Natural Selection ­— How to increase trout-fishing odds

Evolving as an angler is the only way to move from a simple weekend warrior to a serious fisherman. This anglers proved that when he determined to step up his game.

Chris Ginn
July 01, 2013 at 7:00 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Although unseen above the water, the many oyster reefs in Lake Pelto are the perfect spots for fishing a drop shot.
Although unseen above the water, the many oyster reefs in Lake Pelto are the perfect spots for fishing a drop shot.
Chris Ginn
You’re not going to convince me that my ancestors evolved from apes.

You’re also not going to convince me that there is no such thing as evolution.

There’s no doubt that animals and people change over time from something very simple to something much more complex.

Joey Hedrick, an avid saltwater angler from Denham Springs, is a perfect example of evolution.

Desiring more than weekend-warrior status, Hedrick began to change as an angler a few years ago.

"An old man told me one time that if I wanted to get better at catching fish, I should pick an area and fish it," Hedrick related.

He settled on Cocodrie, but he wasn’t finished.

As he learned the ins and outs of fishing places like Last Island, Lake Pelto and the Sulphur Mine, Hedrick experimented with techniques he had learned from other anglers.

"Before I started fishing Cocodrie all the time, I would go visit Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou DuLarge to get some experience fishing with charter captains," Hedrick continued. "People like Capt. Eric Dumas at Lake Pontchartrain and Capt. Marty LaCoste at Bayou DuLarge were invaluable as on-the-water teachers."

And Hedrick started to change from a weekend-warrior who ran around willy-nilly hoping to find fish to an old hand who applied his experience expecting to catch fish.

Not happy with the status quo, Hedrick found himself fishing the Sulphur Mine one day a couple of years ago, aggravated that his drop-shot rig constantly hung the bottom.

He had learned how, where, when and why to fish a drop shot at Lake Pontchartrain, and he had been using it to his advantage in Lake Pelto and out at Last Island.

"But at the Sulphur Mine, it stayed hung up in this one particular spot," Hedrick said. "I had one spot I could fish it and one spot I had to fish under a cork.

"The first few trips, I spent more time cutting off rigs and tying on new ones than I did fishing."

Preferring to have his terminal gear ready to go before he hits the water, few things aggravate Hedrick more than having to rig tackle while he’s on the water — a point made clear when I opened his tackle box during a recent fishing trip.

Rather than compartments full of weights, jigheads and barrel swivels, I found compartments full of wine corks wrapped with leader line and impaled with treble hooks.

As I unrolled one of the leaders, I discovered a three-way swivel on the other end.

"That’s the basic component of the drop shot," Hedrick explained. "That swivel is what keeps everything together."

I continued digging around and found some little pouches of paper stapled together to conceal the lengths of mono tied to bank sinkers that were inside.

At the other end of this piece of line was what I estimated to be about a No. 10 snap.

"Tie your main line to one end of the swivel," Hedrick instructed. "Tie the hook line to the middle ring, and snap your weight line to the bottom ring."

The snap wasn’t much more than an afterthought for me as we began tossing out live shrimp toward a small platform and set of pilings.

A few casts later, my weight lodged perfectly in between two oysters on top of the reef, and the tug-of-war began.

I thought my braided line must have helped me win the battle by pulling the weight free when my line suddenly went slack, but closer inspection revealed that my weight, line and snap weren’t free — they were gone.

Thinking nothing of it, I snapped on another weight and kept on fishing.

Hedrick and I wrapped up our Monday-evening trip as the sun began to dip behind a towering thunderhead, and we raced to beat the rain while looking forward to the evolution of air conditioning.

Being that a drop-shot rig is tailor-made for fishing live bait, Hedrick and I got in the short Tuesday-morning line at Cajun Bait just south of his camp behind Sportsman’s Paradise to get 100 live shrimp.

"I normally use the Bait House in Chauvin to get my live shrimp, but they are closed on Monday, so I got them here yesterday," Hedrick told me as we headed back down the road. "Figured we might as well give them another try, but Mrs. Samantha at the Bait House has always treated me well."

Juiced to sling some more trout in the boat, we arrived at the magical platform to find a slack tide.

Rather than waste live shrimp on white trout and hardheads, we threw some shrimp creole Matrix Shads and picked at the trout until the water started moving.

Just about the time the tide started, it stopped, so Hedrick made the decision to run north to fish the Sulphur Mine.

He idled his boat between a row of pilings in what he told me was one of only two ways to get into the middle of all the structure without boogering up your boat too badly.

Before his anchor even hit bottom, Hedrick told me I might want to fish with a cork here because of how much more debris was on bottom here as opposed to the platform we had just left.

I begrudgingly reached for the clippers, but Hedrick stopped me in my tracks.

"Just undo that snap and put you a cork on above the swivel," he told me.

Apparently, the same aggravation I felt was exactly what Hedrick felt a couple years ago when his survival-of-the-fittest mentality kicked in when cutting off a drop-shot rig to tie on another cork.

"When I moved from inside the mine to outside, I was constantly cutting off one rig and tying on another," Hedrick said. "I got tired of that one day and got to thinking about how I could make this a little bit easier on myself."

His solution was to add the snap on the swivel end of the drop line for his weight.

With a drop shot rigged with the snap, Hedrick simply snaps off the weight and adds a popping cork above the swivel when he’s constantly getting hung on bottom.

And he simply takes off the popping cork and snaps his weight back on the swivel when he gets in a little bit more open water.

One small step for man, one giant leap for man’s ability to quickly and efficiently put more fish in his boat.

"From one extreme to the other in a snap," he punned, "and it sure takes the hassle out of having to cut and tie, cut and tie."

As for the three-way snap hanging below his popping cork, Hedrick said that he has never had any issues with it hanging between his cork and live bait.

"All you’ve got is an extra ring hanging out there on the side of the swivel, and I don’t think any self-respecting trout is going to turn his nose up at a live shrimp because he saw a ring with no line tied to it," Hedrick concluded.

I snapped the weight off and put on a popping cork as instructed, and made my first cast.

My cork disappeared in the snap of a shrimp tail, and our first cork trout flopped in the bottom of Hedrick’s boat as quickly as it had taken me to change from the drop shot to the popping cork.

Something as small and insignificant as a snap on the end of a fishing line doesn’t seem like much of an evolution, but for Hedrick it has made all the difference in his ability to change from one situation to another with less hassle.

And, those snaps have given his opposing thumbs something to do other than grasp his rod and grab speckled trout.

Getting to the bait stand early on the weekend is key to getting to the ramp first, which means you’ll get to your fishing spots before everybody else.
Joey Hedrick loves fishing any live bait on his drop shot, but he sticks with shrimp until trout show a definite preference for live croaker.





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