Air-Clear Water Conditions

Air-Clear Water Conditions
Custom Corky lures on the drying rack.
Winter is definitely here and looks to be shaping up as a colder than average season. This tends to work in our favor, as long as daytime air and water temperatures climb to the mid to upper 50s. Surface warming is a must in the patterning process for me. I especially like to fish areas with visible and defined bottom structure. This equates to fishing shallow more often than not.

This is also where daytime warming provides for more predictable patterns. This by no means is meant to make you believe that once the fish arrive in the shallows that they will always eat for us. Simple truth is that there first must be fish present to have any chance for catching one. This is where both the mind and skill level game begins.

For the past almost 35 years I have gained a great deal of confidence in fishing shallow water for the biggest of trout. For more than three quarters of this time I preferred to have enough wind to slightly murk the clear shallow waters enough to allow me a few mistakes. Baitfish are way more vulnerable when water clarities are off versus periods of exceptional clarity. Hey, a gazelle has a much better chance of spotting an approaching cheetah in short grass on a clear day than with tall grass and overcast skies.

But what happens when we have clear skies and clear water for days on end? Do the cheetahs stop eating? Of course not. But they definitely become more stealthy in their stalking.

Earlier than normal winter cold has left much of the shallow water along the Middle to Lower Coast extremely clear. Air or gin-clear are terms many anglers use when referring to water clarity, so when you hear this term you now know the meaning. I know one would think this was self-explanatory but I have many who still asked what I mean when I say it.

Water temperatures below the 50 mark for any prolonged period will cause the algae and plankton to fall out, leaving air-clear water. This is a great time to take advantage of these conditions and do some bottom structure scouting. Mid-bay reefs and sand bars become visible and easy to mark. This knowledge will pay big dividends on future trips. Over the years I have located and marked some of the best areas that I frequent today. By the way, I also learned a bunch of them by hitting them with my lower unit while learning to navigate the bay. The old bump the bottom pop a slick method has been the savior of many a day for me. I get off track when writing just like I do when I talk. One pattern leads me to recall another and so on and so forth.

So the water is air-clear due to colder than average water temperatures, winds are light and sun shining brightly. Good day to fish but not the best day for catching is a comment I have made countless times to eager clients. Enter new attitude along with highly efficient tools. I am talking about some new lure colors, better casting reels, higher grade mono and fluorocarbon lines, better casting braids and new rod actions and powers that allow me to do everything I need to do to get shallow clear-water trout to eat. It is an exciting time for me because over the past two winters I have truly learned things that have helped me put my clients on better days when water clarity would have left me less confident in prior seasons. I am fortunate to work in a field that allows for continual learning. This certainly keeps the competitive juices flowing through my veins.

Confidence is huge in everything we do. I am confident not cocky, world of difference in the two. For the record, confidence is something from inside that one projects outwardly. Cockiness is a cover for lack of confidence. My dad taught me this many years ago, in my cocky stage. He'd say, "Son if you want to get to the bottom of a problem, start by looking in the mirror." Jay Ray and Ryan heard this on many occasions growing up.

To combat the clear water I have gone to using lures that have clear bodies with silver and gold glitter. I think the flash of the glitter is more than enough to draw the strike. For the backs of the lures I prefer pale color patterns. This seems to give the body silhouette slightly more color but without causing the bait to appear too dark. Over time I have added light blue, bone, pistachio, pink and chartreuse to the arsenal. When added to a lure these colors allow it remain somewhat transparent or at least translucent, and I believe this definitely increases the potential for strikes in clear water. For years now several of Bass Assassins worst selling colors have become my go-to numbers in clear water baits. Cajun Croaker, Opening Night and Bone Diamond are always in one of my pockets. Cajun Croaker was almost eliminated from the company's inventory because larger tackle store buyers saw limited to no sales. Lucky for those of us who honestly know how deadly this bait is in clear water, the company decided to continue producing it.

As for jigheads, I still prefer the 1/16 weight but the color of the head can vary. Chartreuse was my go-to for years but in clear water I often opt to use the plain lead-colored jig.

For my suspending baits, Custom Corky and the owners Lowell and Deedee Odom are helping me develop color patterns that mimic my favorite plastic colors for the Corky enthusiast. Custom Corky was established so you the angler could create your own color patterns. They provide the canvass, you paint the picture. I can say without hesitation that our new pistachio-backed Fat Boys and Original Corky series are serious big trout lures. We are presently in the process of testing new colors as I write this article. To me, getting away from that solid-dark silhouette is what makes the bait work so well. In the dirtier stuff though, you can bet I'll be throwing a darker color.

So far this season I have found myself dealing with clear water conditions just as often as the dirty stuff so my game is constantly being revised. Big trout requires your A-game and I honestly believe the clear-bodied lures are producing more fish for me.

My line selection is still braid in the diameters of 6 to 8 pound monofilament and you can bet I'll be using clear mono or flourocarbon leaders at least 36 inches long. I learned the importance of a clear leader fishing redfish tournaments in the clear waters of the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre. At times it was literally the difference in getting a fish to take versus having one turn you down. Pretty easy to be convinced when you can see it happening with your own eyes.

Finally we are down to the rod and reel I use. A common factor for both is weight. The combination of my Custom Henri Rods; 6'6" Ultra CS (Corky Special) Phoenix blank in a light power and moderate fast action paired with a Quantum EXO 100SPT in 6.6:1 make it possible for me to not only put the specific action on the bait that I feel draws the most instinctive strikes but it allows me to do so all day long. At 56 years old there are some back, shoulder and elbow issues starting to surface. Lighter is better for these ailments.

So hopefully now you have a little better game plan the next time you arrive at your favorite fishing area and discover air-clear water conditions. I hope some of my suggestions help you catch a few more fish. Remember; take only what you need and leave the rest to fight another day.

In closing I would like to express my condolences to my friend Mike McBride on the loss of his father. Tough thing for us when we lose one of our parents.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins