The feeling of the Corky “thump” is subtle yet profound. Among trophy trout angling circles it’s a feeling that is known well. It’s a bite transformed into a mythical persona and one that gains steam in conversation when the thermometer retreats from the summer heat. In this second entry of our 4-part series we’ll examine the sink rate and sink profile of some popular Paul Brown Products. We’ll also decide if time of year transcends this bait from ordinary to extraordinary.
As an early 80’s baby growing up in the city of New Orleans, I was fortunate to remember a time before social media. As I’ve written before, days on the delta weren’t measured by likes and shares but seared into a camera’s film instead. Countless negatives at my parents’ house proved that we liked to fish…a lot. Better yet, magazines and other periodicals gave us insight on a monthly prescription vice the Google key word searches we now live by. In one of those magazines, I remember hearing and reading about the legendary Paul Brown Corky. As I matured and the dawn of the internet I remember visiting www.wadefishing.com In this early internet site, I remember reading posts and gawking at pictures of Texas anglers with larger than normal trout. One thing I distinctly remember was as temperatures cooled, big trout pictures became more prevalent and it never failed that the “Corky” was the lure of choice.
Fast forward to today’s angling climate, it’s clear to see that the dawn of the information age set the foundation to a notional “Corky Season”. In other words, when temperatures got colder, the more effective these baits became. Now with a cult-like following, Paul Brown’s lures litter social media starting 1 October and linger into the better part of spring. So why is that? Are these baits that much more effective in the winter vice summer? In this entry, I want to explore that possibility by examining sink rate and sink profile for a variety of Paul Brown products in various salinity and water temps. Lets first explore how sink rate.
Similar to my first entry, Sink Rate and Sink Profile for Soft Plastic Profiles, I set up a 10 gallon tank at my house. In the tank there is no current and it was filled with normal tap water. I then filmed 5 descents of 6 different lures. These lures were the Fatboy, Fatboy Floater, Corky Original, Devil, Soft Dine and Soft Dine XL. Establishing the foundation, I did this at 0 ppt (parts per thousand) and 71.9 degree water – which means the water column is void of all density. Below is the average of the 5 descents and measured in seconds/foot:
Fatboy – 1.64 seconds/ft
Fatboy Floater – 2.16 seconds/ft
Original – 2.10 seconds/ft
Devil – 1.37 seconds/ft
Soft Dine – 1.73 seconds/ft
Soft Dine XL – 1.83 seconds/ft
Having now established a baseline, I then added a 1.5lbs of Kosher Salt to the 10 gallons. Per my calculations every 1lb of salt equals 10 ppt’s. Also, I chose Kosher salt because I wanted to ensure I was using pure salt with no other additives. In addition to the salt, I also decided to chill the water, using ice, to the lower 50’s to emulate what would be true winter time water temps. Below are the results at 15ppt and 52.3 degrees:
Fatboy – 1.98 seconds/ft
Fatboy Floater – 3.22 seconds/ft
Original – 2.15 seconds/ft
Devil – 1.63 seconds/ft
Soft Dine – 1.97 seconds/ft
Soft Dine XL – 1.99 seconds/ft
Taking it one step further, I wanted to emulate a hypersaline (+30 ppt) estuary like those in Texas and Florida. In order to do that I added another 1.5lbs of salt which is now a total of 3lbs to 10 gallons. Keeping the temperature the same, I measured the descents again and below are the results:
Fatboy – 2.30 seconds/ft
Fatboy Floater – 4.23 seconds/ft
Original – 2.58 seconds/ft
Devil – 1.69 seconds/ft
Soft Dine – 2.15 seconds/ft
Soft Dine XL – 2.22 seconds/ft
Now that we’ve measured sink rates at various salinities and water temps its clear to see that all Paul Brown Products sink slower as salinities go up and water temperatures go down. As anglers, having a sound understanding of the baits sink performance is critical in a sterile environment. This means as wind, tide and water clarity (more particulate in the water column) factor into the equation it may impact sink rates even more. In other words, if I’m wading Port Mansfield in February I can target some skinny water pretty effectively because I know in a sterile environment a Fatboy will sink close to 2 and half seconds/foot. Again factoring in wind and water clarity, it may be even slower which leads to this being an optimal choice for targeting big fish in skinny water.
