Wednesday, I fished the Matagorda Beach near the Jetty Park for the first time. Again, I’m hunting for bull reds.
I stopped in Rawlings’ Bait Camp to pick up some dead mullet and shrimp and get some insight on probable beach fishing locations and drivability on the beach. But darn, no crab today.
The tide was at its peak when I arrived at the beach. Sunbathers arrived throughout the day spacing about 200 yards apart. The wind was steady. Shrimping boats were seen throughout the day. No diving pelicans; no surface activity. Waves pounded my chest standing in knee deep water and the current was very strong. I started preparing my mind for a tough day…it happens.
I grabbed my inshore rod with a cream-colored swimbait and tossed it into the surf. The wind prevented me from achieving any casting distance…I could not reach the holes potentially holding fish. I pulled my hat down trying to keep it from flying off in the wind.
Looks like I will be throwing an 8-ounce breakaway spider weight to maximize the casting distance. I grabbed my 12-ft PENN Carnage II rod and fastened my PENN 525 Mag reel. My mainline is 40-pound PowerPro braid, which I attach a 20-foot shock leader made from 50-pound fluorocarbon line. The rig I attach to the shock leader is called a pulley rig.
Then I attached a shrimp sausage—three-shrimp wrapped in a mesh material much like a lady’s nylon stocking—using two hooks in a pennel rig fashion.
Before I make my first cast for the day, I grab a bottle of water and pour it over the spooled line. Wet braid seems to behave better than dry braid, i.e. experience fewer initial backlash issues and breakoffs.
First cast yields a shovel nose shark. Subsequent casts yielded a couple of hardhead catfish but often nothing but an empty hook. Heavy weight, large hook, wave action, and current are all apparently working to the advantage of the nibblers. Time to setup up my 13½-ft Shakespeare Agility rod and start fishing with cut mullet.
It was not a good day of casting for me. I could not consistently cast against the wind, pounding waves, and poor footing. I had five breakoffs, i.e. the mainline snaps and the rigging sails into the distant surf to be lost forever. Each breakoff was caused by a reel overrun (backlash) while the rig was in flight. I would subsequently increase reel breaking and further unwind the star drag.
Each breakoff requires a new 20-ft shock leader be fastened to the braid and a new pulley rig in pennel fashion be set up. There are many leader knots. For excellent performance and ease of tying, I use the Half hitch/Uni knot combination, i.e. tie a half hitch in shock leader, pass braid through half hitch before pulling tight, and then tie the braid to the leader using a 10-turn Uni Knot. The knot has never failed for me, whether casting or landing a 25-pound fish. Incidentally, the Uni knot is perhaps the most useful beach fishing knot for braid line. Strong and reliable, it can be used to make rigs, attach hooks, make sliding stoppers, and join pieces of line. It may be the only braid knot you ever need.
I’m not done once I rerig following a breakoff. I walk up to the water’s edge, drop my weight, and walk along the shoreline unwinding my reel as I walk. I strip line until I’m confident there are no loose coils on the reel. Walking the shoreline also wets the braid for the next cast.
As the day wore on I ran out of mullet and had to return to shrimp. It wasn’t very successful earlier in the day, so I needed to experiment. I made a shrimp sausage, but this time, instead of fastening with a pennel rig, I fastened the sausage to a single circle hook using a rubber band. Success, a hammerhead shark, and still have bait on the hook. Well, it was short lived as I suffered two more breakoffs in succession, upon which I retired for the day.
The catch for the day—2 hardheads, 1 gaftop, 1 shovelnose, and 1 hammerhead. One cast did manage to snare a previous breakoff and return it to me minus the bait.
An educational day, but not a satisfying fishing day.