Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tackle whores are ready, willing and more than able

Sponsor decals are prominent on this kayak.
I am intrigued by the number of weekend anglers out there who are "sponsored" by companies who make rods, reels, lures, lines, leaders, kayaks and other merchandise.

My feeling is that many of those weekend anglers are duping these companies. However, I don't believe you can be duped unless you want to be duped.

I'll never forget a local fellow who worked in a local tackle shop and guided part=time. I mean really part-time. He did maybe two or three charters a month.

But he was sponsored.

He somehow convinced a nationally known outdoor writer to fly to Sarasota and fish with him during tarpon season. Even though the guide had a terrible reputation, the outdoor writer somehow managed to hook and land a tarpon.

After landing the fish, they decided a few photos were apropos. But before the camera was out of the bag, the guide removed the hook from the tarpon's mouth (they caught the fish on a live crab), cut it off and replaced it with a Rat-L-Trap.

Seems as if the guide was "sponsored" by Rat-L-Trap.

I'm on the water nearly every day. I don't have time to sit in front of the computer and email tackle companies, line manufacturers or lure makers to solicit sponsorship. When I get home after a day on the water, I've got kayaks and tackle to clean. Plus, I have to get ready for the next day's trip.

Meanwhile, Peter Pro Staff is sitting in front of a computer at his day job surfing the Internet and sending out email inquiries about sponsorships.

He misses more than he hits. But he does hit every once in a while.

Sooner or later, he's collected a stable of sponsors. He gets his kayak(s), rods, reels, line, lures and even apparel at a decent discount.

Meanwhile, some who work full-time on the water go without.

Here's a classic look at these "tackle whores:"

What a "Pro Staffer" actually gets is a discount . Most companies don't expect much in return.

One company that I used to be affiliated initiated a "Pro Staff" program. That's cool, but the collection of Pro Staffers that it attracted was laughable. One of the new Pro Staff was a guy who works full-time for a living in retail and fishes maybe a half dozen times a year. Another new Pro Staffer just a started fishing out of their kayaks and applied to the program. He was accepted without question.

Another Florida angler who resides on Florida's east coast is a Pro Staffer for several companies. And that person always pay tribute to sponsors on Facebook at every opportunity.

"If it wasn't for my Big Fish Gloves, Lunker Line, Realto Rods, Supreme Reels, Fishy Kayak and Fred's Fishing Shirt, I couldn't have caught this redfish. Thanks!"

Are you kidding me?

But the sponsors get plenty of exposure on Facebook from the person. They don't get much exposure from that person on the water because he or she only does  a half dozen charters a year.

Yet that person has more sponsorships than most full-timers!

They're all the same. Their vehicles are covered with sponsor decals. Ditto for their kayaks. The only trouble is they usually don't fish all that much.

They're known as tackle whores. Only problem is, they take all they can get, but don't put out very much.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

VuDu Shrimp is magical on a variety of fish species

This spotted seatrout inhaled a VuDu Shrimp on the first cast!
What I love most about the various social medias is that I get to see what folks in other regions are catching and what they're using.

When I saw fishing guru Jerry McBride's impressive catches on Facebook, I took note of a lure I hadn't seen before.

VuDu Shrimp are tough and come in many colors.
The lure looked very real and accounted for a variety of large fish.

I contacted McBride and asked what lure he was using.

"Vudu Shrimp," he replied.

I checked local tackle shops in Sarasota, Fla., where I run Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing (, but was unsuccessful in locating Vudu Shrimp. I figured I'd just have to order a few.

A week later,  I received a package of lures to review from Darryl Barrs, publisher of The Fisherman's Journal. Lucky me. There were two packs of VuDu Shrimp among the bounty.

Next trip out, I had a Vudu Shrimp tied on a light rig.

I'm not easily impressed. Nor am I eager to try things out of my realm of familiarity. But if Jerry McBride is impressed,  that's good enough for me.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but I really did catch a feisty spotted seatrout on my first cast! I was fishing four to six feet of water in Sarasota Bay off Stephens Point. On the day, I caught and released 50 seatrout, several ladyfish, a mackerel and two pompano  -- on one Vudu Shrimp.

Talk about durable!

Vudu Shrimp are made by Egret Baits ( in Many, La. I'm sure the lures work well on Cajun redfish and trout. But catching finicky Florida fish is another matter.

The lures look very realistic and come in a variety of colors. My lures were VuDu Tiger and VuDu Natural.

Toothy fish are always a concern when fishing plastic lures. I've subsequently found that Vudu Shrimp are no match for bluefish and/or mackerel. Even the Kevlar weave through the plastic body can't prevent a blue or mackerel from cutting through your leader. But that's not the lure's fault.

What intrigued me was the lure's toughness. I caught nearly 60 fish the first time out, and my VuDu Shrimp was still in good enough shape to use again.

I tried a variety of retrieves. I cast it out and jigged it in. I worked it like a live shrimp. On occasion, I simply
reeled the shrimp in slowly.

All retrieves caught fish.

I'm going to put a Vudu Shrimp under a popping cork next time out and see what happens.

You'll want to fish a VuDu Shrimp on a light rod.  The lure is small and doesn't cast well on heavy line or gear. A light rod with 8-pound braided line is perfect.

I reported my experience to the folks at Egret and they weren't surprised.

"Glad the fish in Florida like out product," the company responded.

VuDu Shrimp come two to a pack and retail for $6.99.

Since that initial experience, I've used Vudu Shrimp in a variety of situations. And I've added redfish, snook and silver trout to my list of species caught on the shrimp.

And, oh, yeah, I forget to mention that Jerry McBride caught some lunker largemouth bass, monster bluegill and slab-sized speckled perch (crappie) on them.

Vudu Shrimp are versatile lures that hold up against constant pounding.

'Nuff said.

Cold weather can produce hot fishing in the Sunshine State

Dave Robinson of Sarasota, Fla., shows off a cold-weather redfish that was caught in early afternoon.

It doesn't get all that cold in Florida. That's the main reason I moved to the Sunshine State back in 1971.

This trout came from a channel.
But every once in a while, the mercury will plummet , the wind will whip down from the north and we actually have to put on a pair of long pants (I own one pair).

When it does get severely cold, fishing tactics must change. Fish are affected, and anglers have to resort to different strategies.

Flash back to the freeze of 2010. That's the year fisheries biologists estimate at least 10 percent of the snook along Florida's west coast were killed by the cold. And few people even both to mention the number of jack crevalle, catfish and other species that perished.

During that period, most folks were having much difficulty catching fish in their usual spots. In fact, a 10-fish day was considered good.

I happened to discover a spot that held plenty of fish. I stumbled upon it, but realized there was a reason the fish were there. It was a channel connecting two bays and the deeper water was a degree or two warmer than surrounding areas. In addition, the channel's dark mud bottom absorbed the sun's warmth and held it.
Small lures can pay off with large fish.

It was a luxury hangout for spotted seatrout, ladyfish, flounder, redfish and other species.

During that period, my clients and I averaged 50 fish per outing.  That pattern produced for a month.

Fish are cold-blooded. And when cold weather drops the water temperature, fish go into winter mode. Their metabolism slows and they don't feed as often or eat as much as they do in winter months.

So, your tactics must also change.

First, you must find the fish. That's an essential concept no matter what the weather. Find the fish, and you can usually figure out a way to catch them.

Once you find them, you've got to figure out how to catch them.

Scaling down my approach works best for me. I'll use smaller lures and work them slower than normal. My thinking is that a fish isn't going to expend more energy chasing down a bait that it will derive from eating it.

Typically, I will use a 1/16-ounce jig head and small grub during colder weather. I've also found that lures like the new Vudu Shrimp work well when worked slowly.

I use lighter lines than during the warmer months. My "go-to" rig has 5-pound braided line on it. And if targeting "non-toothy" fish, I'll go as light as 15-pound fluorocarbon for my shock leader.

Docks are great places to target winter fish. And you'll often find deeper holes around docks that are dug out by outboard engines.

