Capt. Andy Salinas with a lonestar linesider that fell for a D.O.A. 4” Shad Tail in 455 Texas Croaker.
On his fourth cast of the day, Capt. Luis Flandes III landed this 28+ in. trout on a D.O.A. 4” Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Safely released to fight another day.
Two days of fishing the Lower Laguna Madre with D.O.A. Lures results in remarkable fishing
Story and photos by Kelly Groce
After D.O.A. Lures creator Mark Nichols, Capt. Andy Salinas, videographer Johnny Lu and myself attempted to each eat a delicious breakfast burrito larger than the size of my head from Manuel’s Restaurant, we hit South Bay in South Padre Island in search of fish.
As Capt. Andy Salinas began to set our drift, I rigged up my go-to lure and color, which is a 4” jerk bait in the color 441 Figi Chix. I swear trout can’t refuse this lure, because it didn’t take long to start catching them. I saw jack crevalle hammering shrimp right behind the boat. I threw my lure towards the disturbance and got to have a fun fight with one. Next cast, a snook came speeding at my lure and my favorite sound on earth ensued… my reel peeling drag. I used 1 lure and caught 3 different species; trout, jack crevalle and snook.
Andy, Mark and Johnny all caught plenty of slot snook, redfish and flounder on 4” shad tails. The tail on those lures have amazing action that fish can’t look past.
We ended the day working a deep channel and catching black drum along the bottom. Between all of us, we caught a Texas grand slam which is a redfish, trout, flounder and snook. Not a bad day of fishing I’d say.
A summertime cold front blew through, so the day started out overcast and on the cooler side. On the ride out, Capt. Luis Flandes III, Mark Nichols, Cindy Nguyen and myself had all agreed that the surroundings looked like a winter day in Texas.
We began fishing a gin clear flat. On Capt. Luis Flandes’ fourth cast he hooked up to a stud 28+ in. trout. He was throwing a 4” jerk bait in the fish catching color 455 Texas Croaker. Winter-like conditions resulted in a trophy trout. After a fish like that, can the day get much better? Why yes it can. We moved to a grassy flat and Luis was plucking redfish out left and right using a Root Beer/Chartreuse jerk bait. Cindy and I doubled up on two pretty redfish, mine being the most orange colored red I have ever seen.
The fishing in South Padre is awesome. To get in on the action contact either one of these great guides, Capt. Andy Salinas or Capt. Luis Flandes III on Facebook. Thanks again for 2 great days of fishing. Tight lines!
Myself, Mark Nichols and Cindy Nguyen with 2 redfish we doubled up on using a 4″ Jerk Bait in Root Beer/Chartreuse and Texas Croaker. Photo: Capt. Luis Flandes III
Mark Nichols and Capt. Luis Flandes III enjoying a good day of fishing.
Capt. Andy Salinas with a black drum he caught on a D.O.A shrimp rigged backwards.
With one lure color, Figi Chix, I caught snook, trout, and jack crevalle. Photo: Johnny Lu
Capt. Luis Flandes had the hot hand this day of fishing.
I dare you not to laugh while on a trip with Mark Nichols.
Capt. Bartt Caron and myself doubled-up on slot redfish while drifitng Land Cut. D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Brian Barrera
UPPER LAGUNA MADRE – BAFFIN BAY – LAND CUT
By Kelly Groce
Bill Carson of Humminbird, was all smiles and laughs while catching trout on D.O.A. 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker. Photo: Kelly Groce
Early in April, I got a call from talented fishing guide, surfer and all around waterman, Capt. Joey Farah, that reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Texas country singer, Gary P. Nunn, “Meet Me Down in Corpus.” Joey invited me to fish the Upper Laguna Madre area with D.O.A. Fishing Lures for their spring Outdoor Writers Event. Baffin Bay and Land Cut are places that I’ve dreamed of fishing for quite awhile and these writers events are always a blast, so without hesitation I was in.
