Most people only dream about catching speckled trout that Capt. Dudley Vandenborre probably considers routine.
As of the writing of this book, the prolific angler who invented the extensive “Deadly Dudley” soft plastic lure line had caught three 10-pound-plus specks, and more than 50 9-pounders, many of them coming from Lake Pontchartrain.
In this excerpt from Trout Masters: How Louisiana Anglers Catch the Lunkers, Vandenborre discusses the lake’s bridges and reveals his favorite fishing line.
Sometime from late August through September and into October, the shift from live bait back to plastic lures occurs. During this time, when Vandenborre fishes plastics in shallow waters, he’ll use ¼-ounce jigheads. By mid-October, he is again fishing the three bridges, with a few trips on no-tide days to the Rigolets Pass.
“Ideal tides for fishing the bridges are those with a foot of range or less,” he said. “And falling tides are best for fishing the bridges, except in April-May and September, when trout fishing can be very good on rising tides.”
Comparing bridges, Vandenborre said that when speckled trout are at any one bridge, they are at all the bridges. But some differences do exist. The Trestles holds more fish, he said, and some are nice, but no 8-pounders are caught there. The Highway 11 bridge holds far and away the biggest trout. The Twin Spans have mixed sizes of fish, with a few quite large ones in the mix.
Vandenborre admits to fishing a few other places in the lake, mentioning especially the slip and rockpile where the Bally’s Casino Boat was formerly moored. But he dislikes fishing on the artificial reefs in the lake.
“I’ve never found many fish at the artificial reefs,” he said. “The one right off Hayne Boulevard is worthless. It was only built 18 inches off the bottom, and has silted in. To build a reef right, you have to have irregular features, not a flat shell or rock pad. I do hear the one off Williams Boulevard is good because it was built with reef balls, but it’s too far for me to run.”
No matter where he fishes for trout in Lake Pontchartrain, Vandenborre likes to be fishing right when the tide changes.
“That’s when I catch my biggest fish,” he flatly stated. “It can be so slow, then I get one thunk, then another. I can end up with 25 specks on 30 casts.”
Vandenborre firmly believes that Lake Pontchartrain speckled trout are different from those in other areas.
“Lake Pontchartrain fish barely peck at a bait and then spit it out quick,” he said. “Venice fish just about pull your arm out of its socket. They are so aggressive.”
They look different too.
“Our (Lake Pontchartrain) trout are so wide-body that I call them ‘two-fers,’” he said. “They’re as heavy as two fish from other places. Venice speckled trout are long, skinny and beat-up looking compared to ours. A 24-inch trout from the lake could weigh 8 pounds. A 28- or 29-inch fish from down the river might weigh 5¼ pounds.”
Because of the finicky bite of the lake’s trout, Vandenborre believes a strong hook set is important, especially in deeper water.
“I use a fast-taper rod, which gives me a better feel,” he said, displaying the Deadly Dudley Castaway Signature Series rod he was using. “I only use baitcaster reels because it’s easier to feel a bite with a baitcaster, and it allows me to present and control the bait better. I love Curado reels, and have to keep getting mine rebuilt.”
Line choice is simple — Berkley Big Game monofilament. Part of the reason is that it is inexpensive. Vandenborre describes himself as “a line-changing fool,” changing lines almost every day.
Ninety percent of the time, he uses 17-pound-test line, although sometimes he spools 15-pound-test. The heavier line allows him to flip 5-pound trout into the boat without wasting time with a landing net. He doesn’t use a fluorocarbon leader, and he doesn’t believe that trout can see his line, in spite of its size. He isn’t dogmatic about line brands, and freely volunteers that “there are plenty of good lines out there today.”
Dudley Vandenborre’s tips
1) Go fishing more. The more you go, the better you get. You will follow the fish better and get better at rigging.
2) Use a charter guide in a new area. You will learn a lot by watching what your guide does.
3) Learn the best baits and techniques for an area by watching other fishermen. Study what they do.
4) Learn everything possible about the biology of the fish species you are after. All fish have patterns. The more you know about the fish, the easier it will be to figure out their patterns.
5) Fish long and hard on the days that you fish. Never give up, and you will steadily get better.
Learn more about how the best guides and anglers across the Louisiana coast catch trout day in, day out by purchasing the Trout Masters Tool Kit, which includes a special package price for Trout Masters: How Louisiana’s Best Anglers Catch the Lunkers and Trout Masters Too: How the Pros do it.