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Fishing Tips

Best Lures for Speckled Trout

Cool (cold) weather is upon us here in the Southeast, and for shear numbers, it’s speckled trout season. While speckled trout will eat literally everything in your tackle box, soft plastics really shine as the temperatures drop.

There are literally thousands of “soft plastic” artificial lures with just as many reviews and opinions on each. One of the most discussed features of artificial lures is color. I am of the opinion that, for the most part, color does not matter. Speckled trout do not care. But there are definitely some nuances that can make a big difference at times.While I will mix it up during the cooler months, I’ll usually fall back on the basic paddle tailed swim bait. This is another plastic that has quite a few variations. The profile that has worked best for me over the years has “rivets”, or “ribs”.

While, again, there are many sizes and shapes of ribbed paddle tails, I prefer the Swing Impacts by Keitech, Lit’l Boss by Bass Assassin and the Power Swimmers by Berkley. My favorite length is the 3.3″ Power Swimmer from Berkley, but I will go up to over 4″ at times.

While there are a few different riggings, including the popular weedless weighted swim bait hooks, I opt for jig heads, with the hook exposed.

In my opinion, even more important than retrieve, is the actual weight of the jig head. While 1/4 ounce, is quite popular, I very rarely throw anything heavier than 1/8, and often chose 1/16 and 1/32 ounce jig heads. Using smaller reels, (1000-2000), smaller diameter braided line (6-10lb) and lighter rods (6-12lb line rating), goes a long way in facilitating the effectiveness of using these light presentations. I am a firm believer in that the lighter jig heads impart a more realistic presentation as well as transmitting the bite to the angler better.

The actual retrieve can and will vary. It’s important to remember exactly HOW you were working the bait when the bite occurred. Usually the trout will tell you how they like it. A slow retrieve with intermittent twitches is a good start, but I do mix it up until I find a retrieve that is successful. Lifting and dropping slowly, sharp twitches, and countless other cadences will entice a bite. It should be noted, as with many artificial baits, that often the bite is on the pause. Imparting the pause is key! While you can work the baits at different water columns, I always bump the bottom, even if it means waiting a few longer seconds in deeper water.

It’s not the only way to catch trout by any means, but it is a sure fire way cover a lot of water, at multiple depths, anywhere speckled trout live.

Deadly on Anything…the DOA 3”Shrimp

Every so often I have to go back to my roots and sing the praises of the DOA artificial shrimp. It’s not sexy, it’s not expensive, it’s easy to use, and it catches fish. All kinds of fish.When Mark Nichols, owner of DOA lures, brought this fish killer to life, a lot of thought went into this bait. Since that time there have been many shrimp imitations to hit the market by many different manufactures. Some are frighteningly realistic, with all kinds of rigging techniques, offering jointed features, backwards movement, and indestructible body armor. For me, none have the natural decent, glide, twitch, and buoyancy that brings the DOA shrimp to life.In the past I have described this shrimp imitator as a “do nothing” lure. But over the years I’ve found out there are several techniques that will entice a bite; a hard bite!

The Techniques

The afore mentioned do nothing, is pretty much just that. To be fair, it’s a presentation that works best with current and does require a bit of line watching and “feel”. The take can be a solid thump, but usually a mere tick is all you will feel, or the unmistakable jump in the line. I usually throw the shrimp as far upstream as possible and let the current just carry it. It’s important to maintain as much contact with the lure as possible, and to keep slack out of your line. It requires a bit of line and lure management, but once perfected, it can be deadly. Once you figure the decent rate, and depth of the fall, you’ll be able to work this presentation any where from 2 – 20 feet.

Most Gulf Coasters know that the 3″ DOA shrimp, pinned under a popping cork, with 2-3′ of leader, and popped frequently, will draw strikes from red fish, speckled trout, snook and many others. The Atlantic Coast has been slow to follow, but the DOA/shrimp combo is deadly anywhere anytime. I like to break it out in tidal areas as the water floods the grass. I’ve found it is quite effective over shell, rip rap and submerged trees as well.

Possibly my favorite technique these days is to work like you would any jig, varying retrieval style, until you find out how they want it. Big hops in deeper water, small hops in shallower depths. You can swim this bait, but swim, or drag it slowly. These last few years, going against most retrieval suggestions, I’ve been snapping the bait hard, with the rod tip low, and giving it a pronounced pause. The pause is key!

I guess last, and probably least is color. The DOA color chart resembles something you may see in the paint section at Lowe’s. There is a color for everybody! I use Near Clear(312), Clear w/red glitter(368), Gold glitter(313), and Watermelon/clear/halo(425). Nite Glow(305), is also very popular for many anglers. But choose a color you prefer, as there are many!

Inshore Saltwater Tackle Evolution

Let me start off the conversation by saying that I am not sponsored by anybody, although many folks in the industry have reached out to me with products and discounts. In this particular article I hope to offer some information on rods, reels and line, based on what has benefited or helped me to catch more fish over the years.

I am a big Shimano fan, and for throwing jigs and light lures I have slimmed down to 1000 size reels and 10 lb. braid with 14 lb. fluorocarbon leader. My personal preference on each is Shimano Stradic 1000 reel, 10 pound Power Pro (moss green) or 10 pound Suffix Performance Braid in green. For leader material I use anybody’s fluorocarbon 14-20 lb. line. (LINE, not leader) Lighter line will also increase your casting distance and cover more water!

I am not as particular about rods, although I like to start at a 100 dollar minimum price range. This seems to be the price point where lighter and stronger become much better quality. At this price point, I think you’ll find that the components are much more durable as well. Without getting too crazy on rod specs, I can tell you that medium power, fast action is a good starting point. The line class I like in general is 8 to 17 pound. The length of the stick or rod I throw, is 6’10” up to 7’6″. One thing that you will find is that many rods, while having similar descriptions can feel slightly different. The best thing you can do is actually put the rod in your hand and make sure it feels good to you.

I bounce around with different sticks but generally stay with GLoomis, St. Croix, Falcon, Shimano, and custom rods made by local rod builder, Jeff Eller of Sawltgear Custom Rods.

The endgame I am looking for is to be as light as I can possibly be, without losing strength. The number one factor, for me, with this type of set up is just to feel the bite. I firmly believe that by incorporating all these components I detect bites that I wouldn’t have otherwise felt. Many of you know that the bite is often the slightest tick or change in your retrieve. 

I have also reduced my jig head weights too primarily 1/16 and 1/8. Many anglers I fish with often comment that they cannot feel their presentation hitting the bottom. But trust me, even at depths up to 20 feet, the baits will find the bottom. It’s a gravity thing.

Lastly, I know that everyone’s budget differs. The same results can be had for less money simply by going lighter. Light lines, rods, and reels will generally all accomplish the same thing.

Fishing Structure: Docks, Rocks, and Treetops

First, go ahead and tighten your drags, and you might as well throw in a little extra terminal tackle as well. Fishing structure, as many of you already know, is not for the faint of heart. Your going to lose tackle, fish, and possibly a small bit of your sanity. Fish holding structure, serious structure, comes in many forms, as well as many techniques to approach it.

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Fly Fishing St Simons Island

I’ll be the first to tell you that fly fishing St Simons Island and all the Golden Isles is a fairly hefty assignment. With huge tides and swift moving water, the windows of opportunity can be tricky. Water clarity is often one of the bigger challenges. The secret is usually timing, and picking your poison.

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