Let me familiarize you with the Land Cut if you don’t know already. Land Cut is a 25-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway between Padre Island and Port Mansfield. On one side you have the Padre Island National Seashore and on the other side is the Kenedy Ranch. It’s a beautiful and remote area that takes about an hour by boat to get to. The fishing is phenomenal there and without a doubt one of the prettiest stretches of the Texas coast I’ve laid eyes on.
My fishing buddies for the event were Bill Carson, Field Marketing Manager of Humminbird, and Capt. Brian Barrera, D.O.A. Fishing Lures’ Manager of Marketing and Business Development, and a fishing guide on South Padre Island that specializes in catching snook and tarpon. Our fishing guide was Capt. Bartt Caron. Bartt is an extremely knowledgeable big trout fisherman that knows the Upper Laguna Madre like the back of his hand. When he speaks about fishing, you listen. Bartt owns a beautiful 25’ Haynie Bigfoot with a 350HP Mercury on the back. That thing hauls ‘tater!
Not only does Capt. Brian Barrera like throwing a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin, but trout like eating it too. Photo: Kelly Groce
DAY 1 OF FISHING
When I say a front blew in that morning, I mean a front blew in that morning. There were wind gusts up to 53 mph and it was raining sideways by 5:15 a.m. After the front passed, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and everyone met at Marker 37 Marina, which is on Padre Island right beside the JFK Causway.
Bartt, Bill, Brian and myself loaded up the boat and ran towards the King Ranch Shoreline. Bartt threw out the drift sock and we started doing some pretty fast drifts since the wind was still howling in the 30mph range. We fished hard til about 4:30 p.m. Everyone caught fish, but Bill was on top of the leader board catching some chunky trout throughout the breezy day. The 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in 455 Texas Croaker was definitely the ticket.
That evening back at the condo, we all congregated around as Capt. Joey Farah and Capt. Braeden Thomas fried some drum, redfish, and trout from the day’s fishing trips. Bill Carson made his famous key lime pie for us, which was a real treat. It’s always a good time talking and hanging out with the D.O.A. crew; Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, Ruby Delgado, and Taylor Garcia. Also in good company was Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Taylor Winzeler, Robert Sloan, Dustin Cartrett, Bartt Caron, Bill Blodgett, Andrew Lassiter, Rocky Guerra and his wife Silver.
Good Friday was a perfect morning of fishing. Photo: Kelly Groce
Capt. Bartt Caron with a healthy Land Cut trout caught on a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in 350 Purple/Chartreuse. Photo: Kelly Groce
DAY 2 OF FISHING
Good Friday was blissful with warm temps and blue skies. Everyone was at Marker 37 Marina by 6:15 a.m. Red Bull, cold beer, D.O.A. lures, great people – check! We got to Land Cut in no time, thanks to Capt. Bartt’s Haynie, and began our drift. Since Land Cut is part of the ICW, it has shallow flats on each side with a drop off to about 12 feet of water in the middle. I was positioned at the back of the boat and started working my 4” C.A.L. Texas Croaker Jerk Bait on a 1/4 oz. D.O.A. jig head on the flats through grass and patches of sand. Before long I was hooked up on a slot redfish. Bartt and Brian were both sticking some nice trout where the flat dropped off to deeper water. They were using the 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartreuse and 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker. We drifted for 2 hours and steadily caught nice fish. At one point Bartt and myself doubled up on slot redfish. It doesn’t get much more fun that that. Capt. Bartt also scored a bonus flounder shortly after. We got to a slough where Bart caught a solid trout. Brian switched up to a D.O.A. Bait Buster in 372 Pearl/Green/Red Chin. I took photos and watched the guys as they caught trout back-to-back and had double hookups. Bartt finished the day off with an upper slot redfish that we all watched charge at a 3” C.A.L. Shad Tail in Purple/Chartruese on the flats. Seeing the wake from a hungry redfish is always a cool sight to see.
Another guide on the trip, Capt. Braeden Thomas, invited everyone to meet at his family’s fishing cabin on Baffin Bay. We pull up to the dock and I’m looking at a piece of Texas paradise. Joey and Braeden gave me a tour of his place that has been in the family for over 80 years. It was like a time warp to the 50’s inside. Old fishing lures, maps, catch of the day photos, and all types of other nautical nick-knacks covered the ceiling and walls. I’ve never seen a place more perfect in all of my life. From inside the cabin you can see the crystal clear water of Baffin Bay through the windows. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than at Braeden’s fishing cabin.
This fishing cabin, overlooking the pristine waters of Baffin Bay, has been in Capt. Braeden Thomas’ family for over 80 years. Photo: Kelly Groce
Our delicious meal prepared by Chef Jeff at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. Photo: Kelly Groce
Cindy Nguyen, Ruby Delgado and myself ended the day at Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina. It was very nice walking straight off the boat to a restaurant on the water. We enjoyed a cold Modelo and conversated as Chef Jeff prepared our post-fishing meal. Chef Jeff graduated from Johnson & Wales College, which is one of the leading culinary institutions in the country and he has 30 years of culinary experience. He prepared grilled Gulf shrimp over basmati rice with baby spinach topped with a rich cilantro butter sauce and fresh roma tomatos in addition with a side of lemon scented asparagus and guacamole with lump crab topped with perfectly fried tortilla strips. I was blown away by the aromas and colors from my plate. It was almost too pretty to eat. But I did and it was the best post-fishing meal I have ever had. Delicious food combined with a view of the Upper Laguna Madre, your best buds, and a cold beverage is about all you can ask for after a day of fishing.
My first fish of the day and it was a pretty one. Photo: Brian Barrera
I want to give a big thanks to Joey Farah for the invitation to the D.O.A. Lures Outdoor Writers Event. Thank you for the great memories while testing these fish-catching lures in your backyard. Next time we’re surfing too! I’m forever grateful to Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Brian Barrera, and Ruby Delgado of D.O.A., you guys are amazing. Also, thank you Taylor Winzeler from Laguna Madre Clothing Co. for supplying us with top notch fishing apparel. As for Chef Jeff and Marker 37 Marina, I can’t say enough good things about how well they treated us. I will be back soon!
The weather is only getting better and the Upper Laguna Madre fishery is phenomenal, so if you would like to fish this area, contact any of these knowledgable and upstanding guides; Capt. Joey Farah, Capt. Bartt Caron, Capt. Braeden Thomas and Capt. Andrew Lassiter.
Fishtales Bar & Grill at Marker 37 Marina is the perfect place to enjoy a meal by Chef Jeff after a day on the water. Photos: Kelly Groce
This beautiful Lower Laguna Madre trout couldn’t resist the D.O.A. 4″ C.A.L. Jerkbait in Candy Corn.
By Kelly Groce
Back in August of 2018, I was in Port Aransas celebrating my father’s birthday for the weekend. On Sunday, I decided to drop some Gulf Coast Mariner Magazines at local businesses, one of them being Port “A” Outfitters. I see a man walking down the stairs who I know is Mark Nichols, the creator and owner of D.O.A. Lures. I’ve always been a huge fan of his lures, especially that dang shrimp. He’s walking right by my car so I have to say something.
“Excuse me, are you the D.O.A. man?”
“I sure am.” Mark responds.
We shake hands and chat about fishing in Stuart, Fla. where he resides. I hand him a copy of the magazine before we part ways. My day was made.
Fast forward a few months… it’s just another day at the office here in Seabrook. The phone rings and Christmas came early. Capt. Brian Barrera, who is a fishing guide and also works for D.O.A. Lures called to invite me to their 2018 Outdoor Writers Event in South Padre for four days. Without hesitation, I said I’ll be there.
The day of the trip comes, I’m listening to the Bite Me: Texas Saltwater Fishing podcast for the majority of the drive down (if you don’t listen to this podcast, you should) and daydreaming about drifting clear water with grass and sand pockets as far as the eye can see. I’ve been to South Padre three or four times prior, but it was always to go surf, never to fish.
The view every morning before we took off for a full day of fishing and fun.
I pull up to home base for the next few days, which is a beautiful house right on the pristine waters of the Lower Laguna Madre. When I walk in, I’m immediately greeted by D.O.A. Lures employee/local fishing guide/fish slayer Capt. Brian Barrera (if catching Texas snook and tarpon is on your fishing bucket list, Brian is your guy). As I’m relaxing and meeting fascinating people from all over the country and the industry, Mark pulls up by boat (of course he had been fishing the next canal over, catching redfish and trout). I see Mark and say “Remember me from the Port “A” Outfitters parking lot?”
He says, “Of course I do, welcome!”
The sun starts to set and a delicious feast of authentic pastor and beef tacos are being cooked on the deck overlooking the water by local restaurant, Mr. Taco. We are given D.O.A. Kits that contain their family of lures such as TerrorEyz, Swimmin’ Mullet, Shrimp, Jerk Bait, Shad, Paddle Tails and more. Capt. Brian informs everyone who their fishing guide would be for the next day, we talk a little longer and eventually everyone makes their way to bed.
DAY 1 OF FISHING
Cup of coffee… check. Breakfast taco… check. Camera and fishing gear… check. I walk downstairs and there waiting for us is a fleet of boats, mostly Shallow Sports, to take us fishing for the day. I had the pleasure of going out with local guide and super nice guy, Capt. Joel Ramos. My fishing partner was Tommy Thomson, regional sales manager at Shimano. The weather is perfect, a little overcast with a high of 75 degrees. We drive for about 30 minutes, then Capt. Joel Ramos stops, shuts off the motor and says we’re going to do a drift here. It is just what I imagined… as far as you can see clear water spotted with sand pockets and grass. I started throwing D.O.A. Lures 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in one of their newer colors Texas Croaker. It doesn’t take long and we all start catching trout cast after cast. Capt. Joel hooked up onto a pretty 22” trout on the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Candy Corn. It appeared, the fish liked the contrast of that bright orange lure color. The night before, we were given some D.O.A. 3” C.A.L. Shad Tails in a new color that is not yet named. It’s a brown with gold flake top with a pearl colored bottom. I switched to this bait and caught a few decent trout on that lure as well. Tommy threw on the D.O.A. topwater, the PT-7 (featured on the cover) and had a huge trout blow-up on it, that was pretty exciting. The PT-7 is a fun topwater to work with a lot of action. Capt. Joel wanted to get us on some reds next, so we went to a real shallow spot along a shoreline. I stuck with the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Texas Croaker, and Capt. Joel stuck with the 4” C.A.L. Jerk Bait in Candy Corn. 22 was Cap. Joel’s number that day, because after a few minutes at the spot, he hooks up to a nice 22” redfish. We get some footage of the fish and let him go. Shortly after, I hook up on a red I’d say was about 20” on the Texas Croaker Jerkbait. The water was so clear it was pretty neat to see the lure hit the water and then a flash which was the redfish chasing after it. After a full day of fun and fishing, we head back to casa de D.O.A.
The D.O.A. legend, Mark Nichols and myself on an evening boat ride.
That afternoon, everyone is sitting around trading fish stories from the day. Mark points to me and says, “Want to go for a boat ride?”
“Yes sir” I say.
We board his Maverick Mirage skiff, which is one beautiful boat. We go for a cruise and enjoy the stunning South Padre Island sunset. SO… here I am sitting on Mark Nichol’s boat with an ice cold Corona overlooking the Lower Laguna Madre while listening to him talk about fishing and his life. Mark is incredibly knowledgable about fishing and has lived a life full of adventure. I learned that Mark grew up in Houston and his dad had a shrimp boat on Clear Lake. That 45 minutes on his boat is truly a moment I’ll never forget.
DAY 2 OF FISHING
I get paired with Capt. Lee Alvarez. He was born and raised in the area and knows these waters like the back of his hand. I felt like I was getting special treatment since it was just Capt. Lee and myself on his boat this day. There was a front coming in that night, so it was overcast and rain was on the horizon. I had to throw that Candy Corn Jerkbait after the success we had on it the day before. We did some drifts and caught tons of trout on it. We were drifting this one area and a school of about five beautiful upper slot redfish swam right in front of the boat. We saw the school of reds again and we started sight casting at them, but didn’t land one. Either way, very cool seeing fish like that. The rain started coming down pretty good, but the fish were still biting, so I was a happy camper. After all, a little water never hurt no one.
On the ride back to the house, I was gathering my thoughts on the past few days of fishing. Myself alone, caught probably 70+ trout and some nice redfish in just two days on nothing but D.O.A. Lures. D.O.A. stands for Deadly On Anything, and after the non-stop catching I had experienced, that slogan is without a doubt true. These lures are like candy to fish, they can’t say no. An absolute must-have for any angler’s tackle box.
That evening, it was Mark’s birthday. The crew had got him a cake that was decorated with the D.O.A. logo and lures. Some tasty burgers were being grilled on the deck while we continued to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. My face was starting to hurt after all the laughs.
The next day, it was difficult to head back home. After the few days I got to spend with Mark and the rest of the D.O.A. Lures crew, I must say his lures are amazing, but this group of people are even better. The camaraderie I experienced was bar none. Not only did I learn a lot, but I left South Padre feeling like I had a whole new family.
The stars aligned that day I met Mark in that parking lot in Port Aransas. I never thought I would run into him, let alone be invited to South Padre to fish with him for several days. Mark’s passion for fishing and his energy is contagious. He has lit a fire for me to continue pursing my passion of fishing, writing, and photography. And for that I will forever be grateful to Mark.
Huge thanks to Mark Nichols and the entire D.O.A. Lures crew for an incredible trip. I’ll be back to catch my Texas snook. Until next time amigos!
Mark Nichols and Dave Stewart hold a massive black drum they caught on a D.O.A. C.A.L. Paddle Tail. Photo by Danno Wise
Capt. Brian Barrera stuck this beautiful 28″ trout using the D.O.A. 4″ C.A.L. Jerkbait in Candy Corn. Photo by Ed Zyak
Ed Zyak with a nice 24″ snook caught with Capt. Brian Barrera. Photo by Capt. Brian Barrera
Reese Haven, Scott Null, Dave Lear, Cindy Nguyen, Brian Barrera, Ed Zyak, Mark Nichols, Johnny Lu and myself at the end of the Shimano Headquarters tour in Ladson, SC.
By Kelly Groce
Since 1921, Shimano has been a reputable company that anglers have relied on for quality fishing products. After a day of fishing in Charleston, SC myself along with Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Brian Barrera, Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak, Dave Lear, Scott Null and Reese Havens were fortunate enough to take a tour of the new and remarkable Shimano Headquarters in Ladson.
Shimano’s Field Marketing Manager, Blaine Anderson, greeted us at the door and began the tour. As soon as you walk in, there is an exhibit that shows a timeline including when Shozaburo Shimano created Shimano in 1921 and other pivotal moments in the company’s history. Blaine talked us through other exhibits that showed Shimano’s latest technology that is used in each reel such as Micro Module gears that enables smooth reeling, X-Ship which also enables smooth reeling but under heavy loads, and Shimano’s precision cold forging technology. My favorite display (pictured right) was two reels broke down piece by piece. This was a truly remarkable sight and showed just how much detail goes into each reel.
Shimano’s Field Marketing Manager, Blaine Anderson, greeted us at the door and began the tour.
CONSERVATION AND ANGLER ADVOCACY
After the headquarters tour, Shimano America’s President, David Pfeiffer, spoke with us about Shimano’s involvement with conservation and angler advocacy. Shimano works with organizations that are involved in forming policies in Washington such as Center of Sport Fishing Policy, The American Sportfishing Association, The Marine Manufactures Association and Coastal Conservation Association. David informed us that fishing and boating is the 5th largest economic generator in the U.S. and that if more companies were involved in making a change, they could combine forces and ensure that our fishery stays healthy and productive for not only us, but for future generations to enjoy.
The view from our dock looking at the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge.
Catching this trout on D.O.A.’s topwater, the PT-7, was the highlight of my trip. Photo: Scott Null
By Kelly Groce
South Carolina is home to 6-8’ tides, incredible seafood and BBQ, miles of marshes and mature oaks draped with moss. I was lucky enough to be able to fish this area with some great people in the fishing industry and the Low Country did not disappoint.
An hour north of Charleston, is the small, quaint community of McCllellanville. Here you will find the marsh land beauty and National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain, that separates the ICW from the Atlantic. I was expecting to catch a lot of redfish here, but speckled trout were the ones that showed up to play our first day of the trip. Capt. Jordan Pate has lived in the area his whole life and enjoys everything that there is to offer such as fishing, hunting and surfing. Jordan uses similar tactics we use here in Texas. Jordan had some rods rigged with a popping cork and D.O.A. 3” Shrimp and the other rods had a jighead with a D.O.A. 3” Shad. The wind was howling, but both of these methods worked just fine. Capt. Brian Barrera had to try the D.O.A. 3” Shad in the color Candy Corn since he was told he’d never catch anything on a lure that color in these water. He turned the skeptics into believers.
Charleston is home to great seafood. The oysters were incredible.
The second of the trip, Scott Null and myself traveled into Charleston to fish with Capt. Joe Benton on his Cayo poling skiff. We started the day fishing around some exposed oyster reefs and looking for tailing reds. The waters were calm so it was the perfect opportunity to throw D.O.A.’s topwater, the PT-7. As I was working my PT-7 alongside some grass I got a blow-up pretty close to the boat and it ended up being a beautiful 23” trout. Once again, coming to South Carolina I thought I was going to be catching redfish for the most part, but I’m not going to
complain about catching thick speckled trout on topwaters…ever. We poled around the corner and there was a beautiful sight of shrimp jumping followed by redfish wakes and tails waving. They weren’t amused with my topwater, so Scott got some photos and I enjoyed the nature show. If I would have had the time to change out my lure, a D.O.A. shrimp or their new lure, the Snakoil, would have done the job. Meanwhile on a different boat, Ed Zyak was putting a hurt on redfish using the Snakoil. It is great for sight casting big redfish and trout.
Both days of fishing ended with exchanging fish stories paired with incredible meals. South Carolina’s oysters are un-be-lievable. Shrimp and grits, crab cakes, pulled pork, chicken wings… it’s all good. If you don’t come to South Carolina to experience the fishery, you should definitely make the trip for the cuisine.
Thank you Mark Nichols, Ed Zyak and Brian Barrera of D.O.A. Lures for the invite to experience everything the Low Country has to offer. With fishing gurus such as Bill Carson, Scott Null, Cindy Nguyen, Johnny Lu, Jeff Burleson and Dave Lear in the mix, it’s always a fun few days of learning and laughs.
Capt. Joe Benton and Scott Null heading in after a day of fishing Charleston.
Capt. Brian Barrera with an example that similar tactics we use here in Texas such as a popping cork rigged with a D.O.A. shrimp worked just as good in South Carolina.
My first South Carolina speckled trout. We caught plenty of trout this size using a D.O.A. jighead with a 3″ Shad tail or the 3″ shrimp rigged under a popping cork. Photo: Brian Barrera