Winter may not have officially arrived but it sure feels like it. We had to cancel this morning’s charter due to a big front blowing in. It's 40° outside and 62° inside my house. I switched the heater on for the first time and the smell of dust burning on the coils is kinda spooky.
This kind of weather is what kickstarts trophy trout season in the Upper Laguna and Baffin. Water temperatures stabilizing between high-50s and low-60s seems to really get the trout to gorging and they grow noticeably fatter. The swollen fall tide departs when these big northers blow and take most of the mullet with it. As bait becomes more scarce, trout will congregate in sweet spots where food is still available. An observant angler will do well to pay attention to Mother Nature's subtle signals.
Unlike the warmer months, I do not look for large aggregations of baitfish this time of year. Three or four mullet flipping in an area where we just arrived is a great sign. Mix that with good bottom structure, proper depth, and protection from strong north wind and I have all I need to get started. Those few mullet will typically multiply into many when things settle down and you shift into slow wade fishing mode. "The young bull may rush in and get one; the older and wiser bull moves in slower and gets them all." Fish slowly and methodically, covering all the structure with multiple casts.
As the bay waters cool, many areas come into play that were not productive during warmer months. The Upper Laguna and Baffin are relatively shallow bay systems. Many areas that were too shallow with water too warm become candidates for holding big trout. Shallow water warms quickly, especially along shorelines.
Upper Laguna and Baffin water temps mimic air temperatures very closely, outside of extreme conditions. As the day warms toward afternoon, the shallows can be three to five degrees warmer than four-foot depths. While not significant to us, large trout instinctively seek this warmth, especially later in the day. Late afternoon shorelines present some of the best opportunity to catch a giant during colder months – even more so when combined with a solunar feeding period.
My lure selection is very basic this time of year. Trust me, I own multiples of everything and I’m as guilty as the next guy for scooping up the newest and hottest items when I walk into Roy's Bait and Tackle or the Waterloo Pro Shop. There’s a saying that most fishing lures do 90% of their catching at the cash register. I believe it is true. Since I’ve likely spent two retirement funds on fishing lures, let me give you a short list of must-haves for your wade box in the coming months.
My all-time favorite fish-finder is the rattail 5" Bass Assassin. It not only finds them; it also catches BIG trout better than any soft plastic on the market. Hands down!
I can hardly believe I'm saying this but the MirrOdine XL and Corky Fat Boy are running a dead heat in the subsurface-suspending category. My Fat Boy love is well-known and documented, but my confidence in the MirrOdine XL has absolutely shot through the roof the past few years.
Texas Custom Lures has partnered with MirrOlure to produce the Double D XL. This is a floating-diving version of the MirrOdine XL and exceptionally effective when targeting trout in the shoreline shallows mentioned above. The Double D isn’t offered in every tackle store but the Waterloo Pro Shop in Victoria carries the largest stock I have seen anywhere. You can also order from their online store.
Outside of these few plastics and plugs, I will carry one trusty topwater for good measure. Stock your box with these few basics and you will have everything you need for targeting big trout in the Upper Laguna and Baffin during the colder months.
We will be celebrating the birth of Jesus soon, and with that comes lots of shiny packages, squealing kiddos, too much food, and broken New Year’s resolutions. Making a living in the fishing industry is a not as easy or glamorous as one might think. Lots of unforeseens and immeasurables; weather primarily, and fish with uncooperative attitudes.
Something that helps take some of the pressure off is the group of wonderful people I'm associated with on the business side. If you need any Christmas ideas this season, I would heartily encourage supporting these great companies: Waterloo Rods, 13 Fishing, Simms, Maui Jim, Bass Assassin, MirrOlure, Texas Custom Lures, Seaguar, Chris' Marine, Haynie Boats, and Mercury Outboards.
Remember the buffalo! -Capt David Rowsey