We ask captains, guides and those in the industry what they’re throwing, for what species and what they’re drinking after a long day of fishing.
D.O.A. Lures Bait Buster in 309 Glow/Gold Rush Belly and 3″ C.A.L. Shad Tail in 455 Texas Croaker.
I’m doing a lot of snook and juvenile tarpon fishing right now. With that being said, the trusty Shimano is always rigged up with a D.O.A. Lures Bait Buster, in a variety of colors worked “low and slow,” or I’m burning a D.O.A. 3” shad tail in anything with chartreuse on a 1/2 to 1 oz. jighead through the thermocline where the fish like to hang this time of year.
Once back at the dock after a long day in the elements, I like to have a Kimo Sabe Mezcal Reposado on the rocks or an old fashion. And bartender… keep ‘em coming!
I spent the whole month of October in South Padre Island, Texas hosting 3 groups from the Carolinas to fish Laguna Madre waters. This area is beautiful, full of skinny flats with loads of grass that requires new techniques to tackle the huge prey that can hide in it. I solicited the help of several of our D.O.A. Lures guides to show these anglers are and techniques sticking trout, reds, flounder and tarpon. Weather as the cold fronts drop can and did hamper us a few days but that is the Lords will. You must adjust as our great guides did. My relaxation while anglers hit it with the guides. Oh – also had a private pool too. Great place to lounge and chill after day of fishing. I play chef – not but damn good cook! Breakfast lunch and supper every day. Suppers such as grilled pork roast, jambalaya, fish (plenty) and dove breast on grill. My big event is supper of local fare. I hired a local chef that cooks EVERYTHING from scratch – no cans. Real Mexican food at its best and believe me… she has great pleasure in cooking for us and you wont go away hungry. Hope leftovers are okay with ya!
The accommodations for the trip.
The jetties (a short run to the Rio Grande and the border) are full of mullet as the run is on. Tarpon, snook and loads of big reds hang in them. Weather dictates fish ability but awesome if can do. Inshore fishing in skinny waters hold trout and reds with a huge opportunity for BIG fish. 30″+ trout and huge schools of reds that we had up to 30”. If weather is right sight casting is a blast. Imagine casting at a huge school of over slot reds. Hook up in skinny water and hang on. No where to go but out or IN. watch the boat, say goodbye. Deeper water holds plenty and huge snook providing top water at its best. One a.m. trip hooked approximately 40 really nice snook.
I also arranged for 1 group to go dove hunting – off the shelf – limit out on big white wings full of sunflower seeds. They wanted a marichi band in the field after shoot with appetizers and beverages. Can and did do.
To top it off, they also wanted massages. Well, I can arrange it. I had a licensed massage therapist come rearrange their bones and muscles from the hard shooting and fishing.
South Padre Island is a great place to hold a team building or group trip – comradery at its best. Don’t come here just for this, beautiful area to sight see and relax on the Gulf beaches and such.
Marbled skies of fall color hold waves of waterfowl, and hover over some of the best bay fishing in the world. Here in Texas we are blessed to enjoy the harvest basket of winter sports. Combining fins and feathers brings days of duck hunting and fishing together. Hunting waterfowl can be a excellent and easy way to introduce youth and inexperienced hunters to the hunting sports. For seasoned hunters, the beauty and strategy of the hunt, and the game taken fulfill the wild spirit in each of us. This winter come experience hunting and fishing the right way; cast and blast Texas style!
Fall and winter prove to be some of the best fishing of the year.
CAST FOR FINS
The bays come alive with coastal gamefish as air and water temperatures drop. Deeper water and softer bottoms hold smaller creatures that help get these fish through the winter months. Shrimp, crabs, mud worms, clams and mollusks, are just some of the building blocks of the food chain. Small minnows, baitfish and sport fish follow. These gatherings, and favorable water conditions, group winter fish in areas that fishermen can enjoy some awesome catching.
Strong cold fronts may seem like a good time to stay inside and dream about boiling hot summer days on the water, but then you’ll miss some of the best fishing of the year! Whipping winds roll the bottom and bring up those hidden food sources. Redfish, trout and black drum go into a feeding frenzy with each cold front. The first day or two is usually the best; those beautiful sunny third and fourth days are usually too pretty and fishing slows. The colder the water gets, the longer it takes fish to digest their meals. This can make feeding patterns predictable but spread out. Watching the lunar feeding tables will help anglers score the right times to be on the water. Here in the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay Area we find some of our best fishing both close and far from the dock. The flats of the Laguna Madre hold an enormous amount of bait, which migrates into the ICW Canal when it gets cold. Schools of gamefish follow, putting all those fish in one area.
We work the edges of the drop off with soft plastics for some of the most insane trout and redfish action you have ever seen! Fall bait favorites are easily the 3” DOA CAL Shad. This is the perfect imitation of a small pinfish or mud minnow. Colors should include pumpkinseed/chartreuse, purple/chartreuse, blood red and glow. The larger 5” Jerk Shad is my go-to bait for big trout in the shallows with a light 1/16 oz. DOA jighead. This combination floats and flutters like a sand eel looking for any way out of becoming a meal! The 3 and 5” DOA jerk baits also fit the bill. They imitate both a fleeing minnow as well as the sand eel profile.
The best time to hook up on the hard fighting, great tasting black drum is now! The schools of drum gather during the winter months to feed on small clams and crab. We bring in limits of these fish all winter. Live shrimp works best, as well as crab and sea lice. The absence of trash fish and pin perch during the winter months makes fishing with shrimp much easier. The rock piles of Baffin Bay and the fish funnel to the south the Land Cut, are famous for their winter fishing greatness. We anchor up on those big rock piles and use live shrimp deep under popping corks to load the box with drum, trout, and reds.
