At the corner of E. 29th St. and Highway 1 in Larose, a group of men gather every morning to discuss life in south Louisiana. Whether it is LSU football, politics or, in my dad’s case, fishing, this nonchalant McDonald’s somehow earmarked tradition.
You see, my dad, Charlie Bush, was a late bloomer to the group. He happened to “keep showing up” when he started fishing out of Cut Off many years ago. Whispers of broken Cajun French quietly morphed into a welcoming embrace from the nearly 20 men that met daily. Unfortunately, that group is down to around 10, and my dad’s age of 73 rounds out the bottom. Although I no longer live and fish in Louisiana, visits back home for the holidays and other special occasions offers me the right to join my dad and his newfound posse.
Like most groups, it’s daunting to be an outsider. Proper use of manners and respect certainly go a long way, but the right of acceptance is when the men feel comfortable enough to start including you on many of their jokes — normally as the punchline. I say all this, simply to put into perspective that traditions are admirable yet require some change to keep from going obsolete. Much is the case for my father in this instance. His acceptance gave the group new life, in turn allowing me to share that with you.
Like father, like son
Like so many times before, my dad and I shared a quiet drive to a nearby launch — this day was no different. Blessed beyond belief, we pinch ourselves knowing that both he and I grew up fishing the most diverse fishery in the lower 48. Giving thanks for that, we recite a quick rosary led by CD, make small talk and, at some point, collaborate on a fishing game plan. As the headlights light the way through the darkness, our minds race with distinct clarity to the teeming waters filled with speckled trout and other gamefish. Our artificial-only approach complicates things, but adjusting our techniques through time and persistence has cemented over time our “ONLY” way to fish.
Growing up under his teaching, I got first-hand exposure to the art of fishing. From basics like lure selection to advanced subjects like boat positioning and lure presentation as it relates to bottom contour, he taught me the lure-only way of life. As a testament to his teaching and our approach, our efforts in 1995 logged nearly 11,000 trout in 124 trips. Almost 20 years later, my dad by himself tagged slightly more than 12,000 speckled trout in four years for the TAG Louisiana Trout tagging program, earning him Louisiana’s Top Trout Tagging Honor from 2015 to 2017. I share his results with a great sense of pride because never once did he deviate from his approach. Instead, he refined, challenged and learned new techniques, becoming more versatile given the day’s conditions. On this particular journey, it was one of those days.
As we pulled into our first spot, a quaint main-bay shoreline fringed by a mix of grasses, he quietly unsheathed from rod tubes in his Maverick 18HPX, rods with Matrix Shads in green hornet color threaded onto 3/16-ounce jigheads. These lures were the perfect search tool. The sun, now a full glow to the East, gave us distinct visual indication that baitfish were present, along with the last of the incoming tide.
Remaining patient, we used the trolling motor to cover water, fan-casting to isolated ledges a noticeable distance from the dense marsh oozing with a unique fog. Clearly our genius gameplan lacked caffeine in the truck, since we had nothing to show for our efforts, but as the morning pressed on, so did our imagination. Clues led us to believe that with the deepening water column, trout transitioned deeper onto the grass flat in search of an easy meal. With little to lose, we chose MirrOlure MirrOdines to give us both castability and the fishability we desired, especially with the slow, subtle descent of the tiny twitchbait. Shortly after our adjustment, we were both greeted with bent rods and unmistakable headshakes. Like addicts seeking another fix, we presented an offering to our willing dealers, and they responded.
For hours, we picked on a limit of beautiful trout in slow, steady fashion. When one drift fizzled, we found the same suitable alternative and the fish responded. They did this until the water retreated with the falling tide.
Tradition vs. change
Experiences like this have seared my memory over the course of my fishing life. Far too many times from the back deck, I learned that an open mind and confidence in your ability often catches more fish. I’ve seen jerkbaits work over deep shell, lightweight jigs tickle the top of grass and topwaters explode in the surf. Three remarkably distinct techniques, with one goal in mind: catching a trout.
Sadly, too much time passes between our trips now; such is life. However, on this particular journey, I was reminded that tradition sets the foundation, and that change transcends the obsolete to the relevant. My dad has certainly done that in his angling life. However, the long pole in the tent is, do we as anglers embrace the same challenge? Do we set the boat on a path to explore the splendor of our fishery, challenging our imagination and our angling capabilities? Or do we remain fairly one-dimensional and seek for excuses? I’ve been fortunate to see the answer key, and targeting trout in unconventional ways is the path to angling consistency.
So from one passionate trout angler to another, I extend a hand to putting more sport into sportfishing. After all, it will make catching trout the tradition!
- Casting Rod: Wager Custom Rod St. Croix SC3 Blank
- Power: Medium
- Action: Fast
- Length: 6-foot-6
- Line weight: 8 to 14 pounds
- Lure weight: 1/8- to 1/2-ounce
- Casting reel: Shimano Curado K
- Line: Stren Magnathin, 12-pound test (fall/winter), 17-pound test (spring/summer).
- Leader: Seguar Red Label 20-pound flourocarbon
Charlie Bush’s top 5 lures
- Matrix Shad
Soft plastics offer the most versatility. Whether that’s finding fish as a search tool or dialing up a bite shallow or deep, soft plastics provide that capability. He prefers more natural colors but will throw brighter colors (lemonhead and pink champagne) as conditions dictate. His favorite colors are green hornet and ultra violet.
- MirrOlure MirrOlip L30
Charlie Bush prefers to throw lipped jerkbaits in the fall and late spring/summer. In the fall, he prefers a falling tide when throwing jerkbaits, and in the spring/summer he prefers lighter tide days (a foot or less), either incoming or outgoing. This is a great way to target bigger bites in an area holding plenty of fish.
- Rapala Skitterwalk
Fishing topwaters is easily the most-exciting way to fish, but it can also be the most productive at times. Although he throws them less in the winter, Charlie Bush does throw them 12 months out of the year. He prefers the Skitterwalk because of its castability, profile and sound.
- Capt Lane’s Ghostminnow or Cajun Lures T-John
Similar in concept to the Matrix Shad, these lures provide versatility but with a distinct difference: their size. The smaller profile of the “darter” style baits allow you to fish deeper with a lighter jighead in a smaller profile. This can be super effective when fishing grass flats or rock structures like jetties.
- MirrOlure HeavyDine (18MR) or MirrOdine (17MR)
The conditions dictates the choice of these slow-sink, suspending baits. In breezier/heavier tide conditions, Charlie Bush chooses the HeavyDine since its sink rate is a foot every 0.98 seconds. In calmer, shallower or lighter tide conditions he prefers a MirrOdine since its sink rate is a foot every 2.01 seconds. His favorite colors are 18, 49, 808 and CFPR.