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Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

November 1st, 2019

buggs lure redfish sheward Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

Capt. Clay Sheward holds up a nice marsh redfish with a double spot tail.

Story and photography by Brandon Rowan

THE WATER IS STILL AND SO AM I. The redfish swims along a flat, that is painted with a palette of green sea grass and dull colored sand, unaware of our presence. On the bow of Capt. Clay Sheward’s skiff, I feel more like a hunter in a tree rather than a fisherman. The rod in my hand is the bow and the arrow is a hair-tied Buggs jig at the end of my line.

Clay gives the word and I make a light cast behind and ahead of the red. We can see everything in the water on this calm October morning. I reel quickly to intercept the moving fish and begin jigging to tempt what I hope is a hungry fish. My heart starts beating faster as the redfish inches closer and closer to my offering. Time thickens and that half  moment seems to last an eternity before the fish inhales the Buggs lure.

BEGINNINGS

Clay Sheward, 37, was born and raised in Spring, Texas. His passion for fly fishing started very early in life.

“I’ve been fly fishing for a really long time, since 1992, when the movie A River Runs Through It came out,” Clay said. “I saw that movie with my dad and that Christmas, my family provided me a fly tying kit and a fly rod.”

This film, which won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993, is set in early 20th century Montana and follows a pair of brothers and their love of fly fishing. Many scenes in this movie do an excellent job of capturing the camaraderie of fishing; the tense moments before the catch and the  euphoria after the fact.

Clay cut his teeth fly fishing on the local ponds and creeks near the Woodlands, but as he grew older his love of fly fishing carried him to new locations.

“Mostly, I went to the Guadalupe and the White River in Arkansas. Sometimes my family would travel to Colorado. I didn’t get to do it a whole bunch but I would practice casting in the yard to teacups. Of course, I grew up and girls came along, but I always tied flies. I still do it regularly,” Clay said.

sheward fly fishing Buggy Whippin: Galveston sight casting with Capt. Clay Sheward

OCEAN CALLING

Eight years ago, Clay’s focus shifted from freshwater to saltwater fly fishing. First from a kayak, then to an Ankona ShadowCast 18 which served him and his customers well for several years. But in 2019, Clay was searching for his perfect skiff and finally found it.

“I run a 2019 Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre with a 50HP Tohatsu. I couldn’t be happier. The trailer is gorgeous and it is such a really nice rig. I can’t believe that I have one. It’s just unbelievable,” Clay said.

The Chittum has expanded Clay’s range and clients of Buggy Whippin Sight Fishing enjoy access to the skinniest of waters in our area.

STUDENT OF NATURE

Clay’s love and careful examination of nature has paid dividends on the flats, where subtle, easily overlooked signs can tip off the location of fish.

“I like to watch animals. It doesn’t matter if it’s just me chilling in the backyard watching birds or hawks, or even seeing my dogs’ ears perk up when they catch a scent and chase it down,” Clay said. “Sitting stream-side, watching a trout circle behind a rock and then leave during changing cloud cover and then come back to the same spot several times a day. Or watching a spider build a web completely from start to finish. That sort of thing.”

Clay recently purchased a drone to better observe wildlife in the marsh. This eye in the sky lends a totally different point of view compared to a poling skiff.

“I’ve seen some crazy things with trout and redfish schooling up on the flats with the drone,” Clay said. “I’ve seen schools of redfish following one big alligator gar. Whatever the gar did, the redfish did the same. I’ve seen bobcats back there in Green’s Lake, as well as pigs. It’s educational as hell.”

Brandon Rowan with one of many redfish caught sight casting with Capt. Sheward.

TIME RETURNS TO NORMAL and I quickly bring my first sight-casted redfish to hand. I get a “Nice Job” and a fist bump from Clay after the release. The day is early and we continue our hunt for redfish along the sandy flat.

Stingrays, so many stingrays, hover along eeriely as we the glide down the shoreline. Flounder scoot away in a trail of punctuated mud puffs and gnarled, large crabs plod on slowly. This is my first time on a poling skiff and it 100% reminds me of flounder gigging. You are able to witness the abundant life of the bay, visually scanning until your target is located and then a careful approach begins. Unlike the rapid fire retrieves of blind fan casting, you often only get a single shot, like a sniper, when sight casting to a redfish.

Further down the flat, we have no problem tracking down more reds on this absolutely gorgeous day. Bronze backs and tails flick along the shorelines and shell points. Some of these we catch, others refuse the lure or fly, and others spook and run.

It felt like an entire day’s worth of fishing has happened but in reality only two hours have passed. But the day is young. We make a change, push off the flats and head back into the deeper recesses of the marsh.

This redfish absolutely crushed a Buggs Jig.

