The end of winter and the beginning of spring is like a box of chocolates for anglers in the Mid-Atlantic. You never know what you’re going to get. Some days are gangbusters, and others leave you wondering why you stopped watching Floribama Shore reruns and left the warmth of your couch.
Words by: Tim Homa
To stimulate my fishy senses during this “transition” time, I consume fish-catching content, perform maintenance on gear, scan Google Earth for “could be” spots, and talk to people who are way better at fishing than myself.
About the latter, a few weeks ago, I found myself standing in a garage staring at photographs tacked to a wall. The photos displayed smiling people holding fish like speckled trout, permit, striped bass, red drum, cobia, and freshwater trout. Adjacent to the images was a wall with lures hanging like trophies. The garage belonged to Charlie Church.
“Those are the lures I’ve retired,” said Charlie with a grin.
Whether he likes it or not, Charlie is a man who needs no introduction around these parts. His speckled trout angling prowess precedes him. Check out his Speckled Truth and Eastern Current podcast episodes.
For those who don’t know Charlie, he is a husband, father of two, a UX/Web Designer by trade, and an all-around nice dude.
Some lesser known, fun facts about Charlie; he’s a competent fly angler, spent a season in Alaska working at Goodnews River Lodge, and his most prized non-speckled trout catch is a roosterfish caught from the beach on a fly in Mexico.
There were no surprises among the retired lures hanging on the wall. The familiar trophy trout lures like the Paul Brown Fat Boy, Steve’s Lures Broken Back Corky, Paul Brown Soft Dine, Mirrolure MR27, and typical topwater lures were displayed proudly.
The difference between those lures and those sitting in my tackle box is the “day of legend” anecdotes accompanying them. Like the Rapala Skitter V topwater used to catch a 29” and 28” trout in one day and two 27” and a 27 ½” trout later that same month.
One common occurrence among his lures was custom paint jobs and patterns done by Virginia Beach local Jay Whitfield (@j-b-whitfield). The necessity to show the fish something different echoed similar to our previous talk with Wayne Seymour (@troutman814).
Above the fish photos were three cabinets, and next to the images stood a rolling tool chest. The cabinets housed several tackle boxes with slightly fished or “soon to be” fished hard plastic lures.
“These are some lures that I’ll add into the rotation this spring,” said Charlie.
The drawers on his tool chest were stubborn, thanks to the number of lures they contained. He had one drawer dedicated to topwater lures and the others a mix of subsurface, soft plastics, and terminal tackle.
As for what makes it into Charlie’s tackle box each season, he keeps it simple. The tried and true always have a place; the remaining spaces are reserved for educated experimentation. Charlie believes in keeping an angling log and chooses new variations of colors or patterns from successful lures in the past.
Surprisingly, color was the least of his concerns heading into the spring. While color plays a part in the preparation, Charlie emphasizes replacing split rings and treble hooks on all his lures.
“Color doesn’t matter if your hooks aren’t sharp,” he smirked.
He enjoys Spro Power Split Rings in size #4 - 60 pound test. Charlie likes to use Daiichi XXX Strong Bleeding Bait Hooks for treble hooks. He recommends size #2 for most topwater and MR27s and size #4 for smaller subsurface lures.
While preparation is critical and having enough gear to experiment with is helpful, Charlie’s advice is straightforward. He is constantly learning.
“You can’t beat time on the water,” he said. “Even though I can’t fish every day, I make sure to take notes and learn something each outing.”
Remember to keep things simple this spring. There is no foolproof answer sitting in a tackle box. Instead, enjoy the moment, learn from each opportunity, and follow Charlie on Instagram @charliechurch3 to see the importance of sharp hooks.