Experimentation is a Huge Part of My Game

Experimentation is a Huge Part of My Game
Gold-side Custom Corky lineup; gold is good!
I trust everybody enjoyed a great holiday season. Very little cold over the holidays along the middle and lower coast but no complaint on my end even though I do believe colder weather produces bigger trout. December through March are my favorite big trout months and the most logical reason is the absence of fishing pressure. Week days often find the flats void of boats and barrier island shorelines near the mouths of marsh drains are seldom targeted.

Over the next several months my target species will be trout, and not just "trout-trout" as I often refer to them but, trout in the 30-plus class. The hunt for a fish that represents such a tiny portion of the population is what drives trophy seekers. Speckled trout of 30plus length are regal dinosaurs of their species and deserve respect upon being collected. Releasing is what I suggest if the fish is not a personal best and headed to John Glenn Taxidermy in Corpus Christi. Replica mounts are pretty darn good today so this is also an option.

Killing such a fish for eating purposes is something I would never recommend, simply because there are a lot of better choices for gracing the family china. I want to commend the majority of big trout specialists I know on demanding the release of most every trout longer than 23- to 24 inches. The only way to insure that the trout you just caught could be on your line again is by letting her swim away. OK, that's my spiel on that.

Now we need to know what to look for and what baits to use to get big trout on the line. In the "looking" department, predominant structure is pretty much bay system specific. In my home water I prefer one of two types; scattered shell over mud bottom or submerged grass beds around shoreline points and mouths of drains. I prefer to fish windward if at all possible. Shallow and clear water conditions prevail many days, especially when hard winter sets in. Sandy-colored water works better and I have experienced incredible results in downright muddy chop. Water clarity and bait presence are critical parts of a good game plan.

Take for example the wintry blast of early November 2014 when water temps fell quickly into the upper-40s for a few nights, kick-starting the winter pattern. Most Texas bays have "back bay" regions with predominantly soft, muddy bottom. Dark absorbs solar energy faster than light-colored bottom and this creates pockets of warmer water. Mullet are filter feeders, meaning they strain nutrients from the water, and the sediments suspended in murky zones provide more food. Couple this with the tendency of fish to seek warmer areas in winter, and now you know why the mullet are there. And like the old saying... "Find bait and find fish."

So we feel good about our area, now we need to know when to be there. I know it sounds odd but a lot people fish on their schedule, not the fish's. It often goes like this, "Hey Jay, we need to be back at the dock around 1:00PM so we can get home at a reasonable hour." Or how about this, "Yeah, we're running late after a long night; can we push dock time back a few hours?"

I make a practice of honoring client requests, even knowing we will miss the best bite of the day. This may be good business on one hand but a recipe for poor results on the other. I have honestly culled and taught my clientele to the point where they are asking me what hours we need to fish. What an absolute fabulous way to spend my final years in the business.

No longer am I surprised by our catches when the moon is in proper alignment and it is my belief that the larger the trout in a given area, the more you will notice their feeding activity. Over the past 7 to 8 years I have become a staunch believer in setting up in the right area and allowing the solunar feeding periods to develop around me. It is sort of like hunting a mature whitetail. You get settled in and wait, paying close attention to the smallest of details, and being at the ready all the time.

OK, so we have found the right area and timed our effort to coincide with a feeding period. What should we be throwing?

No doubt I am a diehard Bass Assassin man. I love the texture, the array of colors, and my ability to get big trout to eat them. I also love throwing the Paul Brown Corky baits that MirrOlure now produces. After many years of struggling to find the right rod to produce lure action that is pleasing to the fish I finally settled on Steve Henriksen's 6'6" custom Henri Rods. Cliff Webb told me years ago that Corky fishing is all about having the right rod to make the bait do what it is designed to do–suspend and sink slowly between lifts and twitches. I work the heck out of mine but the moderate power of the rods allows me the luxury of working the bait hard while not moving it too far forward, if that makes any sense. The rod has given me confidence to stick with a Corky during periods when our bite wanes. Confidence is everything with this bait so as an angler I needed a rod that I knew was allowing me to put the mojo on the bait to draw strikes. When the bite slows it's on them, not my lack of ability.

Over the past two years I have worked with Lowell and Dee Dee Odom in their Custom Corky enterprise. I wanted some new color schemes and they were willing to let me play with my ideas. I have always liked gold or copper flashes in dirty or stained water. I also prefer gold on days with heavy overcast. Let me ask you this. How many pictures in this magazine do you see of anglers with huge trout under overcast skies? I'd guess it's about 70%. So with this said we set out adding already popular pink and chartreuse to gold-sided Corkys. The Fat Boy has a larger flash radius so I prefer it over the Original, but I work the Original better in deeper water. Long story short, I have proven time and again this winter with clients that gold is good. Bonus finding was that gold worked extremely well on sunny days in air-clear water and little wind, which if you have read many articles in saltwater fishing magazines, are not typically good conditions for catching large trout on lures.

The most exciting aspect of this development has been the testing and the thought process behind why we think it is working. Honest truth is it works and works very well, better some days than even the old standbys. Could be as simple as the bait's color combinations being something they have not seen before. Or could it be that they actually do see the gold better on overcast days? Maybe baitfish have more of a gold glint to them than we realize or maybe I have just been stupid lucky. I believed in it enough to purchase the entire line of these baits so at worst case I have enough to last the rest of my life. Experimentation is fun to me and fundamentally a huge part of my game. What do you think about copper holograms? That's another story.

By the time you read this I will be chasing trout in knee deep water somewhere near Port Mansfield. I promise that I will return them to the water so you'll have a chance at a fish of a lifetime as well.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins