There are few places to fish in south Louisiana this month more popular than the Lake Pontchartrain Trestle, and although Chas Champagne, the owner of Matrix Shad, does quite a bit of that, the popularity can have him looking for other areas to catch speckled trout in the Pontchartrain estuary.
“When they show up on the Trestle for that first run, it’s only the regulars out there — just a handful of people, and you get, like, a week on it before the word gets out,” Champagne said. “The crowds can slow the Trestle down, and typically you can find (trout) somewhere else.”
One of Champagne’s favorite tactics once the crowds get too bad is fishing the beat-up camp pilings on the eastern end of the lake.
“You’ll go like 10 camps and never catch a fish, and then this one particular camp will hold them every year,” he said. “Nobody messes with them too badly. You can go over there and catch 10 beautiful fish with nobody bugging you when there are 100 boats on the Trestle.”
At the pilings, Champagne throws a variety of colors of Matrix Shads on jigheads, but he also loves throwing the Matrix Minnow jerkbait.
“I like jerkbaits a lot when the tide isn’t moving really hard and the water is crystal clear,” he said. “You can entice some bites on those suspending jerkbaits that a jighead won’t. When you get into that November, December, January time, they like jerkbaits for some crazy reason.”
Not typical bird fishing
Another thing Champagne looks for when fishing Pontchartrain this time of year are birds. However, it’s not typical bird fishing for a variety of reasons, he said.
“Those birds will pop up, and it’ll be those 2- and 4-pound (trout) underneath them,” Champagne said. “It’s not regular bird trout; it’s big Lake Pontchartrain trout.”
In many places across south Louisiana, it’s very realistic to catch a limit of trout in less than an hour under birds. However, Champagne said super-fast action under birds isn’t common in the big lake.
“It’s not every cast like it can be in other estuaries around,” he said. “A lot of times, the birds will be hovering or swooping down, and you literally have to throw it where a shrimp were to jump or a bird were to pick something up.”
Champagne also frequently runs into redfish under the birds.
“If it’s all redfish birds, they move really fast, and the school doesn’t sit there for a long period of time,” he said. “You just run up in the birds like a wild banshee, and you make sure everybody in the boat casts out. If somebody hooks one, everybody throws right where that one is hooked.”
No matter if it’s trout or redfish under them, Champagne casts 3/8-ounce jigheads tipped with Matrix Shads at the fish.
The importance of line type
Last November, Pontchartrain’s water got extremely clear, and whenever Champagne sees that, he knows the importance of line size and line type.
“When you can see, like, 3 feet, is the magic number when you need to start worrying about the line you use and how thin it is,” he said. “When your average fish is like an 18-incher and you’ve got 2 to 4 feet of visibility, those fish are smart.”
Champagne said fluorocarbon, which is nearly invisible to fish, is essential; he throws Matrix fluorocarbon in 15-pound test.