Matrix Shad owner Chas Champagne is far more in love with jigging for speckled trout than the average person. In fact, he does it almost every single day — except this time of year.
For the past couple of winters, instead of jigging, Champagne has been dragging baits behind his boat to entice bites from speckled trout. Champagne normally trolls around the manmade canals on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, but he said any area that is straight with hard ledges works great.
“You’re covering so much more water trolling,” he said. “If I’m catching like 10 fish in a two-hour period of time, and it’s over like a 500 yard area, then that’s a lot of casts you have to make if you’re jigging.”
Champagne drags jigheads from 5/16 all the way up to ½-ounce, and although hardcore trollers like to use lead-core line, Champagne uses 14-pound Matrix line, a monofilament his company manufactures. (Anglers just need to keep in mind they must let out more line when using mono.)
“The lead line makes you do it more efficiently. You get the bait down faster and you don’t have to let out as much line,” he said.
Champagne said it’s critical to stay in a consistent depth of water when trolling.
“Some of those (ledges) in Lakeshore (canal) and Geoghegan (canal) go from like 6-foot down to 25-foot pretty sharp,” he said. “I’m constantly watching my depth finder when I’m doing something like that trying to stay in that ledge.
“Whatever line you decide to pick — whether its 10 feet or 14 feet — you want to make a drag in that line.”
And finding the right speed to troll is critical: Champagne usually goes around 1.5 mph, but it changes a lot.
“Last year when we had that good run and the Spillway opened, I was going 2.2 mph and using the big motor,” he said.” Right now in the heart of the winter, I’ve been using the trolling motor going 1.6 mph.”
Champagne likes using the big motor when he can so he can look at his depth finder for not only the depth, but other info on the screen.
“You’ll go from just a straight blank bottom to stuff going on down there,” he said. “You very rarely get bites when it’s just a straight blank bottom. I never get into them if the screen is blank.”
Champagne concluded that this is his favorite time of year to troll.
“From December to the middle of March, it is a fantastic technique to have in your arsenal,” he said.