Exceptional Inshore Saltwater Guide Joins Influential Professional Staff
The best fishing guides offer daily master classes in the art of finding and luring fish. They’re the ones to put you at ease with a good story or a quick joke, usually right before your first hook of the day. All of the elite level guides seem to give off a laid back vibe that oozes endless patience, while naturally imparting knowledge of catching fish almost as an afterthought. They will also educate you on their conservation ethic, cleverly explaining how to handle and release certain fish, all without judgment. And where it matters most, they amaze you with their bird-dog instincts to sniff out groups of frantic fish. In short, you go home feeling like you’ve just experienced a day on the water you’ll never forget.
If you’re lucky, you’ve spent days like this, wading and watching the shallows with Captain Ernesto Cisneros. A lifelong student of Texas’ extraordinary Laguna Madre Baja, the legendary coastal guide and conservationist recently joined Z-Man’s elite core of professional saltwater staff.
For Captain Cisneros, the passion for teaching spans nearly thirty years. In South Texas classrooms, Cisneros empowered young people with valuable life lessons. However, in all those years, fishing remained the main educational activity for him. For an average of 130 days a year, the Brownsville, Texas native took his lessons from the classroom to the water, working as a saltwater fishing guide, building a reputation for integrity, angling intuition and a rare ability to teach. without lecturing
In 2016, Cisneros retired from the classroom to focus on his passion as a full-time “educational fishing guide.” Today, when he is not traveling the world in search of angling adventures, Cisneros explores the remarkable ecosystem of the Laguna Madre, wading and fishing for redfish, speckled trout, bass and many other shallow water predators. During these same years, Cisneros has served as a key contributing writer for Texas Saltwater Fishing magazine, another outlet for his teaching talents on a broader scale.
“I like fishing so much that I have never been a guide looking at a watch in the water,” says Cisneros, an exceptional artificial fisherman. “All my days start at sunrise and we often fish well into the extra hour, especially if we have a chance to hit a key feeding period.” Many days, Cisneros is joined by his son Aarona 13-year veteran captain and fishing and waterfowl guide, who has developed a strong reputation of his own.
Instrumental in promoting voluntary capture-photo-release (CPR) in the Laguna Madre, Cisneros continues to encourage conservation by offering incentives on all CPR trips, a now standard practice among many of the area’s guides and anglers.
“To date, we have released more than 8,000 legal-size redfish, trout and other species that would otherwise have ended up on the fillet table,” he says. “In no way does this mean you can’t catch a few fish or a respectable limit for dinner. Rather, we teach fishermen to practice good stewardship of the resource, often, for example, by releasing most of the largest specimens. Today, 40 percent of our guided trips are with anglers who voluntarily release all their fish.”
Parallel to his commitment to conservation, Cisneros has built a strong reputation for developing specific fine-tuned tackle and techniques for spooky, shallow inshore bites. “Ernest is among a small handful of the most influential guides in South Texas,” says Z-Man Director of Product Development José Chávez. “He is an incredible angler and communicator, and as such, we at Z-Man are excited to harness his knowledge to create powerful new ElaZtech® baits for Texas inshore fishing and beyond.”
This season, launching the 4-inch ShadZ™ Scented Jerk and StreakZ™ 3.75—both fine-sized smooth jerkbaits—Cisneros continues to crush trophy-class redfish and speckled trout. “I love the action of these little minnow baits,” he says. “They have a super live juking movement left to right, left to right. Selective fish really respond to them. mounted on a Texas Eye™ Finesse jig headProviding a free swinging pivoting action, the Jerk ShadZ and StreakZ really come to life. The Texas Eye cuts across the grass, unhindered.”
Cisneros also points out the subtle advantages of bait buoyancy. “I am a big fan of the natural buoyancy of ElaZtech. Gives baits a beautiful fluttering action. At a pause, the bait floats just above the sea grass where the fish can see it. The added floatation especially raises the StreakZ’s forked tail, mimicking a baitfish feeding nose down on the substrate. Many times, too, the Pro-Cure infused Jerk ShadZ is key, especially in colder waters. It is amazing how well and for how long this oil-based attractant adheres to the ElaZtech material.”
Speaking of Cisnero’s skills, Z-Man director of promotions Joey Prochazka notes the natural fit among the company’s stellar roster of coastal talent. “We couldn’t be more excited to be working with Ernest, an elite angler, guide, and great man,” says Prochazka. “We continue to strive to provide our valued Texas saltwater customers with the best possible baits and lures for catching fish. Working with a professional like Ernest will greatly enhance our understanding of the fishery, which offers its own unique set of fish behavior and preferences. Without a doubt, Z-Man’s connection to Captain Cisneros will generate more bites and more fish for saltwater anglers everywhere.”
At his home in Brownsville, Texas, Cisneros takes time out of his busy schedule to travel the world in search of various fishing opportunities. “I’ve been lucky enough to experience some amazing fishing from Texas and Mexico to Costa Rica, Brazil, Belize and Alaska to Florida and much of the western US. Next month, we’re off to Puerto Rico.
“And yet, the waters in my home will always be very special. Wading through the cleared, grassy flats puts you on an equal footing with the fish. Being in the water offers many advantages; allows you to sneak up and put a bait up the nose of a big fish. It’s amazing how hard the fish fight when you’re in the water with them, experiencing the same elements.
“This year, I can’t wait to dig into my ElaZtech arsenal and discover a new arsenal of baits. Very excited, too, for the opportunity to help Z-Man develop innovative designs for these pristine waters. We’re going to have a blast.”
About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic company based in Charleston, South Carolina, Z-Man Fishing Products has been fusing cutting-edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been one of the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits, and other lures. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of 10X Tough ElaZtech soft baits, quickly becoming the most sought after baits in freshwater and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.