BUGGY WHIPPIN

Clients of Capt. Clay Sheward can expect to fish the maze of marshes and flats on the north shoreline of West Bay and the surrounding areas. There are opportunities to wade or even fish from shore. His Chittum Laguna Madre skiff has everything the fly angler could want and accommodates two fisherman.

However, you don’t need to know how to fly fish to enjoy sight casting for redfish. Catching these fish on light spinning tackle is still a blast and provides ample challenge. You will be thoroughly tested on how accurately and quickly you can place a cast.

“Scratch them on the chin” is what Clay advises when casting to a hungry redfish. It’s hard for them to resist an easy meal in front of their noses. An alternative method is to cast beyond and ahead of a fish, making sure you intercept its path.

No matter your tackle, stealth and speed are essential for success. Casts must be made quickly but delicately, without excessive movement. Heavy steps, twisting hips or any careless motion can rock the skiff and alert fish to your presence.

Clay does not sugar coat it. If you are doing something wrong, he will absolutely let you know. But the best teachers rarely coddle. Those ready to learn and listen have a high probability for an epic day of redfishing with Captain Clay Sheward.

Capt. Clay Sheward poles his Chittum Skiffs Laguna Madre along the flats.

KEEPING IT FLY

As a fledgling fly fisherman, I was eager to pick Clay’s brain on advice for those new to the sport.

“First, remember ‘Tip down, strip tight and everything will be alright,’” Clay said. “Second, if you feel like you need to go faster and harder, you probably need to go slower and softer, especially with a fly rod.”

Must-have flies include the Kwan, Clouser, Gurgler, spoon fly and any shrimp imitation with a weed guard. If Clay could only have one it would be the Kwan. He also recommends tying a loop knot, with as small a loop as possible, for most flies. He is an avid user of 16 and 20 lb tippets for his clients when targeting redfish on the upper coast. He is also a firm believer in casting whichever rod you are going to buy.

“Cast it and get what feels good to you. Redfish don’t need expensive fly reels. It’s nice to have, but not needed for reds in our area,” Clay said. “Gordy and Sons is one of the nicest fly shops in Houston. They’re no joke and the people that work there are extremely knowledgeable fly anglers.”

Although Clay’s all-time favorite fishing location is the Black Hills of South Dakota, his favorite fish to catch on the fly is the tripletail.

Umpqua’s Kwan fly, tied with bead chain eyes.

“Getting them to eat is the best because they are so stingy man! It’s got to be a perfect presentation,” Clay said. “You can get really close to them though and that gets the nerves going. I think that’s my favorite right now, but chasing a redfish with its back out of the water, and poling up to them…hunting them, that’s always going to be for me.”

THE SUN IS OUT NOW and we find ourselves deep in the marsh, floating along a back creek that is absolutely full of redfish. We glide over schools of erratic, frenzied bait as multiple big redfish cruise down the shoreline, picking them off lazily, one by one.

Clay’s oversized redfish.

It’s been several hours since we left the dock and I’ve honed in on what’s needed to effectively spot and cast to fish, thanks to Clay’s instruction.

We absolutely tore it up on that little stretch of water. After each fish caught and released, we seemed to spot another one right away. Clay caught an absolute beauty of a fish that taped out barely over 28 inches; a heartbreaker of a fish if it was a tournament day.

My favorite catch of the day was an upper slot redfish that came on a second chance. We had a pair of fish swim across our path that ignored the first presentation. They picked up speed and starting swimming away, no longer in sight. I flung out a far cast, as delicately as I could, and started jigging back to where I thought they might be. I knew I got it right when my reel’s drag started screeching.  After a rigorous fight, I brought the bronzed backed, pumpkin eyed fish in for a quick photo and release.

It was early in the afternoon but we decided to end the day on high note. The Chittum snaked its way through the marsh lanes as we made the scenic trek back to the dock. I was definitely impressed with the way the boat handled.  It took on chop with no issue, didn’t slide around the corners and granted us access to areas other poling skiffs couldn’t reach that day.

I’ve caught my fair share of redfish and I’ve got to say this was the absolute, most exciting way to catch them. If you have a background in kayaking, gigging or hunting, and you haven’t sight casted to redfish, you are missing out I’d say.

Summer and fall are Clay Sheward’s favorite times to be on the water but winter does have its perks.

“The water is so clear in the winter and it’s so fun. You can see everything on the bottom when you’re poling. You can learn so much, it’s incredible.”

Book a trip with Capt. Clay Sheward by visting buggywhippin.com, emailing claysheward@gmail.com or calling/texting 281-745-1578. Rates for two people max are 4 hours at $450, 6 hours at $550 and 8 hours at $650. Check him out on Instagram and Facebook @BuggyWhippin

Check out the heart shaped spot on Clay’s redfish!

Fins & Feathers

September 1st, 2019

IMG 4291 1024x575 Fins & Feathers

By Capt. Joey Farah

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!

joeyfarah 1024x768 Fins & Feathers

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

Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

July 1st, 2019

farahtrout Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

Big trout can still be caught in the heat of summer!

By Capt. Joey Farah

361-442-8145 Capt. Joey Farah’s Backwater Adventures

In the frantic rush of summer live bait fishing, many proven lessons for summer success are passed by. Those long days of our youth were filled with adventures and memories. Today it seems like a rush to get out and then get in. Slow it down and turn up the heat on your summer fishing this year! Here are a few not quite forgotten, but tried and true summer strategies to bring trout, reds, and flounder to hand!

Big Trout

First light is the best time to find big summer trout. Protected shorelines will be clean of floating grass, allowing anglers to dance top water plugs over skinny grass flats, shallow rocks and oysters. Big mature trout will be hunting their last meal before retreating to cover and deep water at first light.

A topwater bait imitates a wounded mullet or shad chased up against a shoreline by packs of trout during the night. Throw plugs that you can see at a distance; visual awareness is essential in timing your hookset, as well as aligning your technique with the soul of the ocean. Look for flats where there are signs of baitfish. Surface action, birds and good tidal flow are a good start. Later in the day, move towards deeper drop offs with smaller soft plastics like the 3”DOA CAL SHAD in natural color patterns, imitating pin perch for all-day action.

farahflounder Retro Lessons In Summer Fishing

Summer flounder are great targets around piers and docks, this flat fatty was jigged up on a DOA 3” CAL Shad glow/pink.

Flatfish

Fantastic summer flounder fishing can be as close as the dock you are standing on! Flounder are mostly a strategic ambush predator. They love to position themselves along the pilings of piers and docks. This is where small shrimp and minnows gather. They will lay just down current of the posts waiting for you to jig a small soft plastic along their sight path.

Step carefully so you don’t rock the dock and to keep your presence unknown. Flounder seem to be more aggressive towards bright colors. White, chartreuse, and pink have always been a coastal favorite. An old timer once told me never use a black net, always a green one! Black nets will send flounder on a bolting run as it looks like a dolphin. They seem to swim right into a green one.

Summer Redfish

Summertime belongs to the redfish! Chasing redfish during these long summer days can be an all day event. First light finds them digging and hunting the extreme shallows for crabs, shrimp and small baitfish. Before the sun gets bright and the shadows of birds spook surface mullet, anglers will find reds up so shallow that their tails will be cutting the surface, alerting us to their location. Walking side current will allow you to sneak up on them and project a perfect cast ahead of them.

My best baits are the DOA Shrimp and soft plastics rigged with a very light 1/16 oz. jig head, both for silent and natural sounding entry. Sight casting for reds will teach many lessons in how fish react to fishermen. At times you will watch redfish bolt towards lures at first sight, but most of the time they are very spooky and dart away from loud baits hitting the water. Cast well past the fish and bring the bait into their path. Redfish usually have a two foot sight awareness in front of them. They are used to scanning for food sources jumping up in front of their faces.

As the sun rises, switch to topwater plugs and make grid pattern casts over the flats. Scattered redfish will explode on the plugs, and allow anglers to cover large areas of water. Remember, redfish have bottom facing mouths. This means they must pounce down or turn over to get the bait off of the surface. I always let them bend the rod tip before I set the hook with topwater plugs.

The best and time proven bait for summertime redfish is the gold spoon! This lure perhaps dates back to the beginning of mankind, as bone and shell tied together to bring fish to hand and mouth. The flash and vibration of the glittering spoon awakes redfish from their resting places in thick grass. It imitates both the flash of perch and mullet, but mainly persuades them it is a fleeing crab, their favorite meal. I work my spoons with a fast retrieve with hard jerks and flutters. I adjust my presentation as needed to a light fluttering and stroking of the spoon over the bottom as well. You need to be loose and try new techniques to match the aggression and moods of the reds.

Target areas void of boat traffic, with grass and sand mixed bottom. Most redfish will be found in areas containing a good variety of bird life. Each species feeds on different things; a variety of birds means a buffet of redfish food!

Skip the bait stands and get a head start on your SUMMER FISHING! These lessons passed down from anglers of our past still hold true to our hearts and stringers here along the Texas Gulf Coast. Head out with a few pockets full of these specialized baits, concentrate on fishing and leave your stress on the beach. Summertime memories seem to last forever long past our last casts.

Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

May 1st, 2019

bart me2 1024x700 Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

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

DSC 0237 746x1024 Fishing the Upper Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

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

Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

January 1st, 2019

DSC 0033 2 Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

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.

48238147 10211192088193046 4257466532084318208 n Fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures

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