Testing the waters before the storm
Since there are two months between local tournaments, it’s time to explore the bays and find that thing none of the other tournament anglers know of or will do to produce the winning fish.
I have already started at the ditch (intercoastal) in East Bay and worked both banks to the Panama City Marina. I worked both banks of Shell Island from the buildings in the back to the pass. Now I am going to work North Bay on both sides from the dam to the Hathaway Bridge.
I left the Bailey Bridge landing at 7 a.m. and headed for the dam. Due to the wind with the incoming sub-tropical storm, I started at the Deer Point dam landing and began working the northwest shoreline. I threw a 4-inch paddle tail on a 3/16th jig head, working it slow across the bottom with the twitch method and straight retrieve.
The water was stained from the rain, and I was told they did a drain-down at the dam, which mucked it up. I was hoping to sight fish and have visibility to track the bottom, but apparently that wasn’t going to work. So I fan cast, and checked the machine and Down Vu every so often to try to get an idea of the bottom, the flats and the movement of the fish.
Immediately I noticed there wasn’t much for flats just below the dam; it was short banks with quick drop-offs. I threw into the shallows, jigged it off the drop-offs and let it set, or worked it slow trying to find any fish running the drop-offs. I immediately got small thumps and short strikes. I assumed it was pinfish or small trout.
As it continued to happen, I set hook and it was Mangrove snapper. I had been fishing a school of Mangrove and marked that on the machine. I let him go, and threw the other direction since I wasn’t there for Mangrove. I drifted about 100 yards from the Mangrove and found a mudflat. I threw a little deeper on the flat, felt a thump, and the drag took off. It was a 25.5-inch red weighing in at 5.5 pounds.
I worked past the docks, and the kids in kayaks and found another flat with a cut that pushed back about 100 yards. I poled down and fished the mouth of the cut, in the current. On the fourth cast and thump — heavy but no drag peeling. It was a gorged redfish that apparently ate a mess of blue crabs since it was 19 inches, 3.5 pounds and vomited two blue crabs up in the boat while I was unhooking it.
I threw back in the same spot and hooked up again. This time a little drag was peeled, and I landed a 23-inch, 4-pound red. I left that spot, not to high pressure everything, and moved farther up the bank.
At the next area, a long grass flat with clean water, I immediately noticed mullet, pinfish and glass minnows. I also noticed it became very still, the sky turned grey, and the yellow flies appeared in full force. I made it about 150 yards down the flat and the sky opened on me.
I called it a day and headed for the landing as sub-tropical storm Alberto had arrived.