While Saturday was another windy one and a little on the cool side, area trout fishermen were still out in force checking out promising stretches of water in Sabine Lake in hopes of winning some serious money this weekend. The first of two Texas Marine Big Trout Series tournaments is set for Saturday morning and there is still plenty of time to register.

You can sign up on-line, at Texas Marine in Beaumont or at Academy. You can also pick up an entry form here in Orange at The River Rat Marina. The top fish each hour is worth $500 while second and third place fish will also earn gift cards from Texas Marine. The prize money for the first three places each hour is guaranteed regardless of the size of the field. The largest trout of the series will earn some lucky angler a Ranger flats boat, motor, and trailer! Most of the folks I talked with that fished Saturday do not believe the winning trout will come out of the lake. Their number one pick was Keith Lake, followed by one of the canals exiting the Bessie Heights marsh or the ship channel south of the Causeway. The lake is still badly off-colored, but I would not write off the Causeway reef or the Louisiana shoreline when looking for a single big fish.
If this helps your decision any, Larry Parks said that he and his dad, Ron, caught three trout over three pounds on mud minnows Saturday morning. They were fishing for flounder on the east side of the ship channel between the Causeway and Lighthouse Cove in five to eight feet of water. Larry did not mind sharing the information, as he does not intend to fish any trout tournament. “We’re flounder fishermen,” he said with conviction. “When we catch a trout or redfish it is by accident.”

Those same three accidental trout could be worth a lot of money this weekend! This is not to infer that I do not wade fish after April, but I do tweak my selection of lures as the surface temperature crawls above the seventy-degree mark. Corkies and Crazy Croakers tend to slip a little deeper in the line-up and I often cull the lures that took a beating during the colder months of winter.

All too often, my wading box went back into a storage compartment with enough saltwater trapped in the compartments to rust out an aluminum trailer. An additional number of lures wind up hanging on the grab rail or baking in the sun in one of the open trays on the console.

If you are a regular reader of this column or a client that has fished with me from time to time, you know the majority of these baits are from the MirrOlure family. Because they put such good hardware on their lures, in past years I would soak them all in a bucket of cleaner, rinse them off, and remove the hooks and split rings from the bodies with little or no remaining paint.Most of the lure bodies then went into the garbage until the neighborhood kids discovered that they made great dummy casting plugs that were easier to extract from the jaws of pet labs than those with hooks!

Easily the biggest waste each year was any Catch V or Catch 2000 that had developed a slightly expanded body due to excessive heat and would no longer sink. Aside from the slightly fatter body, they were in mint condition, but could no longer serve as a suspended lure. It just killed me to have to toss them aside.

Enter Johnny Cormier on a cold winter’s day when we had little else to do, but dig through tackle and curse the wind. Johnny is a Corky fisherman devotee that eventually sold me on the benefits of the Paul Brown creation. He learned his lessons well from Jim Wallace who held the trout record for years with a magnum speck he duped with a Corky on a south Texas flat.

When I discovered that the Catch V and Catch 2000 would effectively exploit those same cold weather trout, I began fishing the Corky more infrequently for two reasons. It was faster and easier to drive to Academy or a local Wal-Mart than Houston for replacements was and, with one exception; I felt they would hold their own with most of the Corky lineup. The one exception, a Corky Fat Boy floater, is the most consistent producer in the Corky stable for fishermen in our area looking for trophy trout. Because it floats at rest, you can completely control its rate of descent by adding heavier hooks or even inserting a piece of nail or wire in the body. The Catch V and 2000, however, are designed to descend at a pre-determined rate of speed. That one factor was the defining difference between the 2000 or Catch V and that particular Corky.

Thanks to Johnny, all of my bloated Catch V’s and 2000’s now go in their own special box rather than the garbage. He no sooner got to his house with several of my non-sinking MirrOlures than the phone was ringing.

“You can do the same thing with these baits that we’re doing with the Fat Boy,” he said. “Fill up your sink and give it a try.”

I left the original hooks on the body, but twisted on just enough solder core wire to the shank of the hook to slowly sink each lure. Sure enough, varying the lengths of solder gave me complete control of the rate of descent of both lures. By the end of the winter, I was fishing only those previously discarded lures.

I have not yet figured out how to control the unwanted swelling of a perfectly good lure, but I keep several out in the sun in hopes that nature will do its thing. A few days on the dashboard of the truck in the summer usually does the trick, but you have to keep an eye on them. You are probably better off just saving the accidents at the end of each year.

It is a little ironic that the best Corky fisherman I know may have eliminated my need for even carrying the soft plastic phenomenon. The biggest losers, however, may be the neighborhood labs once the kids lose the last of their dog-proof plugs!