When the temperatures really drop low, we find redfish fall off of the flats by the thousands into the deeper holes. Catching big redfish every cast can be an out of body experience! Last winter we had one morning where we brought 60 redfish to hand with three anglers in about three hours! Don’t let the heater keep you out of the best fishing of the year this winter, come experience miles of grassy flats boiling with excitement.
Texas Coastlines host over 20 species of waterfowl, each very beautiful. Photo: Joseph Farah
BLAST FOR FEATHERS
Like a squadron of fighter jets, the flock of descending ducks rounded the blind and cupped in for a landing. As their feet opened for the landing, fire erupted from the line. The lead birds dropped and a few more pops dropped two more. As the ripples stretched across the sky mirrored surface, my dog leaped across the flat for the first feathered trophy of the morning.
Big game hunting is expensive and puts the stress and buildup into one shot, one trophy. Waterfowl hunting is about ACTION! Diverse species are found with each duck specialized in its own way for feeding and flying. Colors like the most beautiful skies highlight their body in a rainbow of beauty. Young hunters can grasp gun safety, responsible shooting and hunting, as well as the idea of taking a life much easier, with waterfowl versus big game hunts.
The fact that I have the best and biggest, most comfortable duck blinds makes gathering friends and family much easier. We make it easy for you to hunt hard. My clients are still high and dry in days of rain and 40 mph north winds
We usually hunt some big sets with over 250 decoys for a mixed bag and lots of action. We use smaller, more specific set ups for trophy birds and particular species. Advanced hunters are usually looking for their favorite species; this is a lot of fun hunting and setting up for that perfect trophy bird for the mount. It is sometimes hard to convince the wife to hang big deer heads on the walls. Beautiful birds go up easier in the house and office.
Ducks have some defining patterns that you must consider on the hunt. They eat, fly, rest, drink and roost. As a group, inside the region there will be some ducks doing all of these things at any given time. Ducks also trade places between the areas they do this. We hunt all day! Don’t be fooled into going in after 9 a.m! Many times you will be missing the best activity. Much like fish, the lunar feeding tables mirror their activity. They will be feeding at peak times, but traveling and landing in your decoys before and after those peak times.
Ducks always want to land with the wind in their face. Hunt where they want to be, and not were you want them to be. Birds of a feather flock together holds true. Species will land and sit with their own kind even in flocks of thousands. Motion decoys in your spread can make or break you, so don’t be set in your ways. Make changes with the actions of the birds. Calling can bring ducks in from afar, or scare them away. Soft calling is best. We don’t have a lot of loud and vocal mallards here on the coast!
This winter come experience the beauty of the Texas coast with some fins and feathers! We will be here to help you start off right and make every adventure a success. Hunt smart and safe and always be a good ambassador of the hunting community.
We can accommodate the smallest and largest groups, just like welcoming you into my home. Get out and enjoy the best hunting and fishing in the world, right here in Texas! Follow all our blasts and casts on Facebook AT JOEY FARAH’S BACKWATER FISHING or call 361-442-8145.
Cast and blast events are perfect for group entertainment! Photo: Joseph Farah
Capt. Andy Salinas with a lonestar linesider that fell for a D.O.A. 4” Shad Tail in 455 Texas Croaker.
On his fourth cast of the day, Capt. Luis Flandes III landed this 28+ in. trout on a D.O.A. 4” Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Safely released to fight another day.
Two days of fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures results in remarkable fishing
Story and photos by Kelly Groce
After D.O.A. Lures creator Mark Nichols, Capt. Andy Salinas, videographer Johnny Lu and myself attempted to each eat a delicious breakfast burrito larger than the size of my head from Manuel’s Restaurant, we hit South Bay in South Padre Island in search of fish.
As Capt. Andy Salinas began to set our drift, I rigged up my go-to lure and color, which is a 4” jerk bait in the color 441 Figi Chix. I swear trout can’t refuse this lure, because it didn’t take long to start catching them. I saw jack crevalle hammering shrimp right behind the boat. I threw my lure towards the disturbance and got to have a fun fight with one. Next cast, a snook came speeding at my lure and my favorite sound on earth ensued… my reel peeling drag. I used 1 lure and caught 3 different species; trout, jack crevalle and snook.
Andy, Mark and Johnny all caught plenty of slot snook, redfish and flounder on 4” shad tails. The tail on those lures have amazing action that fish can’t look past.
We ended the day working a deep channel and catching black drum along the bottom. Between all of us, we caught a Texas grand slam which is a redfish, trout, flounder and snook. Not a bad day of fishing I’d say.
A summertime cold front blew through, so the day started out overcast and on the cooler side. On the ride out, Capt. Luis Flandes III, Mark Nichols, Cindy Nguyen and myself had all agreed that the surroundings looked like a winter day in Texas.
We began fishing a gin clear flat. On Capt. Luis Flandes’ fourth cast he hooked up to a stud 28+ in. trout. He was throwing a 4” jerk bait in the fish catching color 455 Texas Croaker. Winter-like conditions resulted in a trophy trout. After a fish like that, can the day get much better? Why yes it can. We moved to a grassy flat and Luis was plucking redfish out left and right using a Root Beer/Chartreuse jerk bait. Cindy and I doubled up on two pretty redfish, mine being the most orange colored red I have ever seen.
