Terry Smith grew up fishing for big trout in the waters of eastern Florida’s Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon system, known for producing sizable specks. He thought he was leaving a fisherman’s paradise when his pipeline job transferred him to south Louisiana for what was supposed to be a 6-month stint. But he made the mistake of taking his boat with him, just to try trout fishing in Louisiana waters. He said after his first fishing trip in the Rigolets and MRGO areas, he knew he was staying. And he applied the same tactics for catching bigger trout here that was so successful there, and found them just as effective.
Target bigger trout
“I’m committed to catching bigger trout for the thrill of the catch and the fight,” he said. “I’m not after the barely legal-size fish, and I’m not interested in a meat haul to fill my freezer. I believe in conserving the resource, so I release a lot of fish, I always release everything over 20 inches for conservation’s sake, and I’m content catching fewer bigger fish than a box full of small ones. That’s just my preference.”
Stick with what works
Terry’s arsenal of baits is surprisingly limited.
“I don’t bring a thousand different baits to try, though I do like to try different stuff on the hard days when action is slow,” he said. “And I’m not above asking other anglers what they’re using when I see them catching fish. But I’ve been here for several years now, and every year the baits I’ve used in Florida are producing here, too, so I stick with what is working.
“My go-to favorites are the Paul Brown soft-plastic twitch baits, mainly in opening night or a similar color. I probably catch more fish and bigger fish on that bait than any other. It sinks slowly, and I fish it slowly in the colder months. Whenever I try a twitch bait I drop it in the water to see how fast it sinks. If it sinks fast, I’m not interested. I find you have to do everything slower right now to provoke the big fish to bite.”
Terry said some of his other favorite baits are the MirrOdine XL suspending twitch baits, and he’s had success with the Rapala X Rap long-cast, shallow hard baits, but their single-hook design has cost him a few fish.
“Personally, I don’t like the lipped hard baits even though they are popular in deeper-water fishing, and some swear by them. I think the lipless baits look more natural and catch more fish in my type of fishing, but that’s my personal experience talking,” he said.
“It’s pretty simple, long casts, wait 3 to 5 seconds for the bait to sink down to the depth you want to fish, and then twitch, twitch, pause, twitch, twitch, pause,” he said. “I usually lift my rod tip a bit on the pause to feel the bait and take up slack, and repeat a thousand times. Often, they’ll hit it on the pause, so always be ready. The strike seems to come out of nowhere, and when they hit it, they’ll try to rip the rod out of your hand.”
Trolling for trout
Another key to success Terry said, is to keep trolling.
“I find that, in general, when the boat stops moving, the fish stop biting,” he said. “I’ll hit the spot-lock if I’m into a frenzy of action and try to stay on that action, but I’ll resume trolling as soon as the bite quits, and either recover that same area to see if I can get them started up again, or I’ll head on down the rocks” he said.
Favorite March haunt: MRGO
“I’ll fish along the rocks from the Chalmette Wall all the way down to Violet and Hopedale,” he said. “I look for good water and signs of bait, and once I find a spot to work, I turn off the outboard and work the trolling motor.
“I’ll work all along that area, moving in a bit closer or moving out a bit farther, trying to locate the fish. In deeper water, I give the bait a few more seconds to sink and naturally, less time in shallower water. I always like to have the wind at my back whenever possible so I can make those long casts, and I fish with a 10- or 12-pound fluorocarbon leader on 20- to 30-pound braided line. I’d say probably 90% of my fishing is along the rocks in the MRGO, or anywhere I can find deeper water and grass beds” he said.
Terry does fish soft-plastic lures on occasion as well, mostly the Matrix Shad in the green hornet or ultraviolet colors, or the Down South Lures in the bone color, and always on the lightest jig the tide will allow, usually a 1/8-ounce, and almost always, cast and retrieve. He rarely fishes with a cork, but when he does, he likes the noisy 4 Horseman.
“March is a great time to fish this tactic, the trout are hungry, they’re feeding on baitfish, so get out and give it a try,” he said.