Structure takes precedence over color
It was an approach to shopping that I had never personally witnessed before. The shopper, surely an avid fisherman, raked every pack of Sea Shads and Flats Minnows in two different colors off the pegs and into his basket. He then defiantly made his way through several other shoppers patiently waiting behind him.
“Which of these is the best,” he asked the well-known area fisherman that was speaking with the clerk at the time. The obvious answer, “They are both good,” was not what he wanted to hear.“I am not putting any of them back until I am sure I have the right color,” he replied.
The fact that the other shoppers were still waiting for him to put either of them back on the pegs should have been confirmation enough. Not surprisingly, they were not going to help him with his decision and he eventually returned all but four packs of each. When the next shopper in line quickly grabbed everything he put back, the earlier advice was confirmed.
Excluding most effectively targeting flounder with an artificial; lure, color is not nearly as critical a consideration this time of year as depth and structure. I would feel confident chasing flounder with basically any color Gulp shrimp or mullet that I could get my hands on, but chartreuse would be my first choice.
That, however, is not the case when it comes to targeting reds and larger trout well into the early spring months. Even with the user-friendly madness that comes with working the birds still in full swing, there is a more consistent larger trout and redfish bite awaiting the angler willing to do more exploring than casting.
If you don’t care to get that serious about your fishing then you have wasted enough time reading this column. I fished last week with Lamar Belcher and he made it clear from the “get go” that he was more interested in establishing patterns and learning new techniques than riding herd on the gulls. Over the course of a rainy morning we both enjoyed sharing information while shortening the learning curve!
As of a week ago, every pattern associated with catching larger trout began working to some degree and each will only get stronger with more cold weather. The easiest and most consistent pattern is targeting big trout moving out of deeper water onto shallow flats in 2 to 4 feet of water in search of their next meal.
Find something different about the bottom whether it is a slightly deeper drain or scattered shell and be as quiet as possible while fishing the area. If there is bait on the surface, plan on staying a while as it is usually only a matter of figuring out which lure they can’t resist before your wait pays dividends.
I have caught many of my largest trout slowly walking a topwater lure like the Spook or She Dog across the surface on even the coldest of days and I am equally sold on suspending baits like the Corky, Maniac Mullet and MirrOlure’s Catch V and MirrOdine XL. They have a large profile and they can be retrieved slowly without sinking through the strike zone.
Having said that, I often rely on the longer five inch tail rigged on a 1/16th or 1/8th ounce jig head. The additional bulk and extra length more closely imitates a mullet and I can fish them a little faster when hunting fish.My main concern is whether to fish a straight tail or paddle tail which produces a little more vibration.
The Assassin Diedapper and five inch Sea Shad are my favorite paddle tails while I prefer TTF’s Trout Killer and the Tidal Surge mullet in a straight tail. Choice of colors is dependent on water clarity and while dark or light is pretty generic, I stick with brighter translucent colors in clear water and darker lures for their opaque profile in dingy water. There are plenty of confidence colors on both ends of the spectrum without going through a long list that will get the job done.
The most difficult, but easily the most “wind proof” pattern involves effectively fishing the deeper water leading to any shallow flat that borders the river or ICW. Big trout have no reason to leave the deeper more stable water as long as food is present and the same fish you caught shallow will never be far from deeper water this time of the year.
The key to finding these fish is locating submerged pieces of structure that divert water current. Use your depth finder to determine the depth most of the bait is holding at and then search out points of land or even submerged structure that provide ambush points at that depth.
I vertically fish the deeper water pattern most of the time and my three most productive lures are a Corky Devil, Maniac Mullet and Carolina rigged Assassin Diedapper. A critical factor in successfully fishing this pattern is to not be afraid to lose a lure. You are going to lose your share if you fish them correctly, but you are also going to get more swings at trout over seven pounds than you ever thought possible.
Give the birds a break on your next trip and loosen your drag!