Capt. Mark Wright

In my mind, July kicks off our true summer season. Get out early and get off the water early is my mantra from July through September. In fact many years back I started offering a three hour charter trip to reflect this mindset.

Top water plugs will continue to be a great first light option especially for the savvy angler who can skillfully employ the “walk the dog” technique. Matching the plug’s size to the prominent bait fish can be a key component. At present a four to five inch plug is perfect and a smaller three inch plug can be of benefit when tiny mullet are about.

For those who find walking the dog a challenge don’t be discouraged. A popping plug can reap big rewards and I love the Pop Shadz by Z-Man. Anglers need to vary their retrieve until the fish respond. I find that gentle plops with a second or two of pause between works well on calm water and a more a rapid, loud and aggressive retrieve gets the nod once the water gets choppy. I gravitate towards subdued colors in dim, low-light conditions and switch to bold color patters with glitter and flash once the sun intensifies.

Even though I’m pretty much done using live shrimp for warm weather flats fishing I’ll often keep some dead ones on hand. The black drum and schooling redfish seldom turn one down when you find them tailing in the shallows. Thread the critter on a light jig-head and toss it to the edge of a school holding relatively still or in the path of moving fish and hold on. If you don’t like the mess and smell of dead bait try a soft plastic substitute. I’m fond of EZ Shrimpz rigged on a keel weighted weedless hook and usually squeeze a bit of Pro-Cure shrimp scent into the hook slot.

Capt. Mark Wright