If you’re a sight-fishing fan, Friday afternoon was one of those special days when the planets aligned and conditions were perfect in the marshes along the east side of the Mississippi River between Buras and Pointe a la Hache.
Everything you look for was there. Gin-clear water: check. A falling tide: yep. Mostly sunny skies, with lots of thick green submerged grass. Plus the Mississippi River was holding nice and low at 3 ½ feet at the gauge in New Orleans.
Pumpkin-colored reds cruised along a path in the grass just a few feet from Capt. Cody Obiol’s 24-foot Skeeter, and they absolutely devoured every Z-Man plastic lure we pitched in front of them. Most of the action took place within about 5 feet of the boat, and the bulk of the catch came with Obiol’s Power-Poles down.
“Today was a good day of sight-fishing, about the best you’re going to get,” said Obiol, who guides for Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras. The lodge there was hosting its annual Buras Marsh Media Bash, which features outdoor vendors and writers from across the country. “In a matter of two hours, we caught almost 20 fish — and missed a bunch, too.”
The reds annihilated Z-Man’s Jerk ShrimpZ in sexy penny and the Diesel Minnow in sexy mullet. The shrimp was rigged on an EZ KeeperZ 3/0, 3/16-ounce weighted hook, while the minnow was on a ¼-ounce Weedless Eye jighead.
“I never go bigger than a ¼-ounce in shallow water because it’s not going to get hung up as much, and the lighter jighead stays in the fish’s mouth,” Obiol said. “But casting accuracy is the deal — it’s probably about 80-percent accuracy and 20-percent fishing.
“If you miss putting it right in front of them, you’re done. You want to have that bait get to within 8 or 10 inches of their face where they can see it fall … You’re really trying to get a reaction strike. You don’t want them to think about it — just have them see it, hit it and then catch them.”
That’s pretty much what happened, as we picked off the reds one by one as they cruised through a path in the grass. (Of course, polarized glasses are an absolute must to see the underwater landscape.)
“The river has gone down, so pockets near the river are starting to clean on falling tides — so now we can start to go and see them,” Obiol said. “Before you were just soaking shrimp on a dirty shoreline — now they’re visible, getting into those coves with clean water.”
Obiol rigged up with 30- or 40-pound braid, which is thick enough so it doesn’t dig in on itself catching a fish. He tied the lures straight to the braid, even in the gin clear water — and the reds obviously didn’t mind in the least. He favors creature baits, shrimp imitations and curl-tail soft plastics in white, black and glow.
“You can put a leader on if you want, but you saw today they were hungry,” he said. “If they’re finicky, use a mono leader or even smaller baits and let it float down. It all just depends on the day’s conditions — you have to read the fish.”
Obiol likes to target reds in about 1 to 2 feet of water, as shallow as he can get. A stealthy approach is also key.
“Go as slow as possible. Like today, we slid in real slow, figured out where they were at and Power-Poled down and sat there. We never spooked the fish,” he said. “But if you go in there and kick up a lot of grass, kick up a lot of mud — they’re not going to want to eat. You want to keep the fish as dumb as you can so they don’t know you’re there.
“They kind of feed off each other in a school, so if you get two or three bitting, you might get 10 fish biting. But if you spook two fish, all of the fish will be gone. If you spook them, you need to move and go find more fish.”