The fishing in South Padre is awesome. To get in on the action contact either one of these great guides, Capt. Andy Salinas or Capt. Luis Flandes III on Facebook. Thanks again for 2 great days of fishing. Tight lines!
Myself, Mark Nichols and Cindy Nguyen with 2 redfish we doubled up on using a 4″ Jerk Bait in Root Beer/Chartreuse and Texas Croaker. Photo: Capt. Luis Flandes III
Mark Nichols and Capt. Luis Flandes III enjoying a good day of fishing.
Capt. Andy Salinas with a black drum he caught on a D.O.A shrimp rigged backwards.
With one lure color, Figi Chix, I caught snook, trout, and jack crevalle. Photo: Johnny Lu
Capt. Luis Flandes had the hot hand this day of fishing.
I dare you not to laugh while on a trip with Mark Nichols.
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LAGUNA MADRE CLOTHING CO. “Taking Flight” Fishing Shirt – Always at the dock at the right time. A familiar sight of all coastal anglers. “Taking Flight”, by award winning watercolor artist Leslie McDonald, Jr. on our UPF 50 Performance Shirt. Flip to page 40 to read our interview with the artist. www.lagunamadreclothing.com
Shimano Stradic – The new Stradic FK utilizes Shimano’s latest technology while drawing on ways of the past. Hagane cold forged drive gear gear combined with X-Ship provides a smooth, powerful and durable reel. The sleek G-Free body provides a better weight balance to reduce fatigue. Every part has been designed to improve the anglers experience on the water. www.fish.shimano.com
Lifeguard Lanyard – Effective Sept. 1st, Kali’s Law requires boaters operating a vessel under 26’ to wear an engine kill switch lanyard. Tournament redfish anglers, Marty Simmons and Keith McBride from St. Augustine, FL designed this kill switch lanyard with safety and comfort while operating your vessel in mind. The Lifeguard Lanyard can be worn on your right or left ankle or wrist and is designed to stay clear of the steering wheel and other components. Our mission is to promote boater safety awareness by making the Lifeguard Lanyard a part of your day on the water. Available at Fishing Tackle Unlimited, Matagorda Tackle Shop, and Rockport Tackle Town. www.lifeguardlanyard.com
Laguna Salt Custom Rods – Laguna Salt Custom Rods is a family owned company where everyone plays a part into each rod that is built. Once the order is made, owner and rod builder, Michael Garza, will stay in direct contact with the buyer to ensure the components and colors are perfect. All blanks are American made and all other components are ordered in the USA. The buyer can choose any length they want their customized rod to be, choose the type of guides, grips, reel seats and colors they desire. Laguna Salt will even personalize any type of brand, name or company into the rod as well. The imagination is unlimited when it comes to the types and colors of wraps Mike and his family can personalize the rod with. A series of questions will be asked to ensure the right rod is being made for the type of fishing the buyer does. The rod featured to the right is a St. Croix SCV model 7’0” Medium Light/Fast Action rod with Cherry Picked cork rings, Fuji SIC guides and Fuji reel seat. The rod color and wrap were customized to the buyers’ wants. firstname.lastname@example.org
D.O.A. Lures Swimmin’ Mullet – The D.O.A. 5” Swimmin’ Mullet is a great cast and crank lure. The single upright hook allows you to get the lure down in the strike zone without snagging anything but the fish. Featured color above is 318 Chart/Silver Glitter. Made in the USA. www.doalures.com
Kimberly Maraldo with some of the sponsors of the tournament; Triump Cabling, Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine and Lonestar Integra Insurance Services.
By Kelly Groce
On Saturday, Aug. 17th anglers fished the Galveston Bay Complex for the 12th Annual Cougar Saltwater Open presented by the University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communications Alumni. Being a graduate from the school of communications, it was an honor to become co-chair and help organize this tournament with the guidance of Kimberly Maraldo. With the funds raised from this tournament going to scholarships for the communications school, Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine was proud to be the media sponsor.
Scattered rain showers and wind didn’t hold the participating fisherman down that included men, women and kids. Individuals and teams brought several nice trout, redfish and flounder to the weigh-in at Topwater Grill in San Leon.
Attendees enjoyed complimentary beer from Galveston Island Brewing and whiskey from Nine Banded Whiskey. Calavera Cookers served up some tasty BBQ and pulled pork as everyone visited and enjoyed the shady palapa.
Huge thank you to all the sponsors that help make this event possible; Okuma Fishing, Bombshell’s, Triumph Cabeling & Underground Services, Lonestar Integra Insurance Services, Essentia Water, Houston Sign Company, Calavera Cookers, Cavern Solutions Inc., FS&MG Frontier Sales & Marketing Group and Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine.
Also, thank you to all the in-kind donors such as; Traw Metalworks, Nine Banded Whiskey, Sugar Land Skeeters, Texas Rattling Rigs, D.O.A. Lures, Elaine Ebner, Cougar Pride, Patty Godfrey, Emilee Fontenot, Cathy Coers Frank, Ralph Morales, Judy Wheeler, Alan’s Swampshack, Saltwater Soul, No Label Brewery, Laguna Madre Clothing Co., Typhoon Texas, Raising Canes, Karbach Brewery, Kendra Scott Sugar Land, Leslie McDonald Jr. and Galveston Island Brewing.
Congratulations to all the winners and everyone that participated in this fun tournament. We will see you next year. Go coogs!
