David ‘T-Coon’ Billeaud is not a fan of live bait.
He routinely uses soft plastics exclusively to catch big trout around Cypremort Point.
In this excerpt from Trout Masters: How Louisiana Anglers Catch the Lunkers, Billeaud discusses his favorite lures, jigheads and the tidal movement he prefers to catch more specks.
From Tete Butte, the next move was to Tiger Shoals, much farther offshore. It is indeed offshore. Once there, the Gravois seemed surrounded by huge 80-foot double-rigged shrimp trawlers.
This fishing is different than reef fishing. All of it is conducted at platforms and wellheads. Billeaud deftly drifted the boat through several angles on each site, making sure to cover every corner. When he hit fish, he silently lowered the boat’s danforth anchor. These 12-foot waters are too deep for his Cajun anchor.
Billeaud skipped many wellheads, explaining that only the ones with crushed limestone pads consistently yield fish. He spent at least 30 minutes, usually more, at a stop before moving on. Sometimes it takes over a half hour to get the trout started feeding, he explained.
As on the day before, all Billeaud used were soft-plastic baits. Whenever he fishes, he exclusively uses swimming-tail baits such as the Deadly Dudley Bay Chovey and the H&H Cocahoe. His favorite color year-round (by far, he says) is glow with a chartreuse tail. Other favorite colors are blue moon, black sparkle body, solid black with red sparkle, and purple, the latter three all with chartreuse tails. In dirty water, he prefers darker colors.
Jighead sizes are 3/8- or ½-ounce, but if the tide is “really ripping,” he will use up to 1-ounce heads. Jighead color seemed to be whatever came out of his box, red, chartreuse or unpainted.
Billeaud does not use a shock leader, but rather, he ties what he calls a reef knot. This knot uses his normally spooled line, tied in a 6- to 15-inch loop. At the bottom of the loop, he ties the jighead on with a palomar knot. He explains that even if abrasion causes one line in the loop to fail, a fish can still be landed with the other line. The jighead will not slide off the line.
Billeaud estimates that at least 85 percent of the trout caught by anglers in the Vermilion area are caught with artificial baits.
“You won’t catch me with live bait,” he said. “A guy sitting there with live bait catching fish, with everyone around him catching nothing, is no different than a guy catching fish with artificals and others around him drawing blanks. It happens all the time. It’s presentation! The fish are in one spot, and the one catching fish is the one giving it to them right.”
The live-bait mania, as Billeaud calls it, has not caught on here. Few places sell it, so it is difficult to buy. Very few people trawl for their own bait.
Billeaud fishes close to three days a week (never on weekends) for eight or so months a year, launching from either Cypremort Point or Burns Point. He also rents a camp at Cypremort Point for more extended trips several times a year. Although he fishes in almost all kinds of conditions, except during very high Atchafalaya River periods, he has his favorite conditions.
He likes being on the water when the tide turns around and begins to fall. For fishing offshore, especially in deeper waters, he prefers a moderate tide range. Big ranges create such powerful currents, even on the offshore reefs, that getting the bait to the bottom can be difficult. During strong tides, he prefers to fish in Vermilion Bay, rather than offshore.
He is ambivalent about sun or clouds, and notes that he has caught some of his best fish when it is clear, calm and there is not a cloud in the sky. But he has strong feelings about moon phase.
“I hate the week of the full moon,” he said, “but I fish the other three weeks of the month hard.”
Billeaud knows and loves his backyard. When the river is high, he hunts ducks avidly and goes to Cocodrie to catch “small trout.” But, he says, “When the S.T.A.R. starts, I don’t leave here. I don’t know anywhere else I could go to catch a trout big enough to win the tournament.”
David Billeaud’s tips
1) Learn the small spots that tend to hold more big fish and remember them. It’s a trial-and-error process.
2) Get off of small trout and move to another spot. Like-sized fish school with each other.
3) Concentrate on fishing with the rod tip straight up or straight to the side. Never point the rod at the retrieve. Concentrate on feeling with the tip. A void in resistance is a bite because a fish has picked the bait up.
4) Fish fast when you are in the fish. Keep the frenzy going. Crimp your hooks’ barbs so that you don’t have to touch every fish. You don’t want to stop and wipe your hands.
5) If you crimp your barbs, you will lose fish when they come to the surface and shake their heads. Relax your retrieve when you feel them coming up so that they can’t come out of the water.
6) In dirty water, fish slow. The dirtier the water is the slower you should fish. In very clear water, fish fast to prevent them from seeing the bait well.
7) Match your line size to your jighead size. Most people fish with jigheads that are too small. You catch more big fish on the bottom. Big fish are least active because they eat bigger things and feed less often.
8) Kill your big motor 200 yards out, and keep your trolling motor in its harness. Drift to your spot. Anchor quietly.
9) When you get to an area that you have confidence in from previous fishing experience, be patient. It can take two hours to get right, then four people can limit in an hour. Wellheads demand special patience, because often you can’t drift in properly on your first try.
10) Cast a lot. Billeaud throws five times as much as most other people in the boat. A bait is no good if it isn’t in the water.
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.