Bay Flats Lodge on San Antonio Bay Report
by Capt. Chris Martin
September 12, 2012
It was tournament day, and the pressure was on us to perform flawlessly. The goal was to be able to present our best two red fish and our best five trout to the weigh master at the end of the day. We had pre-fished the area for the previous three days, but under completely different wind conditions. The winds on the prior days had blown out of the north, and we had fished our immediate vicinity accordingly. However, this morning’s wind had changed and was now blowing 15-20 knots directly out of the south. So, just like the old U.S. Marine saying goes, we were going to have to “adapt, and overcome” quickly. And that’s just what we did. The tournament rules allowed us to begin our fishing activities at 6:00am. We couldn’t see anything at that time of the morning without the aid of a q-beam, so we spent some of that valuable time looking for and locating nervous and active bait fish. We were fortunate enough to find three separate shoreline areas offering protection from the somewhat heavy wind, as well as plenty of bait activity. The three places all differed slightly in the physical make-up and the condition of the water that each held. One was a shallow flat covered with grass and hard sand that spanned several acres and that held murky water that morning. The next place was strictly a hard, sandy bottom that tapered away from the bank quite rapidly and which held sandy-green water. The third place was a flat that consisted of a sand and mud bottom that had lots of grass, and some occasional shell, along a slowly tapering shoreline with guts that ran parallel to the bank and that were filled with crystal clear water on this day. All we had to do now was to locate our game fish in any, or all, of these pre-selected areas prior to the weigh-in deadline. Sounds easy, right?
Our first stop was at around 6:30am at the shallow grass flat that held murky water. I set the boat’s power-pole in about four feet of water at nearly fifty yards from the bank, out beyond the grass line. Three members of our five member party decided to stay out in waist deep water to toss plastics for trout. The fourth member of our team wasn’t yet prepared to exit the boat, so I went over the side of the boat alone. I had one of my favorite surface walkers tied onto the end of my line as I made my way slowly across the sometimes boggy bottom toward the bank of the shoreline. By the time I got to within casting distance of the grass-lined shore, the sun was rising above the horizon and my dark-colored top water lure was no longer going to do the trick. The sun was bright, and there wasn’t a cloudy in the sky. I quickly replaced my bait with that of a gold-chrome-back/white-belly top water that was able to reflect the full effect of rays of the morning sun. I had made my way to within about ten yards of the bank where I stood in calf-deep water while I tossed my freshly-changed bait. Well, it wasn’t but a few moments later that I began getting one blow-up after the next. And as the sun rose higher into the sky, those blow-ups turned into full-fledged surface attacks. Some were so violent in nature that they actually scared me more than they surprised me. And all of these attacks were coming from red-fish – red fish of all different sizes. Now then, because we were participating in a tournament on this day, I naturally did not wish to keep a red fish that wasn’t just as close to 28-inches as possible. We probably spent the better part of an hour on this flat before the guys who were fishing out in deeper water for trout shouted to tell me they we ready to look elsewhere for our trout. I agreed only because of the fact that my surface walker had already managed to fool a 26.5-inch red about fifteen minutes earlier.
Our second stop was at the area made-up of the sandy bottom that fell-off into deeper water quite rapidly. We all walked the bank tossing jigheads and slow-sinking crankbaits, and all was going well for a while. We landed of lot of trout, two of which were greater than 20-inches that we tossed into the box. However, by 9:00am the trout bite in this particular locale turned off completely, and we were now forced to make another move. We packed out things and headed across the bay to our third stop which was the clear water over the sand/mud/shell/grass bottom that had guts running parallel to the shore. There were surface pods of mullet everywhere, and when we pulled up in the boat, the bait in the water went crazy. By this time I had been deemed “the red fish guy” for the day, so I entered the water and quietly made my way, once again, into shin-deep water up tight against the bank. I was throwing a Junior-sized bone/chartreuse top water that was magnified greatly by the clearness of the water. As I stepped across the flat, I often startled rat-reds out of their resting spot and noticed them as they would make a fast getaway. When I was within 10-15 yards of the grassy shore, I began walking down the shore with the wind to my back. I hooked a lot of red fish, but all of them were right at the small end of the legal limit. I suddenly turned around a walked in the opposite direction close to one-hundred yards straight into the wind. I had noticed a small slick that had popped-up back there about an hour earlier, so I wanted to investigate to see if there were possibly any larger reds available in the area. After what seemed like forever, I reached my target area and began tossing my lure once again. On my second cast, a 21-inch brute snagged my bait and I held on to him for dear life. Time was running out for us to complete our stringer, and I didn’t want to go home being short by one red fish. I continue on down the shore, but now was throwing my bait direct against the grass on the bank that was in about 6-inches (or less) of water. I had already casted and had almost completely retrieved my lure when it was suddenly annihilated by a most beautiful 25-inch red fish. The “trout guys” had successfully completed their task of collecting five trout, so we said our goodbyes to the water and headed for the weigh-in. We knew we probably didn’t have enough weight to win, but we still had a really great time trying. Remember to practice CPR, “Catch, Photo, and Release”, whenever possible on trophy Trout and Reds…Guide Chris Martin, Port O’Connor/Seadrift region.