IF YOU HAVE BEEN FISHING the estuaries and bays along the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico for any period of time, you may have had someone mention to you that the size of the speckled trout that you catch is determined by the size of the bait that you use.
Although there’s probably a certain level of truth surrounding that statement, it is a widely known fact within the coastal angling community that large wintertime speckled trout eat big baitfish. With that said, there will be no better way to catch behemoth trout this month than by throwing big lures at them.
This is the time of the year when trout in the 20-plus inch range stop eating shrimp and small baitfish and begin hunting for larger baitfish as the mainstay in their diet. This change in their food consumption can often make them harder to be found, as they go from eating a large number of shrimp each day to one, or maybe a couple, of eight to twelve-inch baitfish.
There are several different kinds of baitfish available to the trout, but their favorite morsel most often seems to be the mullet, which definitely makes up a large part of a big trout’s diet.
If you’re looking to be productive this winter in your search for the big gals, learn to work fake, mullet-type baits in areas where you find a gathering of the real thing. Locate an area where there’s live mullet activity, and work your mullet imitator right alongside.
The effect of your lure needs to closely reflect that of a wounded mullet, so try different twitches and different retrieves until you find what works best for you. The water will be cold, so remember not to be in a hurry to race your plug back to you.
One retrieve that routinely produces wintertime strikes is the BMW (Bump While Waiting) retrieve. You simply let your surface walker sit still while you slowly count to five, then give it a subtle twitch or two before counting to five again
These big fish slow down in the coldness of winter and reserve their energy for the collection of their daily meals. A lure that’s sitting still is a lot easier for them to consume than one that is moving.
Because of winter’s cold water, the trout will go deep. However, on a high-tide afternoon with the sun shining bright, these fish will often return to the shallow flats to soak up some much-needed warmth and to grab a quick bite to eat.
The mud atop the flats soaks up and retains warmth from the sun, which in turn attracts baitfish such as mullet, which in turn attracts predators like the big trout. The amount of the baitfish in the area shouldn’t matter to you. If you notice only a small school of mullet atop a wintertime flats area, you should stop and fish the area, if possible.
If you’re not seeing any action with your top water baits, work the top of the flats with a slow-sinking bait that will hover in the water column somewhere between the bottom of the bay floor and the water’s surface.
As we discussed earlier, the trout slow down considerably when the water gets cold, and these sub-surface lures that typically resemble a wounded mullet can be a very productive tool for you atop a mud flat in cold conditions. They usually sink at a very slow rate, and they tend to took just like a mullet that’s easy to catch!
There are a lot of different artificial baits to choose from in today’s marketplace, which can make it extremely difficult as you try to make a buying decision. From a historical standpoint, some of the key producers in the top water bait segment include the Top Dog, She Dog, Skitter Walk, Super Spook, Badonk-A-Donk, and the Matrix Mullet.
Try tossing plastic tails in darker colors from any of the more popular manufacturers—Gambler, Norton, DOA, Paul Brown, Bass Assassin, Down South Lures, and the Berkley Powerbaits to name just a few.
In the end, however, and regardless of the bait you choose, locating wintertime trophy speckled trout comes right down to you being able to successfully imitate a mullet, so go find you some mullet atop a mud flat and give it a try this month. Remember, big baits equal big trout.
Email Chris Martin at [email protected]
or visit bayflatslodge.com