Convert your Freshwater Lures and Tactics to Saltwater Purposes

tom kayak

By Tom Cannon

 

Growing up in the Midwest, I spent my lifetime casting to freshwater species. It wasn’t until my twenties that I was fortunate to make an occasional foray to chase some saltwater fish. Like many anglers I am continually trying to learn more about the game; and the more I learn the more I realize fish share common characteristics.

Take predator fish like Largemouth Bass, Pike or Stripers (freshwater). No matter what water the fish lives in, they survive by preying on lesser baitfish. Often anglers realize the fish may not be feeding but can be coerced into biting via a reaction strike.  Predators instinctively will strike when an opportunity at an injured prey presents itself. Pick the proper lure for the right scenario and anglers can increase their catch ratio dramatically. Of course not all situations are ripe for the “reaction strike”.

The first place I look for predator fish is at some sort of ambush point. In lakes and streams near my home; the key spots are creek channel swings, brushpiles, docks and flooded timber. Surprisingly these terrain features are present no matter where an angler chooses to fish- if one looks closely.flats fisherman

For instance, creek channels are present nearly everywhere. Saltwater flats typically have some sort of ditch nearby where deep water can be found. Of course in between nearly every Key, is an actual channel which can easily found by looking for an obvious bridge. In Midwest lakes, we often sink old Christmas trees or treetops to form our own brushpiles. Saltwater anglers can relate, simply by looking for old wrecked boats, crab or lobster pots or washed up debris which typically will be home to numerous species of fish much like a reef.

Flipping to timber is one method I have used to cash several checks in Bass tournaments. Saltwater anglers often overlook their own flooded “timber” in the form of mangroves. Although I have seen an occasional boat or two casting to mangroves, I have never seen anyone “flipping” baits into the trees. What’s more fishing docks is a technique pretty much created at my home impoundment, Lake of the Ozarks. Docks are found nearly everywhere there is water. Many fishermen overlook these prime fishing spots.big dock

The key to dock fishing in saltwater, is water depth. No every dock will present the proper situation but the great thing about saltwater is the tide. Water depth will increase or decrease twice a day. Experience will show when the water depth is prime to catch fish off a series of docks.  Additionally not all docks are equal. The supports can be made of wood, metal or concrete and only by fishing several in the area can the fisherman determine which docks will produce.

The same scenario applies to “flooded timber”. No matter whether it is fresh or saltwater, depth can be critical. Tree size and placement can also be important to predators. I nearly always check the isolated tree or bush or the older, bigger wood.  Usually there is a reason why one tree is bigger and bigger means older with a large root wad to house bait and predators alike.

Furthermore, I often see anglers get hung up on the same old lures that have proven reliable in their circles. I am always on the lookout for transitional bait. I have converted several proven Bass lures into productive saltwater baits. For instance topwater lures. One of my most effective top water baits anywhere is the Ultimate Topwater Shad, a soft body baitfish produced by Culprit. It works well on schooling freshwater Stripers, Largemouth Bass in mossy backwater sloughs and is equally at home on the flats on the Florida Keys. Barracudas and shallow water sharks are suckers for a Topwater Shad walked across a grassy flat. A shallow water crank bait like a Bass Pro “egg” can also be deadly when burned just over the top of grass beds.mangrove

As I stated earlier, mangroves are often overlooked fishing targets. I will venture into the heart of the mangroves and visually search for bedded fish. Once I locate a stretch of trees that house fish. I back out a few yards and rig up one of my trusty flipping sticks. This technique is master by nearly every Bass angler but I have yet to witness anyone in the backcountry trying it. My rig consists of a seven and half foot rod spooled with the heaviest fluorocarbon line I can get by with. Typically 15 pound test, with a painted leadhead jig tied to it. Salty water makes me switch between a Culprit Incredi-Claw (with the curly legs pulled off) or a Riptide Realistic Shrimp rigged onto the jighead. Flipping or pitching into the brush has allowed me to fill several stringers with Snappers and Groupers as well as other species. These baits with this technique also work great around and under docks. Be sure to present the lures into shady areas.

When times get tough in your shallow water haunts whether it is freshwater or saltwater, don’t be afraid to take a few tricks from anglers from other regions. Switch baits to something the local fish haven’t seen and often it will pay dividends!

The same scenario applies to “flooded timber”. No matter whether it is fresh or saltwater, depth can be critical. Tree size and placement can also be important to predators. I nearly always check the isolated tree or bush or the older, bigger wood.  Usually there is a reason why one tree is bigger and bigger means older with a large root wad to house bait and predators alike.

Furthermore, I often see anglers get hung up on the same old lures that have proven reliable in their circles. I am always on the lookout for transitional bait. I have converted several proven Bass lures into productive saltwater baits. For instance topwater lures. One of my most effective top water baits anywhere is the Ultimate Topwater Shad, a soft body baitfish produced by Culprit. It works well on schooling freshwater Stripers, Largemouth Bass in mossy backwater sloughs and is equally at home on the flats on the Florida Keys. Barracudas and shallow water sharks are suckers for a Topwater Shad walked across a grassy flat. A shallow water crank bait like a Bass Pro “egg” can also be deadly when burned just over the top of grass beds.

Culprit Realistic Shrimp

Culprit Realistic Shrimp

incredi-claw

Culprit Incredi-Claw

As I stated earlier, mangroves are often overlooked fishing targets. I will venture into the heart of the mangroves and visually search for bedded fish. Once I locate a stretch of trees that house fish. I back out a few yards and rig up one of my trusty flipping sticks. This technique is master by nearly every Bass angler but I have yet to witness anyone in the backcountry trying it. My rig consists of a seven and half foot rod spooled with the heaviest fluorocarbon line I can get by with. Typically 15 pound test, with a painted leadhead jig tied to it. Salty water makes me switch between a Culprit Incredi-Claw (with the curly legs pulled off) or a Riptide Realistic Shrimp rigged onto the jighead. Flipping or pitching into the brush has allowed me to fill several stringers with Snappers and Groupers as well as other species. These baits with this technique also work great around and under docks. Be sure to present the lures into shady areas.

When times get tough in your shallow water haunts whether it is freshwater or saltwater, don’t be afraid to take a few tricks from anglers from other regions. Switch baits to something the local fish haven’t seen and often it will pay dividends!dock fishing

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