this analogy of where, when, what, and how
through the season and you can be more confident in your
ability. Fishing with a plan is the key to success until it
becomes second nature in the area you're fishing. Fish have
patterns that they repeat so we should do likewise.
We're all anxious to get out and wet a line and hope to be
rewarded after a long cold winter anxious to get back to our
favorite sport of fishing.
To do this, consider where the fish move, for example where
Stripers spawn. Keep in mind the regulations of what areas are
off limits until the open seasons (many locations have
designated off limits areas during the spawn at least where
Stripers are concerned and others have areas designated as
catch & release until the primary season opens).
Rivers and large tributaries are you're best bet. Being
smaller than the open expanse of the Bay they warm up first
and quicker since they're often shallower bodies of water. The
bait that fish pursue are also more plentiful in the
tributaries because of the more confined locations that offer
You will want to fish the incoming tide after a cool night
because the water in the rivers and tributaries also cool
quicker and the flood tide will bring warmer water. Likewise
is true after a warm day, the falling tide provides warmer
water moving out of the shallows.
You will want to look for certain structure to target fish as
well, such as grass beds and flats early in the day and move
to stumps or fallen timber along the shorelines as the sun
gets higher as they offer cover and shelter for fish and bait.
(good examples of shallow grass
structure shown below).
(Click photos to enlarge)
At the warmest part of the day you will likely find that the
fish will move to deeper cooler structure such as rocks,
wrecks or lights with rip rap and drop offs.
Remember in the spring when the water is cooler the fish are
not nearly as aggressive, so work your lure or fly more
slowly. When the water reaches the 58-62 range you can
anticipate working the lure a little faster and so on as the
water heats up. Once it starts to warm a good way of
prospecting is covering lots of shoreline and structure with a
topwater lure or popper to locate the fish.
The Dog days of summer don't always spell the end of lure
fishing in trade for bottom fishing. In my opinion there is no
time of year that you really “must” use live or cut bait to
catch fish. Of course feel free as an alternative if you
prefer to or enjoy using this method. I don’t, so that’s about
all I will say on that subject; artificial baits are my
Trout (Weakfish and Specks) spawn when the water is warmer and
are generally on the move and feeding heavily by early summer.
Also many of the big stripers that everyone was trolling for
have moved on and the school-sized fish (resident stock) are
filtering into various locations and into their summer
routine. Your best bet is to fish early and late day in the
shallows and work deeper structure and drop-offs during the
hottest part of the day when the sun is high. Rock bottom,
jetties and structure such as Navigation Lights (larger ones
with rip rap or rock formations around them are good bets).
You can also find a fair number of fish like Stripers and
Specks holding in grass beds when it's hot. When there is good
current flow (which offers well oxygenated water) the grass
provides excellent and cool cover for fish.
For some entertainment and a chance to move around and stay
cool you might also look for breaking fish over open water in
the Sound as well as throughout the bay. These fish are not
always big but as it gets hotter and the water saltier you
will often find schools of Stripers, Blues and Mackerel
chasing bait. Also try dropping a bass assassin, a white or
chartreuse bucktail jig, such as those made by Tidal Fish, or
crippled herring jig beneath the schools of breaking fish for
Weakfish (grey Trout or Yellow Fin in these parts) or Red &
Black Drum holding deep below.
My all time favorite season...the tourists and pleasure
boaters go away and the true fisherman have a heyday.
Flats and Shorelines many of the same ones you've fished since
spring come alive. Just when you thought the fishing was good
it gets even better. The cooler it gets the hotter the fishing
(to a certain degree anyway)
Be sure to fish the rip lines on points and confluences over
open water (where water patterns meet due to troughs and
drop-offs below to form a rip or current break). Check out
stumps along shorelines in strong current that hold fish
seeking shelter from the current waiting to ambush bait
tumbling by. Basically any submerged structure, hump or
Island works the same way.
Throw topwaters for those aggressive fish, they love it and so
will you. Remember when it gets later in the season those fish
(predominately Stripers) are on the move and feeding as many
head down the bay. As the Fall progresses you may find that
fish are not holding in all the same spots or at least for a
long duration so stay mobile and move with the tide from
location to location.
