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The picturesque bayside town of Laguna Vista – known as “Gateway to the Bay” is launching a three-month Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” campaign. The awareness campaign will be from July 29th through September 29th of this year and is supported by the Town’s overall community-wide branding and message campaign, Laguna Vista CARES.
The assumption is often made that distracted driving only occurs when a driver is suing a mobile device. Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from primary task of driving where distractions endanger the driver, passenger, and bystanders. Distractions can be many and include those such as texting, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, personal grooming, emotional situations, loud radios, and many more.
To raise awareness and to further educate local residents as well as those that regularly drive by, through or on Highway 100 and FM 510, the Town is launching this Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” campaign because it cares about people in the community.
Says Major Susie Houston, “We want people to not be distracted while driving. This is a serious problem that is only getting worse. We care about our local residents and we care about those that drive by our community every single day. We hope that with this “Don’t Drive Distracted” campaign that drivers will think twice about eating and drinking or grooming and doing other things while driving.”
The awareness campaign includes the following:
Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” magnetic signs and bumper stickers will be on the patrol units and Town vehicles.
Patrol officers will be handing 5×7 postcards (in Spanish and English) on the dangers of being distracted while driving.
Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” banners and signs will be set up throughout the Town.
Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” bumper stickers are available for the public.
“While driving with no distractions, we also want to encourage people to consider making Laguna Vista their home. Just by its sheer location, and quality of life offered, and being near the beach – Laguna Vista has a lot to offer,” added Major Houston. “The Town is going through a positive transformation, and we want people to see how beautiful our community truly is. The Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” campaign was the suggestion of Town residents that will now come to fruition because of aver all good that it will provide. The Laguna Vista CARES “Don’t Drive Distracted” campaign is funded entirely from private contributions, so no Town funds were used. More about the Town of Laguna Vista can be found on their website at www.lvtexas.com or obtained by calling their main office at 956.943.1793.


The Cameron County Commissioner’s Court approved the use of County beach accesses for the 2nd annual South Padre Marathon which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Nov. 16 of this year.
Last year’s inaugural race saw approximately 2,400 race-day participants out of the 2,900 people who registered, marathon organizer Tim Scribner told the Commissioners Tuesday morning.
“That’s a good turnout,” said Commissioner Alex Dominguez. “These events are gaining popularity in the Valley where a lot of people are getting active. It’s always good for people to get fir,’ he said.
This year, organizers hope to draw 3,000 participants.
Commissioner David Garza asked if the organization overseeing the event is a non-profit. Scribner said it was not, but that the race does partner with charitable organizations. “Last year, the event itself lost over $26,000, however, we were still able to raise $10,000 for partner charities,” he said.
The event features a full 26.2-mile marathon, and a 3-person half marathon relay. No matter which race they choose, the race routes will have runners beginning in Port Isabel before crossing the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway to South Padre Island. Once on the other side, runners will head south to run a circuit of Isla Blanca Park then continue north on Padre Boulevard towards Clayton’s Beach Bar for the half marathon runners, and further north through County Beach Accesses 5 & 6 for full marathon runners.
Full marathon runners will continue north on Park Road 100 before doubling back to the finish line at Clayton’s.
The County approved the use of the three beach accesses for the event, assessing a $1,500 event fee plus a $100 license fee for the use of Isla Blanca Park. The event will also pay a $250 fee for Beach Access 5, in exchange, its entrance fees will be waived from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the day of the race.
Beach Access 6 will be closed during that time period as well.
Restricting access to public beached requires permission from the Texas General Land Office (GLO). Cameron County Parks Director Joe E. Vega reported that the GLO had already given its go-ahead. “They have approved permissions for us to close the beach accesses temporarily,” Vega said. Signage will need to be placed at Beach Access 6 alerting the public to the closure, he said.
Though last year’s event was well attended, not everything ran smoothly. Residents and visitors reported traffic snarls along Padre Boulevard as the throngs of runners made their way along the Island’s main thoroughfare. One resident Doyle Wells, stood before the Commissioners to speak about the race affected him.
“I will be impacted by this event in the fact that my business is located at the end of Park Road 100 beyond Beach Access 5,” Wells said.
Wells said his employees and customers were prevented from proceeding to his horse stable, where he offers customers guided horseback rides on the beach. “We were blocked at The Shores,” he said.
“I have one request of the organizers. At 1;30, I’d like to be able to access my 1:31, … There has to be a cut off,” Wells said.
Scribner agreed that route issues contributed to traffic problems, and assured that changes had been made to rectify the situation. “Last year we had some for sure hiccups. It was new for us, new for the city, new for both municipalities that were involved. The traffic plan was not ideal last year, however, all that has been changed,” he said.
“The course has been rerouted.”
That new course route includes keeping the half marathon participants farther south within the city limits, reducing the number of people on the far north end of the Island to only the full marathon runners, Scribner said.
“Anybody that would still be on the course at 1:30 will be on the shoulder,” he said, adding that Wells should be able to use the road ahead of the 1:30 p.m. deadline. “Let’s hope for the beast for this event,” Commissioner Garza said.

