Right Bait At The Right Time
Last updated 10/26/2021 at 10:45am
I was walking out the gate at the end of a recent junior varsity game when a young man called out my name. He was already asking a question as he approached which was of no use since I now strain just to hear a train whistle. “I would like to ask you something,” he said in a much louder and clearer voice. “I have these two soft plastic tails that are my favorites, but the trout aren’t biting them. Are they the wrong size or wrong color or what?” I don’t know how many high school youngsters are walking around with plastic trout lures in their pocket, but I immediately knew that I was in good company. In truth, I have asked myself that same question while on the water. If you know you are in fish, not getting a bite is even more frustrating. Both of the baits he held in his hand were very reliable colors, but they were the longer five-inch version and that can sometimes make a difference. Are you sure you were even in fish,” I asked. “They were chasing shrimp everywhere and I caught one or two fish, but they really didn’t like my baits,” he replied. “I don’t care if I am catching only small trout…..I just want to catch fish!” This young man was obviously serious so I told him that I was walking home and would meet him in my driveway in five minutes. He was already there when I arrived so I bypassed the front door and we headed for the garage. It took only one trip looking around the garage for him to declare, “How do you ever decide what to use? I walk two dogs for a lady every evening and mow a neighbor’s yard just to make gas money. Is there maybe just one color that works better than others?” For the most part, it is all about the time of year and water clarity. Larger or smaller is predicated on time of the year while choice of colors is based on water clarity. I have a simple rule as far as color goes. In clearer water I like translucent colors and in dirtier water I prefer an opaque color which enhances the silhouette. Length is more seasonal only because of the type of bait you are trying to mimic at the time. Longer tails and larger topwaters are more
effective when larger trout are feeding on mullet while the shorter tails work better when shad or shrimp are the main entre’. If I could only fish one or the other year round, it would be the
shorter four inch tail. With the exception of the Lil John, I would also fish only a paddle tail type bait. I have found that even the three-inch Swim Baits are more effective most of the time. I have no idea why the Lil’ John works so well as it is shaped like a chopped off pencil, but there is seldom a time when it doesn’t work. They have saved many a bad day fished both under a cork or hopped across the bottom on a jig head. A lighter jig head can make a huge difference as well. You may have to switch to spinning gear or a lighter casting rod to throw the lighter
head, but the slower your lure sinks through the strike zone the better. If the tide is too strong you may have to upgrade to a quarter ounce to even get it down. It was obvious by the end of our conversation that he was both frustrated and dismayed as he now felt even more behind the eight ball. “I fish Cow bayou in my Uncle’s flat bottom boat, but I know a lot of good spots and I can fish no matter how hard the wind blows,” he proudly stated. “I only have a casting rod, but it is a good one and I only buy quarter ounce heads because that is what I saw tied on most of the fishermen’s rods,” he added. “I’ve got to find another yard to mow if I am going to catch more fish.” I agreed with that assessment, before filling a plastic grocery bag with packages of different color tails and a handful of one-eighth and quarter ounce heads. Because I noticed that I had at least one more spinning combo than I needed, I included that as well. His smile covered the bill!