Speckled trout anglers hammer the eastern Lake Pontchartrain train trestle every year, and when it’s on, the fishing can be lights out. However, when too much boat pressure gets on the bridge, the fish will turn off faster than they started.
A great alternative this time of year is Lake Catherine, according to Matrix Shad owner Chas Champagne.
“I like Lake Catherine a lot,” he said. “It doesn’t get a lot of boats, and there’s a lot of area to fish. It’s all relatively the same: There’s hot zones and cold zones, but if the fish are in there, you usually can catch them from one end to the other.”
One very important element to find, Champagne said, is wigeon grass.
“That’s been the key for like the past five years,” he said. “If I’m 50 yards from the bank and I throw toward the bank, every time I pop the cork, I can feel the lure grabbing the grass — that’s a little too much. If I throw out toward the middle, I’m catching that grass like every fifth cast and that’s where I catch the fish.”
When fishing in Catherine, Champagne said if you can find birds diving, you’ve hit the jackpot.
“Catherine is notorious for birds diving, so if it happens, that’s when it really lights up and we have some phenomenal days,” he said. “That doesn’t happen every year, but as far as speckled trout and bird fishing, Catherine is one of the better areas in our estuary.”
When he’s not seeing birds, Champagne simply works Matrix Mullet topwater baits to find the fish.
“The topwater works really good to locate the fish. You can bomb cast it a country mile. It’s always good to tag team — one person with a cork and one with a topwater.”
When fishing popping corks, Champagne uses the Matrix Float with a surprisingly heavy 5/16-ounce GoldenEye jighead 2 feet underneath, but his reasoning is sound.
“I’ve always liked a little bit more weight than some people,” he said. “It’ll help you cast it a little bit further, and when you’re using a paddletail swimbait, you want it to actually swim back down after you’re done popping it. You want to have some gravity pulling the lure back down after you pop it and let the tail flutter.
“If you pop it with an 1/8-ounce, you don’t get any fallback.”