Jerkbait triggers speckled trout bites from Louisiana to Florida
Chas Champagne of Slidell continues to expand the line of Matrix Shad artificials that saltwater fishermen covet in their efforts to catch speckled trout and other fish in and around the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
His latest entry into the market will be the Matrix Rip Shad, a hard-body jerkbait, already a favorite of his and guides in Louisiana and Florida. The company is rolling out several artificials in the coming months that have been proven before hitting the market.
Champagne said the Rip Shad will likely be available on shelves this month.
“We’ve been working on that about a year,” he said.
Another of the eight new products scheduled to hit the market within six to eight months is the Matrix Monster, a 5-inch version of the Matrix Shad that should target speckled trout, bull reds, jack crevalle, lemonfish and even tarpon.
A jerkbait need
Champagne, 36, a graduate of St. Paul’s High School and University of Southern Mississippi, said the Matrix Rip Shad was born out of necessity, i.e., to cover that depth between 2 feet and 6 feet. The Matrix Minnow, the second hard bait made by Matrix Shad, has been picking off beaucoup speckled trout at its optimum depth on the retrieve ever since its debut.
The Matrix Minnow runs about 6 feet deep, which is ideal for many areas. However, while on a fishing trip in 2018, Champagne found himself wanting something that covered shallower depths.
“Last summer, when I was throwing the Matrix Minnow in Florida over some shallow grass beds, I was catching grass consistently. I wanted to make something for the shallows,” he said.
“When it hits the water, it’s floating. When you rip it down, it dives about 3 feet,” he said, adding that, during a pause in the action, it rises slowly to the surface.
“It’ll be great to fish 2 to 6 feet of water over shells and grass,” he said, having tried it out fishing prototypes at the Rip Shad at the MRGO and in Florida. “I’ve been personally fishing with them about six months.”
After prototypes became available in December and January, Champagne used Matrix Rip Shad, which are armed with heavy duty, black-nickel No. 6 hooks that are rust- and corrosion-resistant, to catch speckled trout on the MRGO rocks that border Lake Borgne, then returned in the spring to shallow areas in Florida.
“When I went back to the grass flat in Florida, we were very pleased with it. That’s when we pulled the trigger (on the production schedule),” he said.
Champagne knew he had another winner, because if a speckled trout nails an artificial lure in the Sunshine State, it will nail it anywhere, because of the clean, salty, water and the amount of fishing pressure, the number of baits those fish see off the Florida coast.
Champagne sent some Rip Shads to several guides who fish 200 days or more each year, including Josh Lim of Pensacola, Fla., who owns Lim-It-Out Charters. As fate would have it, Lim caught a 26-inch speckled trout 10 minutes after he started fishing with it.
“He was SO excited. His word in Florida is good as gold. I knew if he liked it, everyone would,” Champagne said.
“Like I said before, some of the smartest speckled trout and redfish are in Florida. When you can catch 10 (speckled trout) a day over there, that means it works. It’s effective.”
The Rip Shad, which weighs 5/16-ounce, will be produced in five colors: purple passion, orange crush, goldie knox, cool breeze and glass shad.
His company’s goal is to make as many baits in a few colors rather than a few baits in many colors.
“We try to make something for every situation. That way we have something for everybody,” he said.
It started around 2010 when Champagne introduced what emerged as the wildly popular 3-inch Matrix Shad. Later, he introduced a 2-inch Matrix Shad for sac-a-lait fishermen, and at the request of so many saltwater anglers who venture to near-offshore and offshore waters, he is bringing out the Matrix Monster.