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While saltwater inshore fishing in the flats and back bays, it’s important to realize that estuary fish don’t always feed exclusively on the bottom. Then again, it’s important to mention that offshore species don’t either.

For your best chance of fishing success, you need to find out where in the water column the fish are feeding. The water column refers to the surface, mid-depths, and the bottom. It doesn’t matter whether you use artificial lures or live baits, if you follow these simple suggestions, you will increase your chances of catching more fish.

Floating lures can be used to fish on the surface almost anywhere. You can cast baits in six inches of water all the way out to hundreds of feet deep, but the best time to fish floating baits is in the early morning or dusk. The reason is that fish most often feed on the surface most often during low light conditions.

Next, consider the mid-depth area as it relates to the water column. This refers to the area below the surface, but above the bottom. These types of artificial lures are referred to as subsurface or suspended baits. Most of these lures are made to drop down one to three feet below the surface. The action from this type of artificial is very similar to the floating lure, except for the fact that they suspend or swim below the surface. Keep in mind that jig heads and live baits can also be suspended in the mid-depth portion of the water column by using a float.

Last, is fishing the bottom portion of the water column. Fish do hang out on the bottom in seagrass, along rocks, and near oyster beds to ambush prey. This usually means that you will have to use some type of sinker or weight to get your bait down to the bottom (the amount of weight will depend on the depth and current). However, this is not always the case. One of the most effective methods for catching fish in the passes is to throw out a pinfish or cut bait and let it drift along the bottom with the current.

Just remember, if fishing conditions change or the action is slow, try switching your focus to another section of the water column. You might be surprised at how fast your luck changes when you make the effort to fish from top to bottom.

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