A few years ago when I was the host of Fishing Paradise on SNN in Sarasota, we shot a segment on Charlotte Harbor. We found plenty of fish, but they were quite lethargic in the morning cold.

In early afternoon, we pulled into a cove that had a dark mud bottom. The fish were a little more active and we caught enough redfish on fly to produce a good show.

Canals often have deeper water, dark bottoms and docks. Those three ingredients are key to successful fishing.

When you're fishing in cold, it's wise to dress accordingly. I will layer so that I can remove clothing as the day warms up. In addition, to long pants, I'll wear a T-shirt, fishing shirt and jacket. I'll also wear neoprene flats boots.

In Florida, low tides and cold weather go hand-in-hand. When we have extreme low tides, sand holes are prime fishing spots. Fish sometimes have little choice but to drop into those holes until the tides comes up. And when that happens, it's like having your own private, stocked pond.

Tidal rivers are another option. Snook move into these rivers in good numbers during winter. The rivers usually are a little deeper, have water that's a few degrees warmer and dark mud bottoms.

Kayaks are perfect choices as fishing vessels during winter. They're stealthy, can navigate low water and are quite comfortable.

I own Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing ( and use Jackson Kayaks. My personal boat, a 14.5 Jackson Cuda, works well in virtually every situation.

When cold weather hits the Sunshine State, I'm usually prepared and able to catch fish.

December produced a variety of fish in a variety of conditions

Nick Roberts, 19, holds an impressive Myakka River snook that was caught on a MirrOlure Lil John on a light jighead.

December covered virtually every weather situation: sun, wind, rain, cold and warm.

Despite unpredictable and in consistent weather, fishing was fairly good.

Early in the month, Frank Jablonski of Venice joined us for an outing on Sarasota Bay. We fishing the deep grass off Stephens Point and managed 50 spotted seatrout, along with Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish. Most of the fish were caught on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with copper crush or gold paddle tails and the new VuDu Shrimp.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me for a day of fly fishing in the Everglades. The two of us combined to catch more than 300 fish, including oscar, largemouth bass, bluegill, stumpknocker and Mayan cichlid.

The Everglades visit showed us that the oscar have rebounded quite well following the 2010 freeze. Vinny and I estimated that we caught 150 oscar between the two of us. Our fish came on popping bugs and Myakka Minnows.

Fly anglers Chris Francis and son Graham from Montana joined me for a pair of outings and experienced slow conditions on one and decent production on the other. We fished the Myakka River on one trip, but couldn't find any snook.

We fished the deep grass off Stephens Point in Sarasota Bay and did fair. We caught 40 spotted seatrout, several Spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, silver trout and sugar trout.

John Elliott and his son, Andrew, fished the river and had a fair day. They landed snook to 35 inches and a spotted on MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jig heads.

Tim Roberts and his son, Nick, were next up on the river. They managed three snook to 32 inches, a spotted gar and a small bass on Lil Johns on light jig heads.

Snook action on the river has been slow to date,  but I expect it to improve after the first of the year -- especially if we get some cold weather. I always tell clients that they're just one cast from a 25-30-pound snook when fishing the river.

Repeat client Jason Beary of Pennsylvania fly fished with me in Sarasota Bay off Stephens Point and did well. We totaled 40 spotted seatrout to 17 inches, four mackerel and several ladyfish on synthetic Clouser Deep Minnows and MirrOlure MirrOdines (mini).

Steve Sorrell of New York, also a repeat client had a decent day despite wind and cold. We fished the Buttonwood Harbor area along the west side of Sarasota Bay and caught flounder, spotted seatrout, redfish, snook, bluefish, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with paddle tails, MirrOlure MirrOdines and Johnson Sprite Spoons.

I look for large snook action to improve on the Myakka River. Last year, the first and second weeks of January were the top periods for snook. We caught snook up to 44 inches, along with several small tarpon during that period.

In Sarasota Bay, I look for continued action on spotted seatrout, jack crevalle, bluefish to 5 pounds, Spanish mackerel to 5, redfish, flounder and, of course, ladyfish.

Happy New Year and good fishing!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406