What an angler does in preparation for their fishing trip is just as important as what he or she does on the water. What is the forecast? What are the tides? Is my tackle ready? Lures? Bait? Clothes/rain gear? These are all crucial things anglers must plan for to have a successful day on the water.
The weather seems to change by the hour this time of year. Rain, cold, wind, and even fog are all things to consider before leaving the dock. The fog has really been a factor the past few weeks. It can cause havoc on navigating these tricky shallow waters. Make sure your NAV lights are working and pay attention to your GPS. A good chart plotter makes it much easier to get from point A to B, and is a must in the fog. If heading offshore, then radar is a must in fog.
The tides will often determine when the best bite will be. Some fish prefer an incoming and some will only target the outgoing. I find that the areas I fish are the most productive on a outgoing tide, but whenever there is a good moving tide, fish usually are on the move and feeding.
Having a good selection of lures and bait to offer is a must. Top water plugs, suspending baits, and soft plastics are all great lures, but I usually try all of them before I move to another location. Fish want different things on different days, so find out what they want. If the artificials are not getting bit then I will switch to shrimp on a cork or slowly bounced across the bottom. If you can, bring enough rods rigged with these lures and baits. This way you can just grab another rod rather than taking the time to re-tie!
If you have spent any time on the water in winter then you know it is usually significantly cooler once you leave the dock. My advice to you is to layer your clothes. T-shirt, longsleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket is a good start. If you get hot, then just take a layer off. It is much easier to cool off then try to get warm. And always have some quality rain gear on standby. Frog Toggs keep you dry, they cut the wind, and they breathe so you wont get sweaty.
Good luck out there, and tight lines!
Capt. Keith Tomlinson operates Bulldog Fishin Charters out of Hernando Beach. Reach him at www.bulldogfishin.com or (352)238-3581.