COUGAR SALTWATER OPEN WINNERS:
Kayak/Wade Division – 1st place trout, John Liles
1st John Liles
2nd Mike Brown
3rd Grant Justice
1st Jason Blackwell
2nd Grant Justice
3rd Rayfield Conley
1st Grant Justice
2nd Vince Rinando
Boat Division – 1st place trout, Mason Dees
1st Mason Dees
2nd Rafael Pedraza
3rd Arturo Garcia
1st Audra Gould
2nd Mark Gould
3rd Mason Dees
“No, don’t hold too tight to the reel. Cause it’s a big one boy. It’s gonna pull you down now.”
That happens to be one of my favorite lines on the song Pull by Blind Melon.It’s also exactly what was racing through my mind as a 100 lb tarpon made its first appearance on an epic jump while fishing with Capt. Brian Barrera on South Padre Island.In an instant, with a perfectly embedded hook in its upper lip, the Silver King made its first run 125 yards parallel to the jetty towards the Gulf before another spectacular aerial show.
In the last issue, I concluded my article by mentioning the 2019 Shallow Sport Tournament on SPI.This year, I had the pleasure of guiding Team Sportsman, consisting of Rob Youker, his 11 year old grandson McCaden Wolf, JR Torres and his daughter Crystal Torres Brice, all from College Station.Rob is President of The Sportsman Boats in San Benito.The Sportsman is the only authorized Shallow Sport dealer in the Rio Grande Valley and both companies have been honored as leaders in the boating industry.Rob has led this 3rd generation company to a Top 100 Marine Dealership Award in North America for 14 consecutive years.
I met the team early in the morning at Jim’s Pier on SPI and we immediately began discussing the day’s strategy.A few sips of coffee later and a couple of ideas traded back and forth and we were on our way to join the ant line of boats en route to check-in behind Louie’s Backyard.We wanted to make sure we had good positioning before the 6:30 am shotgun start.If you’ve never been in the midst of 250+ boats simultaneously racing off to their favorite fishing holes, then add it to your bucket list of things to do on the Texas coast.
Wind was a major factor this year as anglers dealt with stiff breezes in excess of 30 mph.As I said in the previous article, I like me a little bit of gusting wind.Team Sportsman member JR Torres also seemed to favor the breeze as he hauled in a 27 15/16” tournament winning redfish that topped the scales at 8.22 lbs and earned Team Sportsman a 1st Place finish in the Redfish Division.This was JR’s first fishing tournament and we faced some heavy hitters as competition.How cool is that?
Fishing on South Padre has been nothing short of exceptional as summer has officially kicked off.Redfish action has been solid during the afternoon outgoing tide using a DOA 5.5” Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker on a 1/8 oz. jighead.When redfish aren’t as eager to eat a lure, drift fishing the flats with cut ballyhoo has been productive.In the cooler and deeper waters off the ICW, speckled trout can be found on both live and artificial baits.Target visible structure while slowly crawling a lure on the bottom until you feel that thump. Black drum have been schooling up in the channels of South Bay and can make for an action packed day of fishing.These herds of fish have been prevalent on both an incoming and outgoing tide.At the jetties, kingfish are also beginning to show up and as I mentioned earlier, so are the tarpon.If you’d like an opportunity at landing a Silver King on the Texas coast, give Capt. Brian Barrera a call!Until next time, keep fishin.’
Capt. Bartt Caron and myself doubled-up on slot redfish while drifitng Land Cut. D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Brian Barrera
UPPER LAGUNA MADRE – BAFFIN BAY – LAND CUT
By Kelly Groce
Bill Carson of Humminbird, was all smiles and laughs while catching trout on D.O.A. 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Kelly Groce
Early in April, I got a call from talented fishing guide, surfer and all around waterman, Capt. Joey Farah, that reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Texas country singer, Gary P. Nunn, “Meet Me Down in Corpus.” Joey invited me to fish the Upper Laguna Madre area with D.O.A. Fishing Lures for their spring Outdoor Writers Event. Baffin Bay and Land Cut are places that I’ve dreamed of fishing for quite awhile and these writers events are always a blast, so without hesitation I was in.
Let me familiarize you with the Land Cut if you don’t know already. Land Cut is a 25-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway between Padre Island and Port Mansfield. On one side you have the Padre Island National Seashore and on the other side is the Kenedy Ranch. It’s a beautiful and remote area that takes about an hour by boat to get to. The fishing is phenomenal there and without a doubt one of the prettiest stretches of the Texas coast I’ve laid eyes on.
My fishing buddies for the event were Bill Carson, Field Marketing Manager of Humminbird, and Capt. Brian Barrera, D.O.A. Fishing Lures’ Manager of Marketing and Business Development, and a fishing guide on South Padre Island that specializes in catching snook and tarpon. Our fishing guide was Capt. Bartt Caron. Bartt is an extremely knowledgeable big trout fisherman that knows the Upper Laguna Madre like the back of his hand. When he speaks about fishing, you listen. Bartt owns a beautiful 25’ Haynie Bigfoot with a 350HP Mercury on the back. That thing hauls ‘tater!
Not only does Capt. Brian Barrera like throwing a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin, but trout like eating it too. Photo: Kelly Groce
DAY 1 OF FISHING
When I say a front blew in that morning, I mean a front blew in that morning. There were wind gusts up to 53 mph and it was raining sideways by 5:15 a.m. After the front passed, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and everyone met at Marker 37 Marina, which is on Padre Island right beside the JFK Causway.