Breaking fish is another Fall favorite throughout the open bay
such as the mouth of the Choptank, off Hoopers Island, around
the Middle Grounds, the Mouth of the Potomac, the Puppy Hole
in the Tangier Sound, and generally pretty much everywhere.
Sometimes its easy… look for the birds. This is not always the
case. Look for what I like to call nervous water (ripples or
disturbances in a central area that looks different from the
(Click photos to enlarge)
Look for birds sitting, they’re not just resting… they could
be waiting for a school to resurface that you did not see
since you just arrived. Also use your nose, if there is a
fishy, oily smell in the air then something is chomping bait
nearby so look for slicks on the water. Sometimes you can be
cruising along (being observant of course) with not a bird in
site and bam… your on top of a school of breaking fish. *These
factors hold true not just in the fall but summer as well
where breaking fish are concerned.
Fish move with the tide and use current and the velocity of
the current to their advantage. Flood tide...fish move
shallower (work the flats and shorelines and shallow
structure). Ebbing tide...fish move out of the shallows and
hold deeper (fish deeper structure and drop-offs). Flat or
slack tide yields slower action so fish slower and deeper as
fish are more wary and waiting for the tide to change. Know
the tides and when they change for a given area.
You can often run a short distance and the tide may be
changing or current moving at a different velocity. Using my
area of the Tangier Sound for example, I can run from
Crisfield to Foxes Island and there is about 30 min.
difference in tides and to Tangier there is an hour difference
in tides. In the narrower portions of the bay where you can
run from West to Eastern shore and back you can often find a
slight difference as well which could be enough to find fish
biting strong for another hour. The affects of the current or
its velocity are often overlooked. If you're not getting hits
at prime locations think about it... observe and pay attention
to what the tide and current is doing when the action is
hottest and this can be a key reference to why the fish are
biting best at a given location. This can clue you in on where
to move or rather where the fish move when the action slows
and its time to move on. There is a time to wait out a bite if
the tide is changing or current picking up and a time to move.
It's nice to relax and enjoy fishing without thinking about
it, but it’s not always that easy especially for Lure and Fly
anglers. Being prepared by fishing with a plan in mind at
least until it becomes second nature just makes sense.
Now you might ask what lure or fly to use or how to use it in
a given situation, well this has endless options more than I
care to go into great detail at this time, we’ll save that for
another time. Let’s just say that if you follow the techniques
listed above using perhaps your “favorite lure or fly” then
that’s what works best. Sometimes it’s like they say “you
have to be in the right place at the right time”. I will
however reiterate… cool water fish slower, warmer water and
fall you can fish faster and topwater. Ask yourself, does the
species that you’re after feed off the bottom primarily or
like suspended or topwater bait. Make these observations and
they will answer your questions.
For those still looking for the top lure or perhaps most
deadly assortment here’s my list:
4” Pearl Sassy Shad
(universal works in many areas, fast or slow retrieve, a real
go to lure. They're found at most Walmart, Boaters World, West
Marine, Cabelas or BPS).
4-7” Bass Assassins
(great cast & retrieve lure, works fast or slow, requires some
finesse at times, match the size lure to the fish your after.
Albino, Opening Nite and Chartreuse glitter are my favorites).
Fish Lures Rock Candy or Baby Minnow bucktail jigs.
Stillwater Lure Poppers
Smack-it or Smack it Junior
Many patterns to choose from such as those from
(Click photos to enlarge)
Basic clousers or deceivers in the following colors or
combinations (all with Krystal Flash or the new DNA Holo
Fusion, Holo Chromosome or Fish Fibers)
White (tried and true), Chartreuse (another goto color) Gray
over white, chartreuse over white, olive over white,
chartreuse and yellow, red, orange and yellow, pink and
yellow, pink and chartreuse. The brighter attractor color
flies are great for targeting Croaker and Specks.
(Click photos to enlarge)
There you have it, following the above techniques will help
you be more successful all season long throughout the bay.
It’s no secret, just like your teacher told you in class, “pay
attention and you just might learn something”. Not to say that
anyone is better than the other but we all become complacent
and get into routines, some bad and some good. For me, I don’t
know it all but am forever learning from my surroundings,
other fisherman and most importantly from just being
observant, try it sometime.