I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with getting too old because there isn’t a helluva lot I can do about that, but I towed my boat to the launch one morning earlier this week and came right back home without even putting it in the water!

When you can’t find anyone else to endure a cold steady rain for a shot or two at a big trout and you have to leave the house with your slicker suit already on, there is reason to review your thought process. I didn’t abort the trip, however, until I stepped out of the truck and the north wind blew my cap in the middle of the largest puddle of water in the parking lot. Yes….it was white in color before it landed!

Based on the catching this past week, even with the colder temperatures, more rain, and all of the runoff…I believe I could have caught a few big trout had I not lost my enthusiasm after wading through the ankle deep water to retrieve my cap. While it rained a bunch and the wind howled the week before, the surface temperature still climbed into the high 50’s every evening and the fish were aggressively chasing down finger mullet in the shallow water.

I prefer to wade this time of the year and did just that early in the week, but we caught more fish later in the week drifting and planting the Talon as soon as one of us hooked up. The fish seemed to be far more interested in the depth of the water than holding up on isolated pieces of structure. As a rule I prefer to hold my ground and wait for the fish to come to the shell or a drain, but I have learned that it is more productive doing what the fish want than what I want.

Thus far, and it could all go to pot tomorrow, this has been a very good year for hustling big trout in the lake. Over the past several years virtually every bragging size trout I caught in the winter came out of the river or the ICW. It wasn’t because I wasn’t still checking out the lake….they just were not there in the same numbers for me.

I think most of the die hard winter fishermen had a hunch that this was going to be a good winter when so many big trout were taken off the revetment walls back in the Spring. That bite stayed hot for three months and an incredible number of 8 to 10 pound trout were caught by bank fishermen alone fishing shrimp under a popping cork!

On the more productive days we are catching good fish on everything from topwaters to plastic tails rigged on 1/16^th or 1/8^th ounce heads, but regardless of choice of lure the optimum presentation has been s-l-o-w. Subtle twitches followed by long pauses rather than steadily “walking the dog” worked much better with a Top Dog or Spook.

We have done well fishing the Corky or Maniac Mullet just fast enough to keep it suspended while crawling both Swim Baits and five inch tails across the bottom any time a strong bite suddenly slows down. I can’t say that the shorter and bulkier Fat Boy has worked any better or worse than the slimmer Devil, but longer has been better with Swim Baits and Tails.

I go through pounds of H & H’s 3-inch Usual Suspect Swim Baits each year, but the 4-inch version is much deadlier when finger mullet are the prime entrée’ for overweight trout. The slightly larger profile is appealing to big trout more interested in one-stop gorging than burning energy running down a smaller snack. The 4-inch model, not unlike the smaller version, also tracks better fished on a loop knot or Tony’s clip.

I was even occasionally throwing 5 and 6 inch Swim Baits until I discovered that I was catching just as many fish slowly retrieving a 5-inch Assassin Diedapper or TTF Flats Minnow XL rigged on a light jig head. Both of those tails are bulkier and have paddle tails that produce a lot of vibration. They were already a part of my daily arsenal so that eliminated adding a few more sacks of tails.

I specifically mention those two brands of tails because they work the best for me in this application. I am blessed to have some fantastic sponsors and their products will always be my first choice, but I am going to always fish the tail, sponsored or un sponsored, that the fish like the best.

Let’s get real for a second .If your wife knew how much you already had tied up in that boat, motor, and garage full of fishing tackle she wouldn’t be handing out any “attaboys” for saving a buck on a pack of tails that were almost as good and lasted longer. If the fish only like them almost as well…..they might last you forever!

My primary consideration with any tail is flexibility first, which translates to more life-like action and color secondly. Almost every company produces their best selling tails in different lengths. Another new or exotic color is more often than not my only reason for purchases made in self-defense. Having another boat load of fishermen fifty yards away blowing you away with a color you do not have is not good business for a guide!

I don’t see any real break in the weather before Friday so I’ll just have to pull my cap down a little tighter and start a little later if I am going to fish tomorrow. This weather will test your mettle!

Pictured: Another nice winter trout taken on the DieDapper.