Bartt, Bill, Brian and myself loaded up the boat and ran towards the King Ranch Shoreline. Bartt threw out the drift sock and we started doing some pretty fast drifts since the wind was still howling in the 30mph range. We fished hard til about 4:30 p.m. Everyone caught fish, but Bill was on top of the leader board catching some chunky trout throughout the breezy day. The 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker was definitely the ticket.
That evening back at the condo, we all congregated around as Capt. Joey Farah and Capt. Braeden Thomas fried some drum, redfish, and trout from the day’s fishing trips. Bill Carson made his famous key lime pie for us, which was a real treat. It’s always a good time talking and hanging out with the D.O.A. crew; Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, Ruby Delgado, and Taylor Garcia. Also in good company was Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Taylor Winzeler, Robert Sloan, Dustin Cartrett, Bartt Caron, Bill Blodgett, Andrew Lassiter, Rocky Guerra and his wife Silver.
Good Friday was a perfect morning of fishing. Photo: Kelly Groce
Capt. Bartt Caron with a healthy Land Cut trout caught on a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse. Photo: Kelly Groce
DAY 2 OF FISHING
Good Friday was blissful with warm temps and blue skies. Everyone was at Marker 37 Marina by 6:15 a.m. Red Bull, cold beer, D.O.A. lures, great people – check! We got to Land Cut in no time, thanks to Capt. Bartt’s Haynie, and began our drift. Since Land Cut is part of the ICW, it has shallow flats on each side with a drop off to about 12 feet of water in the middle. I was positioned at the back of the boat and started working my 4” C.A.L. Texas Croaker Jerk Bait on a 1/4 oz. D.O.A. jig head on the flats through grass and patches of sand. Before long I was hooked up on a slot redfish. Bartt and Brian were both sticking some nice trout where the flat dropped off to deeper water. They were using the 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker. We drifted for 2 hours and steadily caught nice fish. At one point Bartt and myself doubled up on slot redfish. It doesn’t get much more fun that that. Capt. Bartt also scored a bonus flounder shortly after. We got to a slough where Bart caught a solid trout. Brian switched up to a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin. I took photos and watched the guys as they caught trout back-to-back and had double hookups. Bartt finished the day off with an upper slot redfish that we all watched charge at a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartruese on the flats. Seeing the wake from a hungry redfish is always a cool sight to see.
Another guide on the trip, Capt. Braeden Thomas, invited everyone to meet at his family’s fishing cabin on Baffin Bay. We pull up to the dock and I’m looking at a piece of Texas paradise. Joey and Braeden gave me a tour of his place that has been in the family for over 80 years. It was like a time warp to the 50’s inside. Old fishing lures, maps, catch of the day photos, and all types of other nautical nick-knacks covered the ceiling and walls. I’ve never seen a place more perfect in all of my life. From inside the cabin you can see the crystal clear water of Baffin Bay through the windows. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than at Braeden’s fishing cabin.
This fishing cabin, overlooking the pristine waters of Baffin Bay, has been in Capt. Braeden Thomas’ family for over 80 years. Photo: Kelly Groce
Our delicious meal prepared by Chef Jeff at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. Photo: Kelly Groce
Cindy Nguyen, Ruby Delgado and myself ended the day at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. It was very nice walking straight off the boat to a restaurant on the water. We enjoyed a cold Modelo and conversated as Chef Jeff prepared our post-fishing meal. Chef Jeff graduated from Johnson & Wales College, which is one of the leading culinary institutions in the country and he has 30 years of culinary experience. He prepared grilled Gulf shrimp over basmati rice with baby spinach topped with a rich cilantro butter sauce and fresh roma tomatos in addition with a side of lemon scented asparagus and guacamole with lump crab topped with perfectly fried tortilla strips. I was blown away by the aromas and colors from my plate. It was almost too pretty to eat. But I did and it was the best post-fishing meal I have ever had. Delicious food combined with a view of the Upper Laguna Madre, your best buds, and a cold beverage is about all you can ask for after a day of fishing.
My first fish of the day and it was a pretty one. Photo: Brian Barrera
I want to give a big thanks to Joey Farah for the invitation to the D.O.A. Lures Outdoor Writers Event. Thank you for the great memories while testing these fish-catching lures in your backyard. Next time we’re surfing too! I’m forever grateful to Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, and Ruby Delgado of D.O.A., you guys are amazing. Also, thank you Taylor Winzeler from Laguna Madre Clothing Co. for supplying us with top notch fishing apparel. As for Chef Jeff and Marker 37 Marina, I can’t say enough good things about how well they treated us. I will be back soon!
The weather is only getting better and the Upper Laguna Madre fishery is phenomenal, so if you would like to fish this area, contact any of these knowledgable and upstanding guides; Capt. Joey Farah, Capt. Bartt Caron, Capt. Braeden Thomas and Capt. Andrew Lassiter.
Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina is the perfect place to enjoy a meal by Chef Jeff after a day on the water. Photos: Kelly Groce
That’s a paddlin’! Tales and observations from a floating piece of plastic
By Brandon Rowan
“Yup that’s the spot.” In the back of the marsh, far removed from the beaten path and at least several miles away from the launch. Yup, that’s the one.”
I don’t know about you, but that train of thought has definitely danced across my mind while scanning Google Earth for that new honey hole. I mean, the extra effort and difficulty will reap equal rewards right? That sometimes rings very true but is not always the case.
I made it a point to get out, paddle and explore new areas this year. Numerous trips in, I started noticing a trend: a surprising amount of good catches came from spots I typically passed during the journey to the “honey hole.”
