Finding and exploring new waters

Capt. Justin Bowles and the author went exploring last month and found good redfish and bass action. (Photo by Todd Masson)

If I had been born in the latter part of the 15th century, and had somehow survived disease, pestilence and malnutrition to make it to adulthood by 1492, I would have done everything I could to be one of the 90 men aboard the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria during their fateful voyage from the Spanish port of Palos de la Frontera.

I simply love exploring, and the prospects of seeing a New World would have been too much to resist.

Sadly, though, I was born 500 years too late for that, and by the time I was old enough to drive, humans had not only discovered, mapped and photographed every square inch of the earth, we had also walked on the moon.

That means there’s nothing left to explore, right?

Well, fortunately, the happy twistings of fate brought me to life very near the mouth of the largest river in North America, and long before I came on the scene, that river built a haggard patchwork of coastal wetlands whose intricacy is matched only by their productivity.

I’ve spent my entire life fishing those marshes, and I have yet to scratch the surface of an iota of a millimeter of the possibilities.

New is exciting

Like most anglers, I sometimes go back to areas that have produced fish for me in the past, but those are never my favorite trips. What excites me more than anything on the water is studying maps for a day or two before a trip, putting together a loose plan and executing it in marsh that I’ve never fished.

There are two aspects of fishing new marsh I find most enjoyable: No. 1, I have no expectations, so every fish feels like a victory. Old spots seldom measure up to your best trip there, so they’re always kind of a disappointment. If you caught 25 speckled trout at a familiar spot during a previous trip, and you catch only 15 today, you feel the cold regret of failure rather than the warm radiance of success.

Catch 15 fish at a spot you just discovered, however, and you’ll feel like you can jog home while towing the boat.

The second aspect I love about exploring is that I fish better. I read water, pay attention to anomalies, watch depth changes and make smarter casts. Almost invariably, that means I catch more fish, and not surprisingly, I seldom do as well on my second trip to an area as I do on my first.

That’s because on the second trip, I have history, and I tend to try to duplicate it. So I concentrate on specific spots that produced fish for me the previous trip, and ignore those that didn’t.

I regress to being a “spot fisherman” rather than a “water reader,” and that almost never works in my favor.

Wishes granted

So that means I’m constantly poring over Google Earth to find new areas that look productive to me. I find the map work almost as much fun as the trip, and I’m usually eager as hell to get on the water to see if reality matches my assumptions.

They did last month during a trip I took deep in the marshes of Plaquemines Parish.

My buddy Capt. Justin Bowles and I hit the first area I wanted to fish, and found it to be full of muddy water, so we made a big move to another area I thought looked good, and found the water to be much better.

We worked back and forth in a productive bayou, boating marsh bass and upper-slot redfish.

Did we catch them in one spot on every cast until our biceps bled? No, but the action was fantastic, and we were highly entertained. It’s an area I’ll surely visit again in the future, but as I mentioned, I probably won’t catch quite as many fish my next time there.

That’s OK because not too far away is another chunk of marsh I’ve never fished, and man, does it look really good on the map!

Now, if I can just get Ferdinand and Isabella to fund my fishing trips …

About Todd Masson 732 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.