When I first started kayak fishing, it was really difficult to launch without some live shrimp in my yak. It was a crutch, I’d have a full tackle box full of lures, but I’d just usually babysit the live shrimp on a popping cork instead. That’s how I caught most of my reds in my first few kayak fishing videos. I wanted to grow and learn so I started doing tournaments like the Lonestar Kayak Series, which are generally artificial-only.
I came across Sonny Mills on the Texas Kayak Fisherman Facebook page. He posted a video and I watched him paddle, then stop and look at a swirl in the grass line. He casted to it and fish on! Then he did it again. And again. He limited out in that video. As a noob, I immediately asked him where this was at. As a nice guy, he said sorry he couldn’t give it up, we was planning on fishing it for a tourney. That’s when I wanted to step my game up and give up live shrimp. I wanted to sight fish, but casting a live shrimp on a cork in shallow water might spook them. Presentation is everything in skinny water. You need to be familiar with a few types of lures and to be ready when a Red shows itself. I had all these artificals, but I just had to use them, to actually learn them. So I joined the tourney to force myself to use lures.
I caught a trout and a redfish at my first LSKS tourney. I randomly met Tino (Jurassic Park Fishing aka AcousticTennis) for the first time at the FM 2004, Chocolate Bayou launch. Ironically, despite the topic of this blog post, I caught them on Logic Lures Tandem Rig and Vudu Shrimp. When I got to the weigh-in (with my barely legal 20 inch Red), I did what I usually do and just watched, observed and got my learn on. I listened to all the anglers, every one of them. The common thread I heard was, “Caught them on GULP! and a popping cork.”
Wait, what? It turns out when you can’t see the fish (sight fish) or find the fish, your back up is a popping cork and GULP!. On tourney days, when you can’t find them you post up at a drainage and pop that cork for hours. Eventually, they’ll come through that drain (if you’re lucky). The popping cork sounds draws them in and moves the bait while the GULP! scent seals the deal.
Watch how effective a popping cork and GULP! shrimp can be on big redfish:
I had a chance to fish with Sonny a few times since then and learned so much with every trip–even trips where we don’t catch anything. Yes, even Sonny gets skunked sometimes. We’d paddle a marsh system for hours, just looking for signs. Biggest lesson I learned from him was with marsh fishing, you do way more paddling than casting. Anytime someone asks me about skinny water fishing I just drop them a link to his blog: TailTailSigns.com. I’m like, “Here’s everything you need to know, read this and then go fish bro.”
On my first trip down to Louisiana, TJ met me around 6 pm with the mission to put me on some redfish in Fourchon. I had never met TJ in person, but we were homies instantly, brothers. When I fish a new spot Ilike to fish as the locals do. TJ, aka “Jedi Cork Master” was fishing with Bayou Buck Popping Corks and GULP! Shrimp LSU (purple/chartreuse). I watched him cast and pop and catch. And catch. I on the other hand, just casted. And casted. And casted. After dark, I came into my element and we fished some dock lights and loaded up on some specks. I observed and learned the ways of the cork master.
Next day was tourney day. I put my trolling motor away and paddled out with a GULP! and popping cork and a popping strategy. I lost my first one (this has now become a regular scenario for me). Then I hooked and landed my first Louisiana red on a GULP! and popping cork. I officially became obsessed with redfish. It was a 24 inch Red, they said it was small. Didn’t even weigh it in.
Here’s what TJ taught me about popping corks: Pop it hard. Vary it up and pause. Pop, pop, pause, pop, pause, pop, pop, pop, pause. You’re trying to imitate a nervous shrimp trying to desperately flee. That’s what I think about when I pop my cork. It’s different than live shrimp–it doesn’t move if you don’t pop it. Pop that cork. Pop it HARD.
Photo: Make sure you keep this popping cork and GULP! shrimp combo on your kayak every time you fish the marsh.
Rex DeGuzman’s Go-To Popping Cork And GULP! Combo
I’m still learning and will continue to learn more and more with each trip. Once I learn something, I like to share it back out and help the next guy trying to improve his game. So, here’s my go-to popping cork combo. All my fish in the main video were caught on this combo and 3 of the 4 were sight fished–heard or seen, then casted to.
1. Bayou Buck Pop-N-Prop: The prop creates a wake when you reel it in slowly. This gives you an extra element to work into your pop-and-pause routine. They also have different shapes.
2. GULP! Shrimp LSU (purple/chartreuse): I just pretty much use this color most of the time since the water around here is generally muddy. If the water in your fishery is clear, switch to a more natural color.
3. Logic Lures Wiggly Jiggly Jighead: The broken neck on this jig head allows it to pivot, giving any lure more action instantly.
4. 20 lb Fluorocarbon Leader: Stronger than mono to protect it from shells on the marsh bottom. Also, it’s super clear, in case a red wants to inspect it during a pause before it inhales it.