Sometimes it was a shad flip, a hovering bird, or even a last ditch effort that put me on a location but you can’t argue with results of trout, redfish and flounder. Believe me, I won’t discount these ‘easy’ spots in the future.
HEAD ON A SWIVEL
Even subtle signs, like a single shad or mullet flip, can expose feeding fish underneath an otherwise calm water surface. Hell, what’s one more extra cast? Plus, it’s a pretty triumphant moment when the thump of a good fish confirms your suspicions.
Birds can be your guide in the marsh too. Hovering terns and gulls are a dead give away to activity but don’t discount shore walkers, like the Spoonbill. Their lives depend on their ability to find bait. Where there’s bait, there are predators.
I caught a lot of fish in late winter and early spring on these super model Down South Lures. Special colors, like this plum/chartreuse mullet eye and Purple Reign sans chartreuse tail, can only be found at special events like the Houston Boat Show and Fishing Show. Contact DSL owner Michael Bosse at 210.865.8999 for information on availability.
Subsurface twitch baits like this Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet are just plain fun to fish and productive, too. I caught my biggest trout of the year, 27 inches, on this olive green 06 model.
MEAT’S ALWAYS ON THE MENU
Knowledge of your area and the available forage through each season is crucial. Late winter and early spring was a great time to throw mullet imitations and I leaned on topwaters and big plastics like the Down South Lures super model.
But the days lengthened, the trees began to bloom and it wasn’t long before the bay was flush with freshly hatched bait species. Predators don’t overthink fishing locations and easy spots. They are opportunistic feeders and love easy meals. Later in spring, I starting throwing small baitfish imitations, like the smaller sized Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet.
One foggy April afternoon I was rewarded with a beautiful 27” speckled trout. I found her intercepting small shad forced back into the cove by a hard wind driven current. After a spirited fight, measurement and quick picture, I set her free and watched her swim away strong.
Egret Baits’ 2” Vudu Shrimp under an oval cork is a favorite in the marsh when fish are keyed in on itty bitty shrimp. I like pearl/chart or glow.
Looking ahead to May and June, shrimp imitations will be a good bet. The surf is going to start looking real flat and I’ll be ditching the kayak for west end beach wading or seawall rock hopping. I love catching trout on topwater, but by far some of my most productive days have come from rigging a clear/gold D.O.A. Shrimp under a popping cork.
Glassy surf and its fishy possibilities are the stuff of dreams. But the stout early summer winds of the upper coast are often our reality. If that’s the case, you’ll find me in my favorite stretch of marsh chasing redfish. They eat small in my spot and rarely turn down a 2” Vudu Shrimp under a short leader and oval cork.
It’s about to get hot my friends so take care to keep yourself hydrated and safe. I hope to see you all out there!
I waited a long time to hold a snook, especially a slab like this one. Caught on D.O.A. Lures 4” shrimp in 305 nite glow and a 3/8 oz. jig head. Photo: Cindy Nguyen
Capt. Brian Barrera before releasing a slot Texas snook. Photo: Kelly Groce
BY KELLY GROCE
South Padre Island is home to not only some of the best pastor tacos, but also the only fishable population of snook in the Lone Star State. I learned this after attending the D.O.A. Lures Outdoor Writers Event. That is also where I met Cindy Nguyen who is an amazing angler that has fished all over the world. She told me stories of catching snook in Florida. I think once I told her I had never fished for a snook let alone caught one, she felt bad for me. About a month after the writers event, Cindy gets a hold of me and says, “Let’s go get us a Texas snook.” It doesn’t take much convincing to get me to visit south Tejas, especially for a bucket list fish of mine. It only made sense that we ask SPI’s own Capt. Brian Barrera to take us. Brian is an overall great fisherman, but he has snook fishing dialed-in better than anyone else in the area.
Cindy Nguyen is no stranger to catching snook, but here she is with her first one caught in Texas. Photo: Kelly Groce
Cindy and I got to SPI around noon (thank you to the cop who gave me a warning for speeding due to my excitement). We met Brian and followed him to the boat launch, which is eight minutes away from the Mexico border, jumped on his Shallow Sport Boat, Blackbeard’s Delight II, and headed towards the Brownsville Ship Channel. Brian used a 1 oz. D.O.A. jig head with a D.O.A. 3” Texas Croaker shad tail that he said the snook had been loving lately. He tied on the ole’ faithful D.O.A. 4” shrimp with a 3/8 oz. jig head on another rod, which after a spot or two, Cindy caught her first beautiful Texas snook on. We then checked out a spot where you could literally see dozens of snook in the shadows and cast right at them, it was pretty unreal. The sun started to set and Brian showed us how to catch a few more before calling it a day.
After losing a slot snook by the boat the day before, I was happy to land this one. Photo: Cindy Nguyen
The next morning, I was determined to get my south Texas snook. I played some Selena on the way to the boat launch to get the fish in the mood. As we pulled up to the first spot of the day, there was tons of fry in the water and you could see snook hitting the surface. I tossed my D.O.A. shrimp as close as I could towards the rocks and started working it back, then I felt something slam my shrimp and I heard Brian say, “It’s a snook!” It jumped a couple of times before Brian netted it. Such a cool fish to not only catch, but to release. You lip them like a bass and they suck on your thumb until they are ready to swim off. Nothing could wipe the smile off of my face after catching some snook.
If you’re looking for your next fishing trip, check out South Padre Island and Capt. Brian Barrera. He’s a great fishing guide that can not only put you on snook but also trout, redfish and flounder. During the warm months he’s chasing big tarpon if you want a shot at the silver king.
