Colburn: Maniac mullet is a game changer

While Christmas Day proved to be far soggier than expected, it has been the devastating drought that continues to be the lead story for Sabine Lake anglers. Unmatched salinity levels in both the Neches and Sabine Rivers have afforded die hard trout fishermen the opportunity to catch quality trout, redfish, and flounder when the open lake was under siege from a howling wind.

In reviewing previous years, there is always a particular color or two, new lure or even a new technique that improves the catching aspect of fishing. This past year was no different.

Glow-chartreuse and glow pink have been dependable combinations since the beginning of time and a little chartreuse on the tail of any other color is not a bad thing, but seemingly every year there is one color that dominates the scene. Limetreuse, red shad, East beast or chicken on a chain, and Texas roach are just a few of those colors that burst on the scene and at the very least garnered the lion’s share of angler confidence.

Last year it was Assassin’s stinky pink and this year it has been TTF’s bug juice gaining most of the notoriety. It is important to note that each of those colors have proven to be so dependable that they are included in any complete saltwater arsenal.

While the catching in the rivers is finally slowing down a little, it was nothing short of phenomenal from early October through just last week. And, while the redfish bite was never a secret, in previous years I saw very few fishermen targeting just trout. As the pressure greatly increased this year, I tweaked my own approach and it proved to be an eye-opener.

For the most part, crank baits and swim baits ruled the roost on 15 to 18 inch fish with a trout in excess of five pounds occasionally crashing the party. Strike Pro’s Bubba, a shallow running crank bait, and most of the 3-inch Swim baits were the tickets to non-stop catching. Those baits are extremely effective in 5 to 8 feet of water, but even though the swim bait can be fished at any depth, it loses a little something in 15 to 20 feet of water.

In order to avoid some of the daily traffic, I started probing the deeper breaks only to discover that the trout holding in that deeper water were significantly larger fish on average. According to my logs, we caught more 5 -pound plus trout in the past two months than I caught in any comparable two month span since 1981!

When you add an occasional 7 to 8-pound trout to the mix it makes it much easier to patiently dissect deeper water while anticipating far fewer bites. It is obviously not a program for everyone, but it has proven to be an enlightening and enjoyable change of pace.

I initially found the fish by simply dragging a Corky Devil just off the bottom. Because the most dependable bite took place on a hard outgoing tide, I was forced to add split shots a couple of feet above the lure to help it sink. I then got more strikes, but the lure just didn’t track right.

The problem was solved when I tied the Corky on a Carolina rig with a three-foot leader and a five-sixteenths ounce bullet weight. The whole approach was further enhanced the day a client hung up and lost my last Corky Devil. The closest thing I had on board was a Tidal Surge Maniac Mullet and I haven’t used anything else since!

Ironically enough, Shawn Hebert and Dana Bailey knew that I fished their Crazy Croaker a great deal and sent me a couple of the new hybrid lures earlier this year. They didn’t work as well on school trout as the shorter Crazy Croaker did at the time and they were quickly relegated to riding the bench. That all changed when I tied one on the business end of the Carolina rig.

Here is the only bad news concerning both this technique and the Maniac Mullet. Any time you drag a lure along the bottom on the Sabine River or along the ICW, you are going to lose bunches to submerged debris. The ratio of big trout caught to the number of lures lost is bad, but no one has shared a more economical technique with me thus far that works as well.

Here, however, is the best news about the Maniac Mullet. I have fished it the way it is designed to be fished in 2 to 5 feet of water the last two weeks and have caught a number of 6-pound plus trout without losing a single lure.The big trout will eventually tear it up, but I know how to get to Daley’s Hunt N Fish in Pt. Acres and Keith said they are expecting a hundred more by mid-week.

I don’t know that the Maniac Mullet is any better than a Corky or Catch V for this application, but the shallow water fish are hitting it exactly like they do the other two baits. I attach it with a Tony’s clip to prevent line twist and exchange the stock hook with one a size larger as the fish tend to fold the tail over the barbs when they inhale the lure. I make the same changes with all of my Corkies as well.

Standing elbow deep in waders in 50 degree water in a drizzling rain is not for everyone, but if you will go to such lengths for a shot at a bragging size trout…..you might want to give the Maniac Mullet a try. I believe dragging one just off the bottom in the river is still an option as well and it’s a helluva lot easier on the body!