Now that we’ve examined sink rate, let’s look at sink profile.
Like sink rate, sink profile is also paramount to visualizing what your presentation looks like to your targeted fish. Also like Entry 1, I filmed each descent and will discuss these after each embedded video.
The Fatboy is known for its “wobble”. This sort of built in characteristic is what separates this bait from all the others. As you can see in the video, it clearly wobbles side to side as it sinks. Better yet, it sinks perfectly horizontal which give a great profile for big trout to target. It’s sink profile did not change between salinities, just the sink rate.
Contrary to popular belief this bait doesn’t float, except at 30 ppt and 51 degrees. Even then it will only float for just about a half second before it starts its descent. Unlike a regular Fat Boy though it doesn’t possess the wobble and instead sinks tail first, albiet really slow when the water gets cold and salty.
Out of all of the Paul Brown Products tested, the Original had the most consistent sink rate – varying ever so slightly. It also had the most consistent sink profile. Upon entry, it typically righted itself almost immediately and had a very subtle wobble unlike its bigger brother, the Fatboy.
The Devil as you would suspect had the most unique sink profile and like that of the soft plastics previously tested, its sink profile emulated a darter style bait. Every time it entered the water it sank head slightly forward and tail up. In addition, it gently glided through the water column even with no current. It’s profile also did not change with increased salinity levels.
This was an interesting find for me because I was really surprised at how much a regular soft dine wobbled upon descent. In stature, this is a much smaller profile than a Fatboy but it possessed all of the same characteristics – horizontal descent, no glide and a ton of wobble. For me that was good to see because it offers a great alternative to its bigger profile cousin.
SOFT DINE XL
Like the regular Soft Dine, I thought it would have a pronounced wobble, but shockingly it didn’t. Instead it had a regular sink profile – little to no wobble and a horizontal descent. It also glided a little more than the regular.
CORKY SEASON FACT OR FICTION
As aforementioned, images on high gloss pages in the mid 90’s presented the notion that these baits transcended their performance once the temperatures fell. For me, now with tangible evidence, it’s safe to say that Corky Season is indeed a real thing. Let’s examine why for a minute.
The first is water levels. Regardless of estuary, water levels in the winter time typically get lower. However, with a lowering water level mean, these baits slow their descent rate tremendously as the water gets colder. In other words, this means that you can still fish these baits consistently and confidently where trophy trout roam – skinny flats earmarked with deep water nearby.
The second, and most important, it imitates a finfish. Trophy trout in the winter time in South Texas can be found in surprisingly skinny water. Also in the winter time, most other forage for big trout have now vacated the shallow flats, leaving typically mullet and other small trout as their main forage. So confidently fishing a bait that performs better in a shrinking water column coupled with a mullet profile imitation, can lend itself to some epic winter time trophy trout action.
Having said all of this, I’m not dismissing the notion that these baits don’t work year round. I’m just saying the characteristics these baits possess in the winter time vice the summer lend themselves to being that much more productive.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Despite having a sound understanding and a tremendous amount of success with these baits I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot by doing this experiment. Watching each descent coupled with now having tangible sink rate data, I can confidently go back in memory and see why one of these was successful. It goes without saying that these baits perform differently given the water temp and salinity levels in your estuary, and whether you fish from North Carolina to South Texas I encourage you to reflect back as to why these may have been successful.
As we continue to navigate the summer heat and look forward to the cooler temperatures ahead, I encourage you to look forward to the possibility these baits possess. After all, it’s not that much longer of a wait. So until the next entry, Hard Plastic suspend style baits, never stop learning and keep pluggin’.
Tight Lines and God Bless!