, Port Arthur, Texas


February 5, 2014

Chester Moore column: Time to visit chuggers for trout, reds

PORT ARTHUR —   Now is the time anglers are starting to catch big trout wading the flats in Calcasieu, Sabine and in the Galveston Bay complex.

  Their winter metabolism is slow so to target the big ones anglers like slow-sinking plastics or topwaters fished at a snail pace.

  In my opinion, many anglers are doing themselves a disservice by not fishing chugging type of lures, relying solely on walking plug. A classic example of a chugger is the Chug Bug while for a walker it would be the Super Spook.

  Chuggers are highly underrated for catching big trout and during the winter, their more leisurely pace loud “sploosh” can grab the attention of big sows in the bays. That is why I got a better blowup to hookup ratio on the day described above.

  We often think of fish as voracious predators that cannot wait to get their mouths on whatever bait or lure we offer them. Reality is much different. We must remember that fish are cold-blooded and water temperatures dictate how they feed and respond to lures.

  During winter, I start by using the following pattern using mainly the Splasher by Sebile.

  Cast. Chug. Wait five seconds. Chug again.

  Then if that does not work, use the same pattern but wait only three seconds. It is difficult to fish this way, since it is a lot more fun to make a topwater move fast, but crawling it along can be super effective.

  Start fishing your plugs with a slow retrieve and increase gradually. Never fish as fast as you would in summer or fall. Even on warm days, trout are not as active as they are during those warmer periods. Despite this relative inactivity, some of the best trout of the year are caught.

  I also think the biggest trout are simply a lot more wary and if something looks like its moving slower and is easier to catch they are genetically programmed to attack it first instead of expending calories on something that would require more effort.

 The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department for years been tinkering with genetics to create a strain of largemouths that would more readily bite angler’s lures and baits for stocking in urban community lakes.

  They know Florida’s get lockjaw soon in life and I believe there is a dividing line on trout from a genetic perspective to simply be more cautious. I do not think most fish “learn” with age as studies have shown their memories are very short, however, genetic programming could be the answer to why certain fish get big and others do not.

  I do not think it is all growth genes but also a caution gene that makes them less likely to end up hooked.

  Something moving super slow that is about the size of a mullet and that can perhaps the fish have not seen before could offer a real advantage for an angler looking for that big winter speck.

  They are also great for anglers who are topwater fishing novices. Let’s face it, not everyone can properly “walk the dog” but anyone can fish a chugger.

  I like to use them on super lines like Berkley Fireline or Spider Wire because my style of hookset involves no true hookset.

  With a super line with no stretch, you can do this easily. I let the fish strike and when it starts to run with the plug, I steadily raise my rod tip, start reeling in, and rarely miss fish when I do so. When there is no stretch in the line, there is no give and therefore hooks go where they need to go.

  Besides knowing how to fish topwaters in the winter, an equally important element is locating mullet. After all, topwaters mimic mullet.

  While some anglers might get the idea that it is necessary to find large concentrations of the popular forage species, perceptive anglers know small pockets lead to more success.

  An easy way to find them and the trout is to watch the tide charts and fish days where the tides are running high in the afternoon, and fish mud flats nearby deep water adjacent to spots like the Intracoastal Waterway.

  Black mud in the clear water warms quickly and draws baitfishes and their predators from nearby deep-water haunts. Additionally, the warmer water kick-starts the metabolism of specks and gets them feeding more aggressively.

  Chuggers are also great for redfish and I in fact have caught reds in Venice, La. measuring more than 40 inches on the Sebile Splasher. Reds will hit them year-round. Trout will too for that matter but I think in the winter when the hunt for the big ones is on, it is time to rethink putting them in your arsenal.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can watch him on Saturdays at 10 a.m. on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore” and listen to “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.)

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     Summer is one of the best times to seek catfish in Southeast Texas and thankfully, for local anglers without a boat, there are catfish in just about every canal, drainage ditch and bayou in the area.
      Fishing from the bank has its disadvantages but there is a way around it. This involves making the fish come to you.
      European catfish and carp anglers who typically fish exclusively from the bank use a system called “ground baiting,” which involves putting chum out with the bait. They attach a small cylindrical device above their swivel, which holds chum and dispenses it as the water rushes by. The problem is these rigs are not readily available in our marketplace.
      However, with a little ingenuity, taking a 35-millimeter film canister, punching a hole in the bottom and on the lid and then punching more holes along the side can make a similar device. This acts as a perfect chumming device and is very inexpensive.
      Not everyone has film canisters these days so the softer plastic aspirin bottles will also get the job done.
      Rig this above your swivel and weight, and then fill it with your favorite chum. Now you will not only be chumming the area you fish in but also bringing fish directly to your bait.
      Any kind of chum will work, but a mixture I have had some success with was menhaden oil (available through many mail order offshore supply catalogs) mixed with soured milo. The oil creates a huge chum slick and when it mixes with the milo, the smell is almost unbearable, which means catfish love it. The best part is that a little bit goes a long way.
     Something else to consider is using jack mackerel as bait.
     This oily fish is available in larger supermarkets in a can for less than $1, and I can attest it will bring in fish. While fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and tagging sharks for the Mote Marine Laboratory, my partners and I were able to chum in and catch nearly 40 sharks while using less than two cans of the stuff. It is oily and stinks to high heaven, so catfish should love it.
      For anglers interested in using film canisters to chum their bait, something else to consider is the use of a popping cork. Even if your bait is on the bottom, you can rig a popping cork above it and attach a baited film canister below. This will allow you to do some extra chumming and use the cork to “pop” the chum out whenever you want to release more.
     Another great tip for land bound anglers is to use braided line. In talking with several anglers who pursue brackish blues from the bank, I have learned that loosing striking fish can be a problem.
      I am not sure as to the reason but a definitely solution is using a braided line because they have no stretch. When making long casts with monofilament from the bank you have the potential for lots of line stretch when can make a poor hookset.
     Sixty yards of line might have five or six feet of stretch and that is plenty for a big blue to undo. When using a braid like Fireline, Gorilla Braid or Spiderwire you can forego these problems and greatly enhance your chances of putting some catfish in the frying pan.
     (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at and watch him Saturdays on on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore”.)

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