Part I: Choosing The Right “Corky”

Paul Brown, a true pioneer in the mysterious world of artificial baits, needs zero introduction and prologue, especially in the Great State of Texas. What he does need is a nod, salute, or handshake for making what I believe to be one of the greatest lures ever devised for catching the majestic creature we know as Speckled Trout. But where should one start when browsing down the aisles of Fishing Tackle Unlimited in Houston, Roy’s Bait and Tackle Outfitters in Corpus Christi, or The Tackle Box in Victoria, Texas? The list of tackle stores goes on and on, and so does the seemingly endless supply of Paul Brown lures that come in such a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Let’s start at the beginning, but first, a disclaimer and some sort of perspective. I am by no means an expert or stating the following as rule. What lies ahead is merely a tool to help guide people looking to try their hands with a Corky for the first time. The information herein is a culmination of my experiences, trials and tribulations, and numerous hours spent on the water, as well as interviewing many of Texas’ finest professional guides and anglers.

What tricks a trophy trout isn’t entirely about aesthetics; but, rather, the action of the lure or the manner in which it is presented. Under extreme water conditions such as exceptionally murky or gin clear waters, aesthetics can make a difference. However, the action of a Paul Brown lure or really most lures for that matter is far more relevant and important than color. Generally, the action should mimic that of an injured or distressed baitfish that is unable to swim or move in its natural state. We’ll get into how to work one of these beauties in my next blog. So does size matter with a Corky? I believe it has relevance. Whatever baitfish is in your bay system or fishery in a given time of year, a similar-sized artificial bait would be a good choice to fish with. Please note that this principle is a general guideline and NOT a rule. For example, on a windy day in the summer time when the bay is flush with small baitfish, a large minnow with a big paddle tail can be highly effective. Hence, a guideline; nonetheless, it can help scale down what’s really important in your tackle or wading box at any point in a given year. To build on this, a migration of smaller to medium sized baitfish from the bay system into the Gulf of Mexico typically occurs during the fall and early winter, at least, around my home waters of the Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay. Deep into the winter, the only food source remaining in our bay systems is larger, heartier baitfish, generally mullet. So, I like to throw Originals in the late spring, fall, and summer and Fat Boys in the winter and early spring. Soft-Dines and Soft-Dine XL’s can also be used year-round given the right circumstances. I personally do not throw them and would be remiss to comment on their effectiveness.

Whatever baitfish is in your bay system or fishery in a given time of year, a similar-sized artificial bait would be a good choice to fish with.

Color...or lacktherof?

Now, let’s get to color because I constantly get asked "what's the absolute BEST color to throw." Here’s the ‘Speckled Truth’...there is in no way, shape, or form, any truth to there being one color that is above all else in normal (in between clear and murky) water conditions. But, always have a lure in your wading box for gin clear and murky water conditions in case the weather decides to throw a curveball at you. I like to use very natural looking baits such as the #12 Black Back/Pearl/Chartreuse Belly, the #10 Pearl Black Back, the #99 Emerald Green Silver, or the #6 Chartreuse Black Back in clear water and unnatural baits such as the #4 Glow, the #8 Pink Silver, the #5 Purple Chartreuse Belly, the #97 Black Chartreuse Tail, or the #2 Strawberry White Tail in murky or dark waters. The brightness of the day or lack thereof will dictate how bright I want my lure. Generally speaking, you want a bright looking lure on a bright day in murky water and a darker natural color on a cloudy day in clear waters. The idea is to not over complicate your lure selection. This topic gets discussed thoroughly in numerous publications; however, I must add that there can be an over emphasis on the subject. Action, presentation, noise, vibration, lure placement in the water column, scent, proper rigging, and size are more important than the color of a lure. Oh, and did I mention spot location? Yet another key ingredient to a successful day; however, let’s assume you are on the “X”. In the field, I stick to the basics of starting and/or staying with a color based on weather conditions and water clarity. But always, always, always, let the fish tell you what they want.

When choosing to use the regular versus the Floating Fat Boy or Original, you should consider what water depth the fish are generally staging. You could be wading at waist high level casting in shin high water because you know the fish are shallow. In that case, a Floating Original or Fat Boy might be appropriate.

Note: the red painted gill on both sides of the lure will characterize floating Originals and Fat Boys.

I personally like to throw a floating Fat Boy or Original in shallow water that is knee high or less on calmer days because it has no rattle, and it sinks at a slower rate. Or, if I know the fish are holding in the upper part of the water column. When wading in depths over the shin or knee or on windy days, I like to toss the regular Fat Boy or Original because of the rattle and faster sink rate. The Devil can also be a great lure for wanting a faster sinking lure than the Fatboy. I generally use these when I know fish are in thigh high or higher waters, and the bite seems to be in the lower half of the water column.

Next, I would like to take this moment to clarify something. Many fishermen swear about a certain type, brand, color, or model of lure which is sometimes referred to as their “go-to bait”. I’m sure you’ve also heard of this referenced as the “confidence lure”. If you feel confident in a particular lure, throw it first thing when you hit the water. There is surely nothing wrong with this approach. But remember that it is more than likely your confidence lure because you’ve mastered various presentations and actions rather than choosing the right color. I know some guides that throw the same color year round in any water clarity or sky. Why are they successful? It’s probably because they have a profound knowledge of fish patterning, a deep understanding of what portion of the water column the fish are staging, and have mastered several ways that particular lure should be presented in various conditions and over numerous structures.

Here’s another tip to try on the water. When the bite subdues and the fish aren’t as cooperative either because weather conditions have changed or the feeding window has passed, try switching to a soft plastic, and work various areas of the water column. The soft plastic on a jig head or weed less rig, statistically for me personally, has produced more fish year round than any other lure. There are a number of theories as to why. Here’s my take. I believe it is because of the ability to work a wider area of the water column and their adept nature to stay in contact with the bottom when rigged with the right jig head. Conversely, when the bite switches on again, tie the Paul Brown lure back on and see if a big girl is interested. Nevertheless, the key is to remember how you presented the lure when you got the bite and to stick with that approach till the fish cease to show interest.

I hope everyone enjoyed reading this column as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am and always will be a student of this wonderful sport.

Till next time.

See y’all (Texas pronounced) on the water.

Andrew Leal