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Driving on
5 PART How-To guide
By: Manuel Z

Going to the PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE (P.I.N.S.) or " BIG SHELL "  as most people call it, has become quite a ritual among Surf Fishing experts and novices alike in South Texas. Even though there is no food, water, gas or lighting anywhere along this stretch of beach doesn't keep people from venturing into the unknown.

I've heard from different sources that P.I.N.S. consist of anywhere from 50 to 80 miles of deserted sandy/shelly beach and some of the best SURF FISHING in the world.

I read an article a while back that stated there is no such thing as a "Honey Hole" on P.I.N.S. or on any beach as far as I'm concerned, This fact is because the terrain in and out of the water is constantly changing, You wouldn't believe how fast it changes in the water compared to the land. If you're catching fish in one spot and the action suddenly stops... Try fishing 20, 50 or even 100 yards to one side of where you were catching fish before. The terrain/structure in the water changed and the fish will move along with it.

Capt. Billy Sandifer  a well known and respected Surf Fishing and Bird Watching guide from Padre Island Safaris states:
"Anyone who says they know a spot on the beach - A hole at mile marker whatever, that always produces fish, is pulling your leg!"

For more Big Shell fishing tips, visit

Now, On with the driving information...

The Vehicle

Of course the main thing you need for deserted beach driving is a 4WD vehicle. Although you will occasionally see people out there in a 2WD vehicle. These people are either Very experienced, Very brave or Very Foolish. If they make it in and out without getting stuck they are Very Lucky!  Don't go to Padre Island National Seashore without a 4WD vehicle.

New -vs- Old

Even Though the best 4WD vehicle is a newer one, You will do fine with a well maintained vehicle no matter what year model it is. The Pictured vehicle is my 1984 Toyota 4x4. My Truck has a standard transmission. But, Automatic vehicles work just as well if not better because you don't have the distraction of switching gears. Some Off Roaders prefer the "Hands-On" and control of Standard vehicles. But, You have to use what is available to you.

It doesn't matter What make or model your vehicle is. As long as it is a 4WD, If you need more information on a particular vehicle, Simply contact as many people with that type of vehicle and ask questions. Message boards on the internet are very valuable in this aspect.

My best advice to you is: If you don't trust your vehicle on the road... Trust it less on the 4WD ONLY beaches!

Vehicle Checklist

Check the following things before you leave home

  • Check your wheels for abnormalities or wear. 
  • Check or replace worn belts and hoses and keep the old ones handy for emergencies.
  • Make sure you have a good spare tire, The correct lug wrench and jack. Bring along a 4"x4" block and a flat piece of wood for a base to set these under your jack because it will sink in the sand.
  • If your tires have locks, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE KEYS!
  • Test your 4WD operation before you leave home or before you commit yourself to heading down a rough beach.  NOTE: Do not drive in 4WD on pavement you will put unnecessary wear on your gearbox because your wheels can't slip independently.
  • Check all your fluid levels. Oils, Water, Brakes, Steering even your wiper water.
  • Check the operation of your seat belts for every passenger, You will need them.

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