Think you need live bait to load a cooler this month? Think again.
Many anglers believe that successful summertime fishing for speckled trout demands live bait, but that’s just not the case. “If a guy doesn’t know where to go, shrimp are great,” Cajun Fishing Adventure’s Ryan Lambert said. “They make everybody equal, but you don’t have to use live bait.”
Lambert said he and his guides rarely resort to live bait because the fish will fall for artificials just as easily as live bait once you find them.
“I can catch more fish with artificials quicker,” he said. “If you’ve got four customers on the boat, and you’re catching fish like crazy, you just don’t have time to do everything you need to.”
And plastics weed out a lot of the nuisance catches.
“We don’t want to deal with the hardheads and the trash fish,” Lambert said. “With the artificials, we don’t have to.”
So which artificials are so productive? Here are the top picks for summertime trout.
Gene Larew High Tide Stand-up Jigheads
Lambert said the ¼-ounce Gene Larew High Tide Stand-up Jigheads make the best complement to soft-plastic lures.
“They have a big 4/0 hook, and I want to hold on to fish when they bite,” he explained. “That big hook lets me do that.”
The jigs also have a molded ring shank that prevents baits from slipping toward the bend.
“It really holds the bait,” Lambert said. “I don’t have to worry about messing with my bait all the time.”
There is one downside — price. A four-pack of the jigs, which come in five colors, retails for about $3.99.
“It’s an expensive hook, but it’s worth it,” Lambert said. “It’s sharp, and it holds the bait in place.”
The company can be reached at 800-YES-SALT or online at www.genelarew.com.
OK, so this isn’t a new, fancy or “sexy” bait. But Lambert said the old tried-and-true H&H Cocahoe remains one of his main go-to baits to put limits of trout in the boat.
His absolute favorite color is glow/chartreuse, and the reason might be surprising.
“The shrimp come in the last full moon of April, and that cocahoe simulates that shrimp,” Lambert explained.
A cocahoe lure simulating a shrimp? Lambert said it’s the coloration of the lure that does the trick. Or, more precisely, it’s the tail’s color that does the trick.
“Our shrimp have a chartreuse line on their tails, so that chartreuse tail on the Cocahoe looks like a shrimp,” he said
He will change the body color if water clarity goes completely to pot, but the tail of his cocahoe is always going to be chartreuse.
“You’re really trying to match the hatch more than worry about water clarity,” Lambert said.
Lambert said he varies his retrieve until he discovers what triggers the fish, but his main strategy is to keep his rod tip high so the bait stays off the bottom.
“You’re trying to imitate a shrimp, so you don’t want the lure on the bottom,” he said.
H&H products can be found at tackle shops around the state, and the cocahoes retail for less than $2 per pack.
Mr. Twister Exude D.A.R.T.
This Louisiana-made lure is what Lambert turns to when he finds a school of mullet, which can translate into big trout.
“All the trout are doing is looking for something crippled, so I throw that bait in and let it fall,” Lambert said.
He began fishing the D.A.R.T. mainly because Mr. Twister discontinued his first two choices: the Slimy Slug and the Crystal Slug.
Those lures were 6 inches long, and that suited Lambert’s purposes well.
“I fish big baits when I’m fishing for big fish,” he said.
The D.A.R.T. is smaller (4 ¼ inches) and a little fatter, but the action is pretty much the same.
His favorite color is golden shiner, which does a great job of imitating a crippled mullet fluttering under the school.
The lure, which he rigs on a ¼-ounce Gene Larew High Tide jig, also releases Exude fish attractant to create a scent trail to help big trout find it.
Although he doesn’t want to allow the lure to settle to the bottom, Lambert slows the retrieve so that his lure looks different than the live mullet.
“All those mullet are swimming, so why would you want to swim the bait?” he asked.” I jig it pretty quickly. I don’t ever just go up and down off the bottom because nine times out of 10 you’re on an oyster reef, and you’ll get hung up.”
Check out the entire D.A.R.T. lineup at www.mistertwister.com., or call the company at 318-377-8818.
Norton Sand Eel
Hackberry Charters’ Mark Hughes said Big Lake trout can’t stand Norton Sand Eels.
“Trout eat a lot of eels, so it’s the perfect bait,” he said.
Best colors include glow/chartreuse and pearl/chartreuse, with tequila/gold being a good stained-water alternative, he said.
The lures come in 6-inch and 4-inch versions, but Hughes gets the most bites with the shorter lures.
Hughes matches the soft-plastic lures with ¼-ounce jigheads, and he fishes them with a jigging, steady retrieve.
“I tell my customers all the time, if you feel the bottom, if you feel an oyster shell, speed up,” he said. “Trout are on a reaction bite most of the time, so if you’