I’ll be back that’s for sure.
South Texas Saltwater Experience Capt. Brian Barrera
Fishing Guide & Wildlife Biologist
Capt. Brian Barrera with one last snook before dark. Photo: Kelly Groce
This beautiful Lower Laguna Madre trout couldn’t resist the D.O.A. 4″ C.A.L. Jerkbait in Candy Corn.
By Kelly Groce
Back in August of 2018, I was in Port Aransas celebrating my father’s birthday for the weekend. On Sunday, I decided to drop some Gulf Coast Mariner Magazines at local businesses, one of them being Port “A” Outfitters. I see a man walking down the stairs who I know is Mark Nichols, the creator and owner of D.O.A. Lures. I’ve always been a huge fan of his lures, especially that dang shrimp. He’s walking right by my car so I have to say something.
“Excuse me, are you the D.O.A. man?”
“I sure am.” Mark responds.
We shake hands and chat about fishing in Stuart, Fla. where he resides. I hand him a copy of the magazine before we part ways. My day was made.
Fast forward a few months… it’s just another day at the office here in Seabrook. The phone rings and Christmas came early. Capt. Brian Barrera, who is a fishing guide and also works for D.O.A. Lures called to invite me to their 2018 Outdoor Writers Event in South Padre for four days. Without hesitation, I said I’ll be there.
The day of the trip comes, I’m listening to the Bite Me: Texas Saltwater Fishing podcast for the majority of the drive down (if you don’t listen to this podcast, you should) and daydreaming about drifting clear water with grass and sand pockets as far as the eye can see. I’ve been to South Padre three or four times prior, but it was always to go surf, never to fish.
The view every morning before we took off for a full day of fishing and fun.
I pull up to home base for the next few days, which is a beautiful house right on the pristine waters of the Lower Laguna Madre. When I walk in, I’m immediately greeted by D.O.A. Lures employee/local fishing guide/fish slayer Capt. Brian Barrera (if catching Texas snook and tarpon is on your fishing bucket list, Brian is your guy). As I’m relaxing and meeting fascinating people from all over the country and the industry, Mark pulls up by boat (of course he had been fishing the next canal over, catching redfish and trout). I see Mark and say “Remember me from the Port “A” Outfitters parking lot?”
He says, “Of course I do, welcome!”
The sun starts to set and a delicious feast of authentic pastor and beef tacos are being cooked on the deck overlooking the water by local restaurant, Mr. Taco. We are given D.O.A. Kits that contain their family of lures such as TerrorEyz, Swimmin’ Mullet, Shrimp, Jerk Bait, Shad, Paddle Tails and more. Capt. Brian informs everyone who their fishing guide would be for the next day, we talk a little longer and eventually everyone makes their way to bed.
DAY 1 OF FISHING
Cup of coffee… check. Breakfast taco… check. Camera and fishing gear… check. I walk downstairs and there waiting for us is a fleet of boats, mostly Shallow Sports, to take us fishing for the day. I had the pleasure of going out with local guide and super nice guy, Capt. Joel Ramos. My fishing partner was Tommy Thomson, regional sales manager at Shimano. The weather is perfect, a little overcast with a high of 75 degrees. We drive for about 30 minutes, then Capt. Joel Ramos stops, shuts off the motor and says we’re going to do a drift here. It is just what I imagined… as far as you can see clear water spotted with sand pockets and grass. I started throwing D.O.A. Lures 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in one of their newer colors Texas Croaker. It doesn’t take long and we all start catching trout cast after cast. Capt. Joel hooked up onto a pretty 22” trout on the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Candy Corn. It appeared, the fish liked the contrast of that bright orange lure color. The night before, we were given some D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tails in a new color that is not yet named. It’s a brown with gold flake top with a pearl colored bottom. I switched to this bait and caught a few decent trout on that lure as well. Tommy threw on the D.O.A. topwater, the PT-7 (featured on the cover) and had a huge trout blow-up on it, that was pretty exciting. The PT-7 is a fun topwater to work with a lot of action. Capt. Joel wanted to get us on some reds next, so we went to a real shallow spot along a shoreline. I stuck with the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker, and Capt. Joel stuck with the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Candy Corn. 22 was Cap. Joel’s number that day, because after a few minutes at the spot, he hooks up to a nice 22” redfish. We get some footage of the fish and let him go. Shortly after, I hook up on a red I’d say was about 20” on the Texas Croaker Jerkbait. The water was so clear it was pretty neat to see the lure hit the water and then a flash which was the redfish chasing after it. After a full day of fun and fishing, we head back to casa de D.O.A.
The D.O.A. legend, Mark Nichols and myself on an evening boat ride.
That afternoon, everyone is sitting around trading fish stories from the day. Mark points to me and says, “Want to go for a boat ride?”
“Yes sir” I say.
We board his Maverick Mirage skiff, which is one beautiful boat. We go for a cruise and enjoy the stunning South Padre Island sunset. SO… here I am sitting on Mark Nichol’s boat with an ice cold Corona overlooking the Lower Laguna Madre while listening to him talk about fishing and his life. Mark is incredibly knowledgable about fishing and has lived a life full of adventure. I learned that Mark grew up in Houston and his dad had a shrimp boat on Clear Lake. That 45 minutes on his boat is truly a moment I’ll never forget.
DAY 2 OF FISHING
I get paired with Capt. Lee Alvarez. He was born and raised in the area and knows these waters like the back of his hand. I felt like I was getting special treatment since it was just Capt. Lee and myself on his boat this day. There was a front coming in that night, so it was overcast and rain was on the horizon. I had to throw that Candy Corn Jerkbait after the success we had on it the day before. We did some drifts and caught tons of trout on it. We were drifting this one area and a school of about five beautiful upper slot redfish swam right in front of the boat. We saw the school of reds again and we started sight casting at them, but didn’t land one. Either way, very cool seeing fish like that. The rain started coming down pretty good, but the fish were still biting, so I was a happy camper. After all, a little water never hurt no one.
On the ride back to the house, I was gathering my thoughts on the past few days of fishing. Myself alone, caught probably 70+ trout and some nice redfish in just two days on nothing but D.O.A. Lures. D.O.A. stands for Deadly On Anything, and after the non-stop catching I had experienced, that slogan is without a doubt true. These lures are like candy to fish, they can’t say no. An absolute must-have for any angler’s tackle box.
That evening, it was Mark’s birthday. The crew had got him a cake that was decorated with the D.O.A. logo and lures. Some tasty burgers were being grilled on the deck while we continued to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. My face was starting to hurt after all the laughs.
The next day, it was difficult to head back home. After the few days I got to spend with Mark and the rest of the D.O.A. Lures crew, I must say his lures are amazing, but this group of people are even better. The camaraderie I experienced was bar none. Not only did I learn a lot, but I left South Padre feeling like I had a whole new family.
The stars aligned that day I met Mark in that parking lot in Port Aransas. I never thought I would run into him, let alone be invited to South Padre to fish with him for several days. Mark’s passion for fishing and his energy is contagious. He has lit a fire for me to continue pursing my passion of fishing, writing, and photography. And for that I will forever be grateful to Mark.
Huge thanks to Mark Nichols and the entire D.O.A. Lures crew for an incredible trip. I’ll be back to catch my Texas snook. Until next time amigos!
Mark Nichols and Dave Stewart hold a massive black drum they caught on a D.O.A. C.A.L. Paddle Tail. Photo by Danno Wise
Capt. Brian Barrera stuck this beautiful 28″ trout using the D.O.A. 4″ C.A.L. Jerkbait in Candy Corn. Photo by Ed Zyak
Ed Zyak with a nice 24″ snook caught with Capt. Brian Barrera. Photo by Capt. Brian Barrera
The view from our dock looking at the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge.
Catching this trout on D.O.A.’s topwater, the PT-7, was the highlight of my trip. Photo: Scott Null
By Kelly Groce
South Carolina is home to 6-8’ tides, incredible seafood and BBQ, miles of marshes and mature oaks draped with moss. I was lucky enough to be able to fish this area with some great people in the fishing industry and the Low Country did not disappoint.
An hour north of Charleston, is the small, quaint community of McCllellanville. Here you will find the marsh land beauty and National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain, that separates the ICW from the Atlantic. I was expecting to catch a lot of redfish here, but speckled trout were the ones that showed up to play our first day of the trip. Capt. Jordan Pate has lived in the area his whole life and enjoys everything that there is to offer such as fishing, hunting and surfing. Jordan uses similar tactics we use here in Texas. Jordan had some rods rigged with a popping cork and D.O.A. 3” Shrimp and the other rods had a jighead with a D.O.A. 3” Shad. The wind was howling, but both of these methods worked just fine. Capt. Brian Barrera had to try the D.O.A. 3” Shad in the color Candy Corn since he was told he’d never catch anything on a lure that color in these water. He turned the skeptics into believers.
Charleston is home to great seafood. The oysters were incredible.
The second of the trip, Scott Null and myself traveled into Charleston to fish with Capt. Joe Benton on his Cayo poling skiff. We started the day fishing around some exposed oyster reefs and looking for tailing reds. The waters were calm so it was the perfect opportunity to throw D.O.A.’s topwater, the PT-7. As I was working my PT-7 alongside some grass I got a blow-up pretty close to the boat and it ended up being a beautiful 23” trout. Once again, coming to South Carolina I thought I was going to be catching redfish for the most part, but I’m not going to
complain about catching thick speckled trout on topwaters…ever. We poled around the corner and there was a beautiful sight of shrimp jumping followed by redfish wakes and tails waving. They weren’t amused with my topwater, so Scott got some photos and I enjoyed the nature show. If I would have had the time to change out my lure, a D.O.A. shrimp or their new lure, the Snakoil, would have done the job. Meanwhile on a different boat, Ed Zyak was putting a hurt on redfish using the Snakoil. It is great for sight casting big redfish and trout.
Both days of fishing ended with exchanging fish stories paired with incredible meals. South Carolina’s oysters are un-be-lievable. Shrimp and grits, crab cakes, pulled pork, chicken wings… it’s all good. If you don’t come to South Carolina to experience the fishery, you should definitely make the trip for the cuisine.
Thank you Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak and Brian Barrera of D.O.A. Lures for the invite to experience everything the Low Country has to offer. With fishing gurus such as Bill Carson, Scott Null, Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Jeff Burleson and Dave Lear in the mix, it’s always a fun few days of learning and laughs.
Capt. Joe Benton and Scott Null heading in after a day of fishing Charleston.
Capt. Brian Barrera with an example that similar tactics we use here in Texas such as a popping cork rigged with a D.O.A. shrimp worked just as good in South Carolina.
My first South Carolina speckled trout. We caught plenty of trout this size using a D.O.A. jighead with a 3″ Shad tail or the 3″ shrimp rigged under a popping cork. Photo: Brian Barrera