Wow, Jay Watkin's January article had me laughing out loud. As a fishing guide I hear the exact things from some of my clients. The majority of the guys I fish with are experienced but I occasionally hear some of the comments Jay mentioned from folks just getting started. Funny stuff!
I want to talk about lure color. Clients who have fished with me know I am not generally a "have to use this exact color" type of fishing guide. As a rule, I am good to go if the color I'm using is somewhere close to what should work in the conditions - unless of course somebody starts putting a whippin' on me. And trust me, if that happens I'm not bashful about borrowing the color that is working until we get back to the boat. Wintertime though is one season when I place great emphasis on lure color. I have waded side by side with some talented fishermen and seen many days when one color consistently out-fishes all the others.
You better be throwing the right color when the water gets cold and clear around the reefs in San Antonio Bay in late winter. And color is not the only thing that matters. Size and shape of the plastic will also make or break you on cold days.
I have noticed that fish on the reefs seem to get extra finicky when the water temperature gets below fifty degrees, and if we do not adjust we do not catch them. Granted, there will still be days when you can do no wrong, but do not expect it too regularly in February. Typically, we find small baits of soft texture in light colors work the best. And as far as I'm concerned Bass Assassin has this corner of the market sewed up. Their 4" Sea Shad in glow/chartreuse and limetreuse ghost are longtime favorites and I look for their two newest colors (violet moon and green moon) to work equally well in the cold and clear February tides. I like to rig these baits on 1/16 ounce Assassin jigs.
While I have one shirt pocket filled with the 4" Sea Shad, the other will be bulging with the new Die Dapper in glow/chartreuse and chartreuse dog. Yes, these are a good deal larger and I rig them with a weedless hook and no weight, and fish them very differently. This lure is easy to cast when rigged this way and will have a very natural fall to it because of its buoyancy, similar to a standard Corky.
As far as the 4" Sea Shad on the 1/16 jig, I let it fall very close to the bottom whether over the reef itself or the muddy edge, hopping and twitching just enough to prevent it hanging up. This is where soft and supple lure texture comes into play, allowing the lure's paddletail to wiggle and wobble to draw the strike. I also believe that soft texture encourages the fish to hold onto the bait longer as it no doubt feels more natural in their mouth than a stiffer compound. I will fish this lure in this manner eighty percent of the time during the month of February.
Now like I said earlier, the weightless Die-Dapper is fished more like a Corky. I like to rig it weedless as well as weightless to provide the extra margin of safety against snagging bottom whether I'm work reefs or in a slough or back lake where it can hang on endless sources of bottom clutter. A little twitch of the rod tip will send it back towards the surface and all you have to do is keep track of the slack as it slowly falls back down the water column, that paddletail wiggling all the way. This slow motion capability makes the Die Dapper an exceptionally useful lure for sluggish wintertime fish.
These are tried and true methods and techniques that I have learned over the years fishing the reefs in San Antonio, Ayers and Mesquite Bays and I would think that the same scenarios can be utilized successfully anywhere along the coast in a shallow bay system such as we have here.
Yes, there are other wintertime options available locally, like jumping on the bandwagon that leaves every morning and heading up the Victoria Barge Canal. But I would rather do my own thing and not fight the same old crowd I fought all summer for a spot to catch a few wintertime trout.
Fish hard, fish smart!