Unless their customers request the use of artificial lures, the Bellangers habitually use live bait for speckled trout. They bring live shrimp and live croakers with them on every trip.
Casting reels are spooled with 15-pound-test Trilene Big Game monofilament. Spinning reels hold 20-pound-test PowerPro braided line.
Jules explained that they don’t like to use braided line on casting reels because it has a tendency to dig into the line on the spool when a big fish pulls drag.
They carry spinning reels because their use allows 10- to 15-foot-longer casts.
With either reel, a 2 ½-foot length of 50-pound-test Trilene Big Game is added as a leader and tipped with a 3/0 kahle hook.
Their rods are rigged two ways.
Carolina rigs are used for bottom fishing without a cork. A ¼-ounce egg sinker is threaded on the line above the swivel attaching the line to the leader. When water currents are too strong and the weight won’t hold, they simply add another sinker. Used with either shrimp or croakers for bait, the rig is moved 6 to 12 inches every minute or so.
For fishing off the bottom, an unweighted, detachable cork is added to the line above the Carolina rig. Jules uses an oval snap-on variety, but Pat prefers a traditional scoop-faced slotted cork.
“I can’t see the clips on a clip-on cork anymore,” she said with a shy grin.
Most often used with shrimp as bait, the rig is retrieved with steady twitches of the rod.
“You never know what the trout will want each day, and trout in different places on the same day will want different things,” Pat explained. “Twelve- to 14-inch trout seem to want shrimp. Croakers are better for bigger fish — 2-pounders.
“And shrimp are easier for inexperienced people to fish with. When they get a bite, they can strike right away. With croakers, they have to let the fish take the bait a while before setting the hook. Bass fishermen have to forget their habits. They want to strike right away and hard — whoam (She demonstrates vigorously with her rod) —like they are forcing a hook to penetrate a plastic worm.”
She said she usually starts with shrimp early in the morning because the fish are up in the water chasing bait. Later in the day she uses a Carolina rig more often, although when trout are feeding under diving gulls, she will use a cork because the fish are on the top.
She “bird-fishes” in July and August, but typically ignores them earlier in the year because the speckled trout under the birds are too small to suit her.
While technically not tackle, the neatest rigs on their boats are electric anchor rope windlasses mounted on the boats’ bow decks. After a day of constantly moving and re-anchoring, it makes one wonder why anyone would ever use his hands to pull on an anchor rope again.