Never a bad time for a cork
While in the process of recording last week’s segment of “Let’s Go Fishing” on KOGT, Gary Stelly asked, “When do you decide during a trip that it is time to switch over to fishing under a cork?”
Virtually all year long, at least one person in my boat is always fishing a tail under a Mauler type Cork. That decision was made for me in 1981 when Will Bullock handed me a box of Mansfield Maulers up on Toledo Bend. He and Capt. Bob Fuston of Red Bandana Charters were working together and Bob had just come up with the cigar shaped cork rigged on a piece of wire to help his clients more effectively fish pot holes in the grass on the lower coast.
I was guiding more on T-Bend than here at the time and those fifty or so corks never left the box for the better part of a year. When I finally got around to trying them on Sabine Lake I quickly realized the value of Will’s gift.There was no grass on Sabine to negotiate with the Mauler rig, but it attracted fish like no other cork I had ever fished.
Thirty years later, improved versions of the Mauler are a staple in most fishing arsenals and for good reason. They will catch trout and redfish when all else fails. For the first several years I fished with the cork, I fished it only with a chartreuse or clear-flake beetle tied on a two foot leader.
Today, I seldom if ever fish the original cigar shaped cork. The more buoyant oval or cup shaped corks float a heavier jig and cast much easier. The key to making the cork more versatile is to not allow its lack of weight to dictate what bait you can fish under it. I never fish a jig head heavier than a quarter ounce and there are many days when I rig the tail on just a 4/0 Kahle hook for a slower fall.
The more expensive versions of the Mauler type cork are worth the money as they include a little more weight on the bottom of the wire running through the cork. The more flexible titanium wire also adds to the cost, but it will save you a lot of money over the long haul as the cheaper wire is stiff and crimps too easily.
I initially found that I had so many fish hitting the cork rather than the lure that I decided to add a split ring and treble hook to the cork itself and even went so far as to paint dots and stripes on a few of them. That proved to be both a bad and expensive idea. The trout would quickly tear the cork up with their teeth and the redfish would demolish the entire rig every time they took a swipe at the cork!
To this day I continue to experiment with the Mauler rig and there seems to be no end to its versatility. I have shortened the wire, added beads, thrown away beads, added weight, and fished with leaders from one to six feet in length just to name a few of the more obvious changes. While I most often fish a tail under the cork, I am now convinced that any lure that will sink will work for certain applications.
Three years ago, on a cold miserable day, I even rigged a Corky under one of these corks for a client that would have rather been raking leaves than standing in waist deep water in Calcasieu lake. He was bored and was making very few casts anyway, so we just gave it a try rather than return to the boat and drink coffee while his buddies continued to fish.
You have to know that fishing a Corky properly requires some practice and a lot of patience as you are generally trying to dupe just one oversized trout that thinks the bait is a struggling mullet. I only mention that because Dale’s Corky was hanging vertically under the cork and only moved when he occasionally remembered his bait was in the water and popped the cork.
By the time I netted his sixth fish, a seven pound personal best, everyone in the group was wading back to the boat hoping to find another cork. We generally fish a plastic tail under the rig, but also do well this time of the year fishing a Crazy Croaker under the cork and it is really just a mini-version of the larger Corky.
Whether we are fishing it or not at the time, there is always at least one spinning rod rigged up with a Mauler type cork in my boat year round. I prefer to fish them with a seven foot medium action spinning rod and 20-pound test braided line. The no-stretch factor is very beneficial when setting the hook on a long cast as the cork already produces a lot of resistance.
It has been my experience when fishing the rig on a casting rod that backlashes are much too frequent at the end of a long cast. They can also be tough to cast in a stiff wind and that seems to be the norm on the open lake rather than the exception.
In hind sight, I guess my answer to Gary’s question should have been, “My toughest decision is when to switch from the cork to another technique rather than the other way around!”