By Dina Arevalo

During their last regular meeting, the South Padre Island City Council held a public hearing regarding the approval of a new Specific Use Permit for a substance abuse treatment facility on the Island. Based on consideration of current city ordinances and compliance standards for state and federal discrimination laws, the City Council approved the permit for Outcomes Detox and Recovery Center.
Businessman and Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Jorge Guevara, who owns Medical Associates of Brownsville as well as the only clinic on South Padre Island, has obtained state licensing to expand his Brownsville detox and recovery facility to South Padre Island. The proposed location for the facility is located at 5508 Padre Blvd., which lies between Kelly’s Irish Pub and Treasure Trove Consignments, a resale shop and licensed firearm dealer.
Concerns regarding the facility’s proximity to available alcohol and firearms were brought up by citizens who lived and worked nearby the proposed site; however, Guevara assured the council that it would be primarily focused on voluntary recovery after patients went through detox at his Brownsville office. The facility is licensed to house 20 beds.
The SPI Planning and Zoning committee recently recommended denial of the permit due in part to those concerns, however, according to City Development Director Dr. Sungman Kim, the recommendation for denial was also due to a lack of information including a business plan.
After receiving further plans for the facility and reviewing current city ordinances, staff recommended approval of the permit. Ultimately, with consideration for discriminatory business concerns and upon review of current ordinances, the City Council maintained consistency with requirements for Origins Recovery Center and approved the Specific Use Permit to allow Outcomes Detox and Recovery Center to do business on South Padre Island.
Also on the agenda, Public Works Director Armando Gutierrez gave the council an update on street construction progress including Phase 4 of the Gulf Boulevard project. Based on previous decisions by the council, staff began construction on Hibiscus Street and has held off on Gulf Boulevard during the busy summer season. However, the outdoor construction is extremely affected by inclement weather, sometimes halting work completely for days or even weeks at a time, the Mayor had particular concerns about postponing the start date until the fall. Phase 4 of the project is expected to last 225 work days, potentially running until fall of 2017.
Councilwoman Alita Bagley also addressed the council and citizens, informing the group about a recent meeting with State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville), Rep. Rene Olivera (D-Brownsville) and county commissioners to review grant applications for the RESTORE Act, which is a product of the Deepwater Horizon, or BP Oil Spill. According to Bagley, the representatives showed support throughout the process. Bagley also hinted at exciting new projects and ideas in the works, saying, “Keep your fingers crossed, and just know that we’re working hard to get some of the funds down here and some really wonderful projects that if we do get funded, we will be thrilled to have.”

By: Abbey Kunkle

The tides have a profound effect on Coastal habitats. The force of the water as it rises into (flood tide) and falls out of (ebb tide) the salt marsh and salt flats stirs up a great diversity of micro and macro organisms that in turn trigger a feeding frenzy up the food chain. Tides are created by the gravitational forces laid upon the earth by the Sun and Moon, but since the moon is the closest to Earth, it is the major factor in the intensity of the tides through its monthly lunar cycle. The most extreme tides with the largest range between high and low water are the “spring tides” and they occur just after a new and full moon. Spring tides occur twice a month and the term “spring” is not in reference to the season, but rather derived from the concept that the tides “spring forth”.  During a new and full moon the Sun and the Moon come into alignment and their combined gravitational forces create a bigger bulge on the ocean and therefore a higher tide.

Just last week we had a full moon spring tide begin on Tuesday (7/19/16) and the flood tide came deep into the salt flats and left a greater part of it inundated for a good while. Here’s the view of the salt flats from the lookout tower.

A great variety of birds took advantage of this easy feeding opportunity and in turn the bird walk had some great looks at a greater diversity of birds on the salt flats. Waders, plovers, terns, gulls, and a few of the first shorebirds of the fall migration stopped by the flats for the buffet and delighted observers as they actively foraged for their food. In the photo below a Tricolored Heron has just caught breakfast!

Looking at some tide charts on the internet showed that the peak of the high tide was at 6:05am, with the water reaching 1.4 ft above mean sea level (AMSL) and it remained high well through the morning. Later in the afternoon it was obvious that the water was retreating as small currents cutting through the mud pulled the water back towards the bay. The ebb tide finally reached its lowest point of -0.6ft later on that night at 9:23pm. The spring tide lasted for the following three days making for a great week of birding and wildlife viewing at the SPIBNC salt flats! Experienced anglers understand that knowing how to read the tides could help them have a more productive fishing outing, but the same can apply to birding in coastal habitats.

Another factor that comes into play is location. While the high tide seems to be good for birding at the SPIBNC salt flats, the same might not be true in other spots. Some areas that are generally too deep for the birds could be more productive during the low tides when the water is shallower and more shoreline is exposed. Knowing how the tides affect different areas along the coast can help in determining when the best times to visit each site might be. For example, birding the SPIBNC salt flats from Bird Blinds #1 and #2 is best during the high tide, but birding just west of the mangrove line from Bird Blind #3 is best during the low tide when there’s more shoreline exposed. The next spring tide will come with the new moon in a few weeks on Tuesday August 2nd with the high tide peaking at 5:52am. There should be plenty of water left in the salt flats by the time the bird walk starts at 9:30am. We are looking forward to the fun! Join us! If you want to see what the month’s tides are going to look like, check out the tide chart on the last pages of our monthly Coastal Current magazine.

By: Javier Gonzalez

An artificial reef project aimed at boosting red snapper populations in South Texas waters hit a major milestone this past week with the issuance of a final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The recipient was Friends of RGV Reef, which may now proceed with sinking the reef’s first vessel. Gary Glick, the group’s president, said the retired trawler Gulf Explorer will be sent to the bottom in state waters 13.75 nautical miles north of the South Padre Island jetties and eight nautical miles offshore, likely next month.
The group got a good deal on the 30-ton shrimper — plus a retired ocean-going tugboat also slated for sinking — from Billy Kennon of Marine Salvage & Services Inc. in Port Isabel, Glick said.
“He gave a steep discount to Friends of RGV Reef because he knew the good they could do for the community,” he said. “This was a great boon to Friends of RGV Reef.” Both vessels had to be thoroughly cleaned before authorities would issue the necessary permits. Bryant Industrial Services, headquartered at the Port of Brownsville, performed that chore, cleaning the bilges and fuel tanks and removing layer after layer of rust permeated with petroleum and assorted industrial chemicals accumulated over decades.
The USACE’s issuance of the final permit Thursday came at the end of a 16-month slog during which Friends first had a bathymetric, or depth-finding, survey done to find out how tall of a vessel could be sunk without creating a hazard to navigation. The survey cost $67,000 and was paid for by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. “Most of the heavy lifting was done by Parks and Wildlife,” Glick said.
The group also had to satisfy the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Archeological Society that the reef, which will eventually sprawl over 1,650 acres at a depth of 65 to 75 feet, won’t be on top of any historic shipwrecks, he said. Magnetometer readings have detected a sunken wreck, though the reef will buffer it rather than sit on it, Glick said, adding that it’s likely a Civil War-era blockade runner. Friends of RGV Reef, whose other officers are Daniel Bryant and Glick’s brother, Bob, also had to obtain clearance from the U.S. Coast Guard office in New Orleans as well as secure a lease for a portion of seafloor from the Texas General Land Office.
The whole permitting process took many hours of labor on the part of Friends and Parks and Wildlife, while U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, was instrumental in keeping the process moving when things got bogged down, Glick said. The whole point of the reef project, which depends on grants and donations, is to vastly increase the amount of fish available for catching in state waters, which have been overfished , he said. Most of the Gulf seafloor is a “flat, featureless plain” with few hiding places for young snapper to avoid getting eaten by bigger fish, Glick said. The reef will provide the young fish with protection and thus a better shot at maturity, he said.
“It makes it not just a great place to fish, but it’s going to pioneer techniques that are going to put fish back in the Gulf by bumping juvenile survival rates,” Glick said. “Snapper are site-faithful. Some of the research indicates that the snapper we grow in state waters like it, and to some extent stay in state waters.”
He compared Friends of RGV Reef’s three principals to “wild-eyed kids standing on the dock with some big ideas” and said the project would have failed without the help of a lot of people, including Dale Shively, head of the Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reefing Program, and Texas Game Warden Capt. James Dunks. Glick called Dunks a “huge supporter of this reef” who was instrumental in securing a $200,000 Coastal Conservation Association grant for the project.
Before the Gulf Explorer can become a fish fortress, though, the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit has to have assurance that the vessel is seaworthy enough to be towed out to sea from its current mooring in Port Isabel. That job will fall to Dunks, who also will be in charge of towing and sinking the trawler, Glick said.
“That’s a huge contribution,” he said. “If Friends of RGV Reef was trying to get this done, (the Coast Guard) would take one look at us and they’d say these people aren’t competent to do this, and they’d be right.”

By 5:20 p.m., the Point Isabel ISD Board meeting room was already packed with local residents armed with signs, stickers, buttons, and t-shirts bearing anti-LNG messages. Just before the meeting began, supporters of the Liquefied Natural Gas terminals gathered in the room, as well, holding signs of their own, which read “Adelante!”
The crowds gathered after a social media blitz by members of both sides had encouraged strong turnout in advance of Tuesday’s regular school board meeting. On the agenda, under the section for Executive Session were two items relating to the projects, specifically, that of Rio Grande LNG, which is one of three LNG companies hoping to construct export terminals along Port of Brownsville Ship Channel. Rio Grande LNG’s proposal is the largest of the three projects.
Representatives for Rio Grande LNG were scheduled to meet with the board in closed session to, as the agenda described, hold a “discussion concerning commercial or financial information received from a business prospect relevant to economic development negotiations.”
Too, the board would discuss with the Economic Development Act with their legal counsel.
It was these two items that were of particular concern to opponents of the LNG projects. The Texas Economic Development Act, also known as Chapter 313under the state legal code, allows taxing entities a means of offering tax abatements to entice business enterprises to locate their facilities within a taxing entity’s boundaries. The act was created as a way for Texas communities to offer incentives in Texas versus elsewhere.
In the fall of 2015, the Board heard and ultimately rejected a Chapter 313 tax abatement proposal from another LNG company, Annova LNG – a deal that would have netted the District some $25 million over the course of the agreement.
The appearance of the two items on Tuesdays’ agenda prompted concerns from the community that the District was mulling another tax abatement proposal.
Not so, said the District’s attorney Kevin O’Hanlon. Tuesday’s talks were merely for informational purposes only.  That was echoed by Superintendent Dr. Lisa Garcia and Rio Grande LNG spokeswoman Wanda Reyes-Rice.
Regardless of the purpose for talks, the board remained in executive session for approximately three hours, calling in Rio Grande LNG CFO Ben Atkins and a colleague partway through the process.
Prior to retiring to executive session, the Board heard public comments. With so many people in attendance who had signed up to offer a comment, Board President Cecilia Castillo reminded the audience that public comments were limited to five minutes per speaker. Furthermore, the Board implemented a part of their public comment policy to the speakers to one person for every five who wished to comment on either side of the discussion.
After some negotiations among themselves, the LNG opponents nominated business owner Jose Cantu and pediatrician Dr. Marsha Griffin to speak on behalf of their behalf, while Reyes-Rice spoke in support of Rio Grande LNG.
Dr. Griffin spoke on behalf of the Rio Grande Valley Coalition for Healthy Children, a group made up of several health care providers who serve the Cameron County area. She spoke of concerns that particular emissions from the proposed LNG facilities could have negative effects of fetuses, infants, and young children.
Ina statement the Coalition submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) earlier this year, they wrote, “There is no doubt that it will create a negative impact on the health and welfare of the families and children whose health we strive to maintain.”
“This is a safe project,” Wanda Reyes-Rice said after the board entered executive session. “We asked to be considered, just to talk initial dialogue about Rio Grande LNG.” She said.
We want to let the board know how safe this project is so they can feel comfortable in making decisions about things financially that affect the district,” she said.
Reyes-Rice deferred questions regarding dollar amounts for any proposed tax abatements to Atkins, but did say the company has also had discussions at the county level.
Atkins declined to comment on the record during the meeting.
Approximately three hours after entering closed session, the board emerged to continue with the rest of the meeting agenda.
By Dina Arevalo


Concerned SPI residents Carol Gluntz and Sally Robey recently reached out to the city to address a widespread environmental concern that they are passionate about. Gluntz, who patrols the beach as a volunteer for Sea Turtle, Inc., and Robey, a regular volunteer for the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab as well as the SPI Birding & Nature Center, went to the Shoreline Task Force to address the issue of plastic straws on the beach.
After hearing their presentation, the women were encouraged to work with the Keep SPI Beautiful committee (KSPIB), who recently began working to address the same issue. KSPIB Chairwoman Susan Dalton invited the two to bring their presentation to their next meeting and to work with the committee, while task force members offered their support. Dalton said, “This is one that I think the environment needs, and I think that our island needs this.”
Litter remains a worldwide problem, not only with negative aesthetic effects, but more importantly, causing harmful impacts on the environment, particularly with regard to wildlife. Plastic is especially harmful as it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Many people have seen the recently circulating video showing a plastic straw lodged deep into the nostril of a sea turtle as well as other photos often fatal impact of litter on turtles, whales, dolphins, and more. KSPIB member Kat Lillie of Sea Turtle, Inc. said, “I see at my work. Single use plastic is just terrible for our environment in general.” Gluntz and Robey commended the City for the improvements made by their Anti-Litter Campaign, which was recently expanded with extra funding approved by the SPI City Council. However, after pickup many straws on the beach, the duo asked for their support in banning plastic straws on the Island.
Clayton Brashear of Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill was at the task force meeting and chimed in on the subject saying, “If you said you’re going to ban plastic straws just like you did bags, we’d live with it.” He added “If you say he, we are not going to have any more plastic straws on South Padre Island, society would adapt.” He noted that the business has looked into using the paper straws, though he had concerns about their durability in beverages.
KSPIB members also expressed their support of the project, but were not sure a complete ban of plastic straws would be the best way to begin the process. Suggestions for improvement included asking and encouraging local business owners to try using paper straws rather than plastic or to participate in the Last Plastic Straw campaign, which encourages business owners to provide straws only upon request and for consumers to request “no straw” at bars and restaurants. Gluntz and Robey were selected by the KSPIB Community to serve on a subcommittee, along with Shoreline Task Force and Surfrider Foundation President Rob Nixon, and KSPIB member Julie Berman. The subcommittee is expected to bring ideas for further action at the next KSPIB meeting August 11.

By Abbey Kunkle

Chief of Police Gualburto “Wally” Gonzalez turned in his badge and had already laid his guns down before he announced his retirement at a press conference yesterday. “I have some health issues that I need to take care of,” Gonzalez, said. “I am really looking forward to my retirement and the future.”
Port Isabel city manager Jared Hockema has appointed retired Texas Ranger Tony David as Gonzalez’s replacement. Currently, David serves as police chief in the Town of Laguna Vista. Gonzalez served as police chief of Port Isabel since 2008.
Gonzalez’s retirement is effective in October. However, he will be on medical leave and taking advantage of the vacation time he has accrued. Gonzalez had come out of retirement in 2006 to rejoin the police department where he started his career as a 21-year-old police officer in 1974. Prior to be being re-hired in 2006, Gonzalez had been an investigator for the Cameron county district attorney’s office.
“I’m very proud to have been the chief of police of Port Isabel,” Gonzalez said. “Working here for the last eight years has been a real journey.” Gonzalez said he plans to be back in shape to continue as the announcer for the Tarpons football games.
Hockema said Gonzalez is a beloved figure and icon in this town of Port Isabel. “Wally has been a great chief for us and he is a great member of the community,” Hockema said. The Port Isabel police department has 19 certified police officers employed with the department.
Gonzalez said there is no daily routine in police work— sometimes it’s slow and sometimes it’s intense. “I would just like to thank everybody who has supported me throughout the years,” Gonzalez said. “I have had a lot of good support from the community and city commission.”

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer

Visitors to the Gladys Porter Zoo on busy days won’t have to stand in line as long once a major renovation project is complete. Zoo Director Patrick Burchfield said two entrances and a ticket booth are being added for the general public, plus a new membership office and separate entry that will allow zoo members to avoid the lines all together. It’s part of a new entry/exit complex going in near the zoo’s current single-turnstile exit leading to the parking lot left of the main entrance, he said.
“What that’s going to do, on busy days in particular, it’s going to expedite us getting more people in there more quickly and serving them more efficiently,” Burchfield said. The existing turnstile will be relocated, and another installed next to it, as part of the new complex. Both turnstiles will be able to accommodate wheelchairs and double-wide strollers. The old gift shop, meanwhile, has been “totally gutted, renovated and redone,” Burchfield said. The gift shop at the main entrance will remain in operation, he said.
Work on the new complex started about two months ago, and a ribbon cutting is planned for August, Burchfield said. Zoo facilities director Jerry Stone, who is in charge of the project, said the new entrances will take pressure off the main entrance during the busiest times and relieve the chaos that sometimes envelops the tiny front office.

By STEVE CLARK Staff Writer

June and July are great months for top water action. However it’s also the months that produce the most grass on the surface making fishing those top waters next to impossible. What’s a die-hard top water guy supposed to do?
The Spartina grass as well as the Turtle grass comes up from the bottom where it has died and the heat from the sun makes it float to the surface, as well as increased boat traffic cutting it lose from the bottom. There are ways to get around it.
The first thing to do is get rid of the treble hooks and replace them with a single wide gap hook, 3/0 will do. I have found that this set up will catch just as many fish as the trebles will or very close to it. Trick is when you put the hook on the split ring making sure they are going to ride point up. You might even have to twist the wire hook holder a little to accomplish this.
Then when you fish your top water make your cast to the side as opposed to down wind. The lure coming across the wind lines of grass as opposed to right back up the whole line of grass will help keep the hooks from fowling. Work the bait with a walk the dog action but keep the rod tip down close to the water so the line is in the water and not up in the wind and use a side ways twitch.
Of course the old gold spoon is always a great choice too. One thing that will help with this bait is to add a sharp short jerk to your retrieve about every ten turns of the reel handle. I use a Johnson’s weed less spoon with a slit ring and a swivel attached to the front end of the spoon. I tie the swivel on the leader and use a triple surgeons knot for the leader to main line.
This allows for fewer knots to gather grass on the line. The sharp short jerk will free the grass so you don’t crank in a wasted cast every time with grass all over your line and lure.
Another trick that we’ve developed over time is using fresh dead mullet. Tie on a 5/0 wide gape hook, and hook the mullet starting under the chin and come out through the skull between the eyes. A mullet actually has a hole in his head there where the hook point should ease right through.
Lob this bait out and work it back on the surface with a walk the dog motion and a little faster to keep the mullet on top. When the strike occurs, stop, feed him the offering for a couple of seconds and tighten up the slack. If he’s there, set the hook hard and hold on. The neat thing about this set up is that your hook up ratio increases but you still get the excitement of top water action.
One of my customers defined it as watching Orca come up behind your bait. It gets exciting watching fish follow before they hit.
You can also go to a bass type weed less hook, the one with the wire weed guard and hook on your favorite worm. Mine is the Norton Sand eel. With no weight you can’t cast it as far, but the more weight you use the faster the retrieve has to be. So you’ll have to make your choice there.
I like no weight or 1/8 ounce bullet weight installed on the front of the eel on the leader. This allows me to work the soft plastic on the surface. When the strike comes you can set the hook then if he’s got it, or stop the bait momentarily and let it sink. Then start a subsurface twitch and he will usually come back and pick it up.
Another trick that works well is to use small rubber bands. Loop the band on the jig eye and stretch it back to the barb of the hook. This will keep off most of the grass that could foul your lure, but won’t hinder your hook sets in the fish.
One other little trick I’ve learned that doesn’t have anything to do with weeds is saltwater on your sunglasses. How many times have you wished you could clean your glasses because of saltwater being splashed on the lenses?
Most of you know it takes a really clean cloth to clean them without smudging them up worse. But what about when your out wading up to your chest? Nowhere is there a clean dry shirttail. Simply dry your tongue best you can and lick your lens with your whole tongue.
Put them back on your face.  Spit out the salt and let them dry in the wind. Waa-la clear sight again. It works better than a clean cloth.