, Port Arthur, Texas


November 10, 2012

Chester Moore column: Five keys to catching trophy fish


Three years ago, I developed a system of targeting big fish of any kind. It is called F.L.E.X. Fishing ® and it involves a scientific, systematic approach to angling.

This week I thought it would be fun to share five of the keys to deciding if an area has true big fish potential.

Here we go.

History---A water body with a history of producing big fish of the variety you prefer is an obvious for what you are looking to accomplish.  If you find an area with either a consistent history of producing monster fish in line with a recent history trending toward big fish you are in good shape.

If an angler wanted to catch a 25-plus inch speckled trout he could study the western reaches of Louisiana and find out it has produced a whole lot of those in the past. However, when looking at recent history it would become obvious that fishery has declined in trophy production in recent years and chances of catching a fish of that size are not as great as they could be.

If you looked up the Lower Laguna Madre near Port Mansfield you would find out there is a rich history of big trout production and recent trends due to our next factor show it producing more than ever. This is the kind of area that fits perfectly into a F.L.E.X. scenario.

Management---An area not managed for big fish will not consistently produce big fish. There is simply too much intelligent angling pressure out there to make this possible in most of the continental United States. Guides in eastern Louisiana are constantly advertising trophy speckled trout with photos at sports shows and on the websites.

However, the fish they are showing are a rarity in those areas because the state allows the harvest of 25 trout per day in that region of the state. Big fish are not common. If you go to southwestern Louisiana near Lake Calcasieu, anglers can only retain 15 and only two a day 25 inches or larger. This area is a big trout magnet. This is similar to Lower Laguna Madre which cut the trout bag limit to 5 and has seen a huge rebound in mature fish putting it way over East Matagorda Bay for trophy fish. Any of the key water bodies for producing big fish will have a management principle in place.

Pressure---This ties in with two types of location: water body and specific spots on a water body. Nowadays it is rare to find a water body that produces lots of big fish that is lightly pressured. In the information age, people find out about big catches in real time and respond accordingly. Sam Rayburn gets a lot of pressure but the open water areas of main lake cover do not.

The shorelines get beat up but quite often the areas where the biggest bass dwell get very very little. A dream scenario is a water body that gets very little angling pressure and fishing a kind of location that gets even less. I fish a stretch of distant bayou in the Louisiana marsh for flounder and rarely see other anglers. Even fewer are targeting the deeper cuts I focus on and it in turn produces lots of big fish. These places are super rare but special.

Seasonality---Fish are driven by a variety of seasonal urges and timing in particular areas that can literally enhance the chance of catching monster fish tenfold. Probably the greatest example is with redfish. The huge spawning-sized specimens congregate in the nearshore Gulf in late summer and early fall in large numbers. There will sometimes be literal acres of them.

By targeting these areas during the spawn period the chances of catching the fish of a liftetime are off the charts. The same goes for largemouth bass spawning in the spring, flounder migrating in spring and out in fall and other migration and breeding rituals of fish.

Phenomenon---This is the wild card of our destination selection process. Natural phenomena occur that can be extremely valuable in your quests. They are not common but when they happen, you need to be on the water. Savvy bass anglers know that when reservoirs experience prolonged drought and then go back up to pool level what is known as the “new lake effect” occurs. The system for several years become super rich in habitat and nutrients due to the vegetation that grew on the lake bed during the drought.

The lakes become red hot for a season or two for producing monster bass. Three years ago, Lake O.H. Ivie near San Angelo, TX was going through one of these production spikes and produced more Sharelunkers than any other lake in Texas during 2010. In fact, one angler caught two on the same day and then after the season closed caught another over 13.

My best flounder trips ever have been during tropical storm conditions when tides ran super high and the flounder went crazy feeding on the baitfish that was pouring into the marsh. If you keep a log, you will find that certain special situations will turn on the fish you are pursuing and when it happens you need to make the time to fish.

Catching fish consistently has nothing to do with luck. It is about how you approach things and I believe integrating a system into angling efforts makes all the difference in the world if you want to catch your dream fish.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at



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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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