- "Don't you be telling people I can put them on fishing like this
all the time," Captain Carter Hooper warned. His face was contorted
in mock horror. He knew I had him over a barrel this time.
- The temptation to play the role was overwhelming. I responded, "You
gotta be kidding! I can see the headlines now... "Fish with Captain
Carter Hooper and Catch Over 50 Speckled Trout on Topwater Baits - Guaranteed!!!"
- He grumbled, "I'II come looking for you!"
- The events leading up to this exchange were even more remarkable than
my proposed headlines indicated. They, in fact, were dramatic evidence
of the exceptional potential to be found in some portions of the Galveston
- The sun was still below the horizon when we slipped Hooper's big Boston
Whaler Outrage into the clear waters of Trinity Bay that morning. We were
just idling along, preparing for a run across the open bay, when he noticed
a sizable group of seagulls diving excitedly near the shore. There was
another boat up on the far north end of the action, so he swung wide around
the south end and quietly eased into casting position with the trolling
- Observing that the fish didn't seem to be moving, he carefully slipped
the anchor over the side. Simultaneously, we launched a Jumping Minnow
and a Ghost. Using the classic "walk the dog" retrieve, we only
moved the baits a couple of feet before the first explosion. The blowups
were violent and serious. As usual, a number of fish missed the bait. Unlike
usual, most of them didn't miss. For the next couple of hours, our greatest
problem was in keeping the gulls from taking our baits. We caught, and
mostly released, well over 50 specks. In a half a century of fishing, have
never had another topwater session to match that one.
- With well over 200 square miles of surface area, Trinity Bay is the
largest water body in the Galveston Bay Complex. Running roughly from the
southwest to the northeast, it is nearly 20 miles long and over 10 miles
wide. In addition to the many miles of wadable shorelines, it offers numerous
shell reefs, the mouth of the Trinity River, bayous, channels, spoil banks
and shell pads left over from countless oil and gas rigs. Though most of
the rigs are gone now, the shell pads are still holding fish.
- Hooper has guided the length of the upper Texas coast, but Trinity
is his home water. He grew up there. When it comes to fishing topwater
baits on his old stomping grounds, he replies, "You know how I feel
about my topwater baits. I'd rather catch them on top than any other way."
- Far too many people view this method of fishing as something reserved
only for the most advanced among fishermen. Nothing could be farther from
the truth. For those who want to learn, using topwater baits is little
more difficult than other baits. Fishing with any artificial bait is about
learning how to impart action to the lure that the fish will find enticing.
It is literally about how fast to reel, how often to twitch, when to jerk,
- Hooper says, "The biggest problem most people have with topwater
baits is not staying with them. They throw them for five or ten minutes
and, when they don't catch anything, they go back to the shrimptails they've
been catching fish on for years. Soft plastics are their confidence baits,
so they stick with them."
- He's right. Worse yet, they'll try to convince themselves that they
actually gave it a try and it didn't work. Then, the next time out, they
give it a dozen half hearted shots and retire it again. In a short period
of time, they have themselves convinced that either the baits don't work
or that they just aren't skilled enough to effectively use them. And that's
a shame. They are wrong on both counts. Once they catch a few on the surface
lures, the fish will begin to teach them how, when and where to use them.
- Hooper suggests, "The fastest way to learn these baits is to find
some working birds. When the gulls are working over the shrimp or small
bait fish at the same time the specks are chasing them to the surface,
that's when you want to throw a Ghost or a new Top Dog into the melee.
Once you get into a good session under the birds, you'll have a new confidence
bait in a matter of minutes."
- The most popular surface lures right now are the Corky, the Jumping
Minnow, the Ghost, the Super Spook and the new Top Dog, from MirrOlure.
It is not by accident that each of these features a "walk the dog"
action. They work because they effectively mimic frightened bait fish.
Unfortunately, walking the dog requires more practice to achieve than any
other retrieve. To get the desired action demands a stop and start coordination
between the rod tip and the reel. Essentially, you have to throw slack
into the line before each twitch. But once you get the hang of it, it's
no where near as difficult as it sounds.
- The good news is that these frightened bait fish do not zig-zag back
and forth in a perfect pattern. S peckled trout are not offering style
points on your performance. In fact, there are times when a beginner's
erratic retrieve provides the most successful action of the day.
- "Each of these baits, and several others, will catch fish,"
Hooper adds. "They all have slightly different actions, but they each
have their strengths under the right conditions. They are all proven performers."
- One of the deadliest genre' of the topwater clan seems to have lost
favor over recent years. That is the broken back lure. Though some would
argue that these are not true topwater baits because they dive below the
surface, it doesn't matter. If you want to experience the excitement of
violent surface strikes, try fluttering one of these under and allowing
it to wallow back to the top in shallow water. For another option, try
twitching a Pop R or a Chug Bug near shallow grass. Each of these baits
are easy to work and they make a natural step up to the more "sophisticated"
topwaters. And, a word of caution, keep a good grip on your rod when you
- "There's pretty much no wrong place to throw topwaters,"
suggests Hooper. "With the exception of when they're sulking in really
deep water, speckled trout may be susceptible to topwaters almost anywhere.
Trinity offers a number of reefs and miles of shorelines that are ideal.
As you know, I prefer to wade any time I can."
- That brings up another common misconception about this type of fishing.
Contrary to popular opinion, a lot of fish are caught on topwaters thrown
in front of a drifting boat. The accepted technique demands wading, but
the fish don't know that. Hooper's solution to the question is to let the
conditions dictate how you fish. If the water is two foot deep and the
bottom is hard sand, you can bet he's going to wade. But, if the bottom
is soft mud or the water is six foot deep, it's time to drift.
- Regarding locations, Hooper says, "I like to wade protected shorelines
during the spring and fall. On a northwest wind, the flats from Umbrella
Point up to the HL&P Pocket can be excellent. On the southeast wind
we have throughout most of the year, the east shoreline, from the Anahuac
Pocket all the way down to Smith Point, offers miles of good water for
- Any number of the shallower reefs can be waded or drifted. Some of
the reefs in the area around the Vingt-et-uns and Hodges fall into that
category. To the northwest, reefs like Dow, Beazley's and Fisher Shoals
call for drifting. During the winter, the HL&P Spillway area is a notorious
cold weather fishing hole. The well pads in the middle of the bay are great
locations for the heat of summer, but because they tend to be pretty deep,
they are generally not the best locations for fishing on top.
- Obviously, Trinity Bay presents a multitude of opportunities for fishing
topwater baits. My personal favorite is the mouth of the Trinity River.
Especially during the fall of the year, I love to throw a Ghost around
the many passes and pockets in that corner of the bay. When the first ducks
begin to arrive, this is a great redfish venue. And, if there is anything
more exciting than topwater specks, it's topwater reds. When a red blows
up on top, it can be almost frightening.
- There are two popular locations for those waders who don't have a boat.
McCollum Park offers access to the flats along the northwestern shoreline
and Fort Anahuac Park allows for drive-in wading in the Anahuac Pocket
area. Most other parts of the bay will require the use of a boat to reach.
- A few suggestions concerning gear to carry in the boat might be in
- A drift anchor is always good if you like drifting, but don't forget
a wading belt, long pants and wading boots if there's any chance you might
be going over the side. If you're going to look for working birds, don't
leave the dock without a good pair of binoculars and a strong trolling
motor. Naturally, carry a pair of polarized glasses. Then, you can round
out the inventory with your favorite popping rod. Hooper uses light to
medium action CastAway rods and Shimano (Calcutta, Chronarch or Curado)
reels. All Star, Loomis and Falcon are also popular rods, while Ambassadeur
and Quantum are other commonly seen reels.
- With regard to running boats in Trinity Bay, Hooper cautions, "This
is a huge body of water. When the weather gets rough, it can be a long
way back to the boat ramp. If you're going to run far from land, be sure
you're in enough boat to get you home."
- Anyone who has spent much time on this bay knows that, when it's right,
the fishing can be phenomenal. But, it can kick up some huge waves in a
storm. It is big enough and treacherous enough to warrant extra care from
small boaters. For those who want to learn their way around it, you'd be
well advised to find someone who already knows it well or to call a reputable
- Captain Carter Hooper, a member of H&H Hunting & Fishing, can
be reached at (281) 573-3272 - (713) 962-7633. ( Also guides for tarpon
during the summer.) Just tell him you want to catch over 50 specks from
an anchored boat on topwater baits!
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