Skip to main content

Best Bets for Bar Hopping

Oyster accumulations abound with angling action

Best Bets for Bar Hopping
Oyster accumulations abound with angling action

If you think the "bar scene" is all about overpriced drinks and lame pickup lines, you're looking at the wrong bar. Seriously, if you need a change of pace with a far more rewarding outcome than the bar-hopping routine, just trade the cramped dance floors and loud music for the open spaces and pleasant tranquility of hopping from one oyster bar to the next.

It takes many years of bivalve accumulation for oyster colonies to amass into the actual bars that generally occur in coastal waters near creek and river mouths, as well as spillways and drainage canals. Often covered with a slippery, muddy film, these jagged structures harbor a briny buffet of baitfish, crustaceans and invertebrates that make dandy meals for redfish, trout, snook, black drum and sheepshead.


Click the image for the bar scene photo gallery


Varying in size, shape and proximity, oyster bars may occur as lone structures running parallel to a shoreline cut, while others cluster like salty sentries protecting shallow backwaters. In any scenario, daily tidal washing builds up one side of the bar, while carving a steep slope on the opposite border. Larger predators use the drop-offs to ambush smaller forage species like pinfish and crustaceans.


Smaller bars typically experience a daily cycle of submergence and emergence, while larger formations often catch enough nutrient-rich mud and sand on their exposed crowns for grass, small shrubs and even mangrove shoots to set their anchors. Bars fringed with marsh grass, provide additional structure to hold baitfish during high tide. (Patches of grass appearing in open water often indicate bars hidden below.)


Various sport fish will feed differently around an oyster bar, so keep your technique dynamic and diverse. First position a live shrimp or indigenous baitfish like a pinfish, sardine, menhaden or bull minnow over the bar (if submerged) with an adjustable popping cork. Sliding the cork up and down allows you to place a live bait just above the shells where feeding predators will surely spot the vulnerable prey.

Next, position another natural bait on the bottom at the bar's perimeter. Use a light Carolina rig or a fish finder rig in the deeper water leading to the oyster bar where it will attract any predator heading for the feast. Set both your float bait and bottom bait rods in the gunwale rod holders and use circle hooks for efficient connections with minimal chance of deep hooking.

With natural baits set, probe the surrounding waters with a weedless gold spoon. Don't hesitate to bump the shells, as this sound often triggers strikes from redfish, drum and others looking for crabs that scamper across the shells. Topwaters also produce, especially with aggressive trout patrolling a bar. If a fish boils behind your plug, but misses, follow up with a subsurface offering such as a soft plastic jerkbait and you'll usually close the sale.

Jigs work wonders on many oyster bars inhabitants, but they often grab more shells than fish. Try using oversized tails (4- to 5-inchers) on 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jig heads for slower sink rates, or control your bait's depth by fishing it under a popping cork, or a premade float rig like a DOA Deadly Combo. The latter consists of a stiff wire stem with a sliding cork, along beads and a weight, positioned between swivels at each end and a leader suspending a DOA Shrimp below.


Similar to chugging a popping cork, a good tug on the DOA rig creates a surface commotion that imitates a feeding fish, while the beads click and rattle for additional auditory attraction. The whole idea is to draw the attention of predators to the area in hopes of directing their focus toward your artificial bait hopping beneath the surface.

On any given bar, you might find that the fish seem to favor a particular depth for feeding. Once you determine the popular level, adjust natural baits and cast artificials into this strike zone. The fish will move along the bar's contour with the rising tide so plan on repositioning as needed to stay with the bite.

Falling tides see the process reverse with fish moving from the bar's upper parts to its lower areas so they remain in the comfortable depth. This is a good time to deploy another deep bait or float another livie and work the perimeter depths with spoons, crankbaits or jigs.


For most oyster missions, medium spinning or baitcasting gear with 8- to 12-pound line will handle the duty. Braided lines in the 20- to 30-pound range offer an attractive blend of greater strength, smaller diameters and optimal sensitivity. Add 12-18 inches of 30- to 40-pound fluorocarbon leader and you're good to go.

Note that subtle combinations of wind, tide and bait abundance can make a significant difference in a bar's productivity. If the fish are home, it won't take long to draw a strike, so give each bar no more than 20 minutes to produce and then move to another. Choose your spots wisely, and your bar-hopping adventure will yield some serious bragging rights.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

RIO Slickcast Fly Lines

RIO Slickcast Fly Lines

Chris Walker, with RIO Products, talks with Editor/Publisher Ross Purnell of Fly Fisherman magazine about the new SlickCast lineup of fly lines for 2020.

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Pro angler Cody Meyer calls Daiwa's J-Fluoro Samurai the best fluorocarbon he's ever fished. Meyer spoke with In-Fisherman associate publisher Todd Ceisner as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

Make Your Own Tackle Box with Plano Edge Flex

Make Your Own Tackle Box with Plano Edge Flex

Plano's Charlie Davis and In-Fisherman's Rob Neumann talk about the new Plano Edge Flex as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

Lew

Lew's Pro SP Skipping and Pitching SLP Reel

Bass Pro Tour angler Andy Montgomery shares his insight on the new Lew's Pro SP Skipping and Pitching SLP Reel.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow Hunting How-To

6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow

Jace Bauserman - August 27, 2020

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?5 Great Lures For Bluegills Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing.Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

'Entering a fishing tournament is like gambling. If you can afford it, go for it, but I'm not bankrolling you.'Money Fish: Things Change When Cash is on the Line Stories

Money Fish: Things Change When Cash is on the Line

Jeff Johnston - August 05, 2020

'Entering a fishing tournament is like gambling. If you can afford it, go for it, but I'm not...

That one little thing we don't think about while on the water, it's what separates the men from the boys.Tough Fishing Lessons Learned – The Landing Part Stories

Tough Fishing Lessons Learned – The Landing Part

Jeff Johnston - September 14, 2020

That one little thing we don't think about while on the water, it's what separates the men...

As the official zone maps of Pool 8 were handed out for the Championship Round of the 2016 Summit Cup on the Mississippi River, the six finalists scoured the maps like scratch-off lottery tickets, hoping their numbers would come up big.Past Experience Squashed by Fishing Zone Boundaries for Championship Stories

Past Experience Squashed by Fishing Zone Boundaries for Championship

Rob Newell, MajorLeagueFishing.com

As the official zone maps of Pool 8 were handed out for the Championship Round of the 2016...

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths.Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee Fishing

Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee

Larry Larsen - April 28, 2020

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more...

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now