I've never told a friend about which shampoo I use, but I have been stupid enough on more than a few occasions to divulge hot fishing locations.
Like every angler, I have a close circle of friends with whom I'll share even the most minute fishing details. To someone outside that circle, I might give general information like, "I'm catching trout right now in Lake X."
But to someone within the circle, my information may sound something like, "Go into Lake X and head straight for the east shoreline. When you get there, you'll see a white PVC pole. Stop your motor about 20 yards off the pole, and work the shoreline to the next cut to the north. The fish are hitting purple/chartreuse Bass Assassins."
The problem is, everyone has just such a circle, and no two are the same. I may be in my buddy's circle, and he may be in mine, but there are people in mine who aren't in his, and there are people in his who aren't in mine.
So, when I give him detailed information, he shares it with people I would never tell, and the same holds true when he gives me hot tips.
I tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on.
It was obvious that had occurred as Sportsman staffer Andy Crawford and I made the left turn from Big Four Bayou into Pointe a la Hache's Third Bay on a gloriously beautiful afternoon last November.
It was as though Metro Boating, Bent Marine, Travis Boating Center and every other marine dealership in the state had decided to donate all of their inventory to the anglers of Louisiana under one condition — that they promised to use the boats on that particular day in Third Bay.
Some telephone lines had obviously been buzzing since my trip a week earlier, when I shared the small lake — and its seemingly endless trout stocks — with only four or five other boats.
I was half-tempted to look along the bank for a number dispenser so I could take one and wait for our turn to fish.
But waiting was not on the agenda for the day. We had four hours of daylight left, and we intended to use that time to duplicate the success I had had in the area only seven days prior.
Third Bay is one of those "no-brainer" destinations that has all the ingredients an autumn fisherman needs to look for. The lake itself is shallow, averaging no more than 4 feet, but it's bisected by a channel that runs from Big Four Bayou, which enters the lake on its southeastern corner, to a cut on the bay's western side.
Speckled trout in the area have quick access to the deep water they need to escape Arctic blasts, as well as endless flats to feast upon hapless baitfish on the more-common mild days.
The bay is also close to the productive shallow-water fisheries of Second Bay, First Bay and Wreck Bay and the deep-water winter hotspots of Thorn Tree Bayou, Net Bayou and Charles Bayou, in addition to Big Four.
Crawford and I idled past the almost endless armada of boats anchored at the mouth of Big Four, and were finally able to get on step for the short run across the small lake. Our destination was the lake's west shoreline, where I had limited on trout the previous week.
We could see several boats fishing the cut between Third Bay and Second Bay, but surprisingly, only one boat was working our shoreline. This angler obviously knew what he was doing; he was allowing the gentle northeasterly breezes to push him in a perfect drift about 30 feet off the shoreline, and was casting away from the bank.
Crawford and I took a similar tact, but opted to hang a good ways — perhaps 75 yards — off the bank and cast in. This is the technique that had worked for me previously.
A good friend of mine, Capt. Paul Oliver, had pointed me to Third Bay on my previous trip. He had been mopping up on trout in Third and Second bays using tightlined chartreuse plastics and MirrOlures.
But the water was a little off this day, and I was skeptical of the potential productivity of either tactic. This was clearly a day for popping corks.
Undaunted, Crawford, who would rather fish without a hook than with a popping cork, tied on a chartreuse MirrOlure 52M.
"You have fun with your cork," he said. "Try to ignore the hootin' and hollerin' you hear when the fish crush this MirrOlure."
The poor boy ought to stick with bass fishing.
I made maybe two casts with my popping cork-suspended plastic bait before the "strike-indicator" began a tour of the undersea world. I dropped the rod tip, cranked hard on the reel and yanked the rod back as far as I could before the sweet resistance stopped it.
This trout wasn't a monster, but it clearly wasn't your typical school trout. It evidently had a will, and the size and power to exert it.
But alas, it lacked a great deal of stamina, and in less than a minute, I had it at boatside, where Crawford waited dutifully with a net.
It was a solid 20-inch 2 1/2-pounder, similar to the size of many I had caught the previous week.
I tossed it in the ice chest, where it tried to swim for freedom and made that wonderful drumming noise that trout anglers love to hear as a speckled tail meets the side of the box.
Crawford had moved back to his perch on the front deck and made several fruitless casts with his MirrOlure by the time I was ready to cast my cork rig.
I caught another on the first cast, and two more on the next 10 or so casts.
Finally Crawford was humbled, claiming, despite substantial evidence to the contrary, that his momma didn't raise no fool.
"You got another popping cork?" he croaked.
I explained that I did, but it was my favorite one and he'd have to pay me a transport fee and a little kicker for wear and tear. Nothing he couldn't cover with a bank loan.
He promised to write me an IOU just as soon as we got back, so I graciously handed over the cork.
His catch rate soon matched mine, and we decided to call it quits with 40 trout cooling in the ice chest. Not a bad way to spend a November afternoon.
Capt. Stan Cuquet of Castaway Charters has found Third Bay to be a productive fishery virtually every year at this time.
"It's got a good oyster bottom," he said. "There's hard bottom really everywhere in that place.
"In addition to that, you've got shallow bays that are connected by deep channels. When it heats up, the fish can move to the flats, and when it cools down in the middle of the night, they can (swim) into the channel."
Last fall and winter, Cuquet caught fish both in the deep water of Big Four Bayou and the shallow flats of Third Bay, depending on weather conditions, but he found the flats to be consistently more productive.
"We caught most of our fish on the flats, and they were the bigger fish," he said.
October kicks off the trout run in Third Bay, Cuquet said, and it runs through March.
In November, the temperatures are typically warm enough that the fish can stay on the flats, retreating to the edges of the drop-offs in cooler weather.
"Last November, we started each day on the edge of the channel and then worked our way back toward the shorelines," he said.
The channel washes out some in the middle of the bay, but it runs basically from the mouth of Big Four all the way through the cut going to Second Bay.
"It snakes through the bay. If you've got a depth-finder, it's real obvious where it is," Cuquet said.
When fishing the deep water of the channel or the drop-off edges, Cuquet throws Salt Water Assassins on 3/8-ounce jigheads. As far as colors, he likes white and PT2000 (white belly/pink back) when the water's dingy and avocado when the water's clean.
As the day warms up, he'll move to the flats and fish the same soft-plastics on 1/4-ounce jigheads 8 inches under a Cajun Thunder cork.
The schools of fish in the lake move from day to day, so it's impossible to pick out any guaranteed good spots, especially when the fish are on the flats, Cuquet said. What he likes to do is drift areas that he thinks should hold fish.
"What you do is just drift and cast, drift and cast, and when you catch two or three, you ease over your anchor, and you might catch another 10 or 15 before the action stops. Then you pick up your anchor and drift until you catch two or three more," he said.
One of the most effective areas to employ this technique is out in the middle of nothing, according to Cuquet.
"I like to just drift the middle of the lake. We catch a lot of fish doing that," he said.
Closer to the shorelines, Cuquet catches reds and even bass mixed in with the trout.
"We catch a lot of bass there. You get a bite, and you don't know what it is — could be a trout, could be a red, could be a bass," he said.
As the season progresses, the trout begin to spend more and more time in the channel, specifically Big Four Bayou and the cut between Second and Third bays.
"In January and February, the bite gets real subtle," Cuquet said. "If I didn't fish PowerPro, I wouldn't be able to feel them. I cast upcurrent, and it's hard to tell the difference between an oyster shell and a tick (from a biting fish)."
What's not hard to tell is that Third Bay is a popular fishery.
"We went there one day last year in the fog," Cuquet said. "I told my clients that we were in my secret spot. They couldn't see anything that was around us. Then the fog lifted, and it looked like a boat show out there. We counted 90-something boats."
The phone lines had been buzzing, and it wasn't shampoo these guys were telling each other about.