Three new tricks for more big trout

The author landed this nice speckled trout on a Megabass Darksleeper, a Goby-type soft-plastic bait.
The author landed this nice speckled trout on a Megabass Darksleeper, a Goby-type soft-plastic bait.

Ned Rig, Darksleeper, S-waver 120 have potential to fool trophy specks

I think it’s safe to say our fishing world is changing, and since it’s summer, ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, was held July 9-12 in Orlando, Fla.

Designers, manufacturers and anglers gathered to view, reveal and introduce technological advances before they can be purchased in the mainstream market.

I bring this up because I’m going to discuss three lures that meet the definition of ICAST’s intent: view, reveal and introduce. Having fished these on plenty of trips, I can confidently write they all have high production value, as well as big-fish potential.

The Ned Rig

Ned rigs are mushroom-shaped jigheads that allow soft plastics to stand upright when in contact with the bottom.

Year after year, this simple setup produces tremendous results on heavily pressured fish when downsizing is appropriate. A mainstay in almost every freshwater angler’s arsenal, its transition to inshore saltwater fishing is virtually flawless.

The rig is remarkably simple and includes a jighead and soft-plastic lure. Unlike traditional jighead styles — round, aspirin or arrow — it features a “mushroom” profile. Simple as it may seem, this jighead allows the bait to stand straight up when in contact with the bottom. Additionally, pairing it with smaller soft plastics gives great fishability and heavily pressured fish a less-invasive offering.

I prefer the Owner Blockhead in the 1/16- and 1/8-ounce sizes, but Z-Man also makes a NED Lockz HD jighead, and I prefer those in the 1/6- and 1/5-ounce sizes for heavier-tide and windier situations. Soft-plastic selections being endless, I prefer ZMan’s Finesse TRD and Trick Shotz, mainly because they are buoyant and compact.

For fishing purposes, this is a jig, and I fish it as such – making one or two twitches, then letting the bait sink to the bottom while maintaining contact with the lure. Bites can be very subtle, but they can also be very big since many large summer trout are looking for smaller, quick offerings.

Megabass Dark Sleeper

Megabass Dark Sleeper

Newest of the three to market, this Goby profile soft plastic made by Megabass has unlimited inshore potential. Unlike many all-in-one swimbaits, it has an exaggerated set of dorsal fins that act as weed guards and allow an angler to fish grassy or rocky substrate virtually unscathed.

Although they are made in three different sizes, the 3-inch is the most versatile. Production weights vary depending on the length of the bait, but the 3/8- and 1/2-ounce are perfect for most, if not all, inshore situations. If you’re like me and initially thought the offered weights are too heavy, I can tell you, the fishability of the 3/8-ounce is comparable to a traditional 1/8-ounce jig and soft plastic, while the 1/2-ounce fishes more like a 3/16-ounce bait.

In terms of technique, fish this lure as you would any soft plastic/jighead combination. Keep your rod tip elevated and give the bait two or three twitches, letting the bait sink while maintaining contact with your lure. Most hits, if not all, come on the fall, and since it’s a compact offering, a majority of the hooksets occur on the inside of the mouth, particularly the cheek. This bait was designed to target smallmouth bass in clear, northern lakes, so the reduced visibility of most inshore estuaries renders this bait the perfect croaker silhouette.

River2Sea S-Waver 120

River2Sea S-Waver 120

I dare you to walk into any tackle shop on the California coast and mention the word “glide bait.” What I would imagine taking place is a store clerk offering a myriad of samples and customers producing copious numbers of pictures of large bass with jointed baits longer than most human forearms. With that said, I took it upon myself to test the West Coast success and apply it to the Gulf Coast, particularly for large trout. After overcoming a large learning curve, I found these baits to be very effective and very versatile.

I chose the River2Sea S-Waver 120 mainly because of the price point and size. Most glide baits are produced in small batches. In other words, they are expensive. The S-Waver is one of the cheaper alternatives, yet it is still $15.99, but if you are serious about targeting big fish, these baits provide that option. The 120 is 4¾ inches long and weighs 13/16 ounces. Since, I wade the majority of the time I’m fishing, use lighter rod and reel combos, the 120 still falls in that option window and won’t give me shoulder fatigue. Heck, Corky Fat Boys weigh almost a full ounce.

The options for fishing this bait are endless, but know that I found a long, exaggerated walk-the-dog cadence to be most effective. What makes this lure so effective is the long, sweeping side-to-side motion. It’s great for shallow flats or a topwater alternative on lighter tide/calmer days.

I find the only downside to these baits is the clumsy/loud entry into the water. Additionally, almost exclusively fish these lures on braid or 100-percent, pure flourocarbon, with nothing less than a medium-power/extra-fast action rod. Not only will the bait run true, but hookup-to-land ratio goes up exponentially with slightly heavier tackle. Don’t ask me how I know!

The options are endless

Technology is giving some very creative lure producers endless possibilities, and as the angling world continues to change, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for those crossover lures that may give you the edge on big fish in your estuary. So keep plugging and remember, take what you need and release the rest.