Tips for Catching the Most Commonly Pursued Species on the Gulf Coast
Speckled trout are the largemouth bass of saltwater.
Not only are they the most commonly pursued species along the Gulf Coast, they also inspire the most artificial lures. From ultra-realistic shrimp imitations titanic-sized topwaters, specks have spawned legions of lures, and for some anglers that can be a bit confusing.
The following are five lure types that will give you a good foundation in pursuit of trout and allow you to target them during any season and circumstance.
Shrimp Imitations: Nothing helps anglers zero-in on speckled trout quicker than a shrimp-imitating lure. Well, the real thing might, but since we are talking about plastics here, we will focus on realistic, super effective faux shrimp.
Colors: Glow, chartreuse, root beer, natural shrimp, clear (variations thereof)
Size: three- to five-inch with four-inch probably being the most common
Seasons: Shrimp imitations work best in the fall when shrimp are migrating out of bays and specks are feeding on them aggressively, but they can be effective year-round.
Application: There are lots of ways to work these lures but the all-time best is under a popping cork. Rig one on a fluorocarbon leader, put it under a popping cork and you have something that sounds like a trout striking up top and food on the bottom. Many shrimp imitations come with pre-rigged jigheads in 1/8-ounce class. Those who do not use 1/8-ounce under a float, go with ¼-ounce when using other techniques such as crawling them across the bottom in areas with heavy current.
Topwaters: Tens of thousands of Texas coastal anglers are drawn to the water simply to see, feel and hear the sensation of a big trout “blow up” on a topwater. Trout begin to feed heavily on large finfish when they get around 22 inches and larger so surface lures imitating injured mullet and other baitfish can be super productive in their pursuit.
Color: Bone, black/red, black/chartreuse, clear, red/white, chrome/black
Size: A variety of topwater plugs come in sizes ranging from three to seven inches. Most are in the four- to five-inch class. The more fish you want to catch, the smaller the plug. If you are holding out for the trout of a lifetime, go with the larger ones.
Application: Topwaters can work in varying capacities. The ideal is to work over shallow flats or along shorelines lined with baitfish that have brought in potentially large trout.
“Walking the dog” is the most popular method, which is bringing in the lure with a short side-to-side motion at a medium to fast pace.
This is done with walking plugs such as Top Dogs and Super Spooks. Chugging is another tactic that uses lures like Sebile’s Splasher to slowly chug along in a pop-sit (a few seconds)-pop motion. An important thing to keep in mind is not to set the hook too early. Let the fish actually take the plug under before attempting a hook-set, or there is a good chance it will get away.
Swimbaits: For year’s anglers have used lures called “cocahoe minnows” and “swimmers” and not realized they were fishing swimbaits, which have become the gold standard for many bass fishermen. These are lures meant to swim under the surface and cover water to find trout.
Color: Black/chartreuse, morning glory, natural mullet, smoke, white, chartreuse, copper
Size: three to six inches is best for trout although many freshwater-based companies make swimbaits up to a foot long.
Application: Throwing swimbaits over shallow mud flats and reefs can help anglers find big trout that are attracted to larger baitfish―as well as cover lots of water. Start off swimming at a medium pace and then slow down if you do not get bit.
Slow-Sinkers: Big trout are often lethargic especially during water and early spring and sometimes want something moving slow and right on top of them. Enter slow-sinkers like Texas’s legendary Corky. These lures require a level of discipline to fish effectively but they can yield catches when others will not get the job done.
Color: Pink, chartreuse, natural mullet, copper, white, bone
Size: three to four inches
Season: Winter/Early Spring
Application: These lures are for anglers looking for their lifetime trout. Fishing them is slow, tedious and in many cases, boring because you may only get a strike or two a day. On the other hand, that strike might just be from a 10-pounder.
These are best fished over scattered shell, mud flats on warm winter afternoons or other spots with a concentration of mullet and potential for big trout.
Throw, let it sink a long time and twitch. Repeat the process. Keep in mind you should be very mindful of the bite as big trout will often just grab or tap a lure during this winter period.
If you feel something odd, make adjustments and set the hook. Sometimes it is that monster trout you have been looking for.
Scented/Flavored Baits: Numerous lure companies have scented and flavored baits that not only spark fish to hold on, but lure them in. Gulp! is the industry leader and there are many varieties. However, several companies have both scented and flavored lures that are popular with anglers.
Size: three to five inches
Application: These kinds of lures are typically best rigged on a jighead and either crawled along the bottom or fished under a popping cork. In fact, the method described for the shrimp imitations works great for these and in fact many come in the form of shrimp. Another underutilized method is to rig on a Carolina rig and fish along drop-offs in the channels and also in the surf, in the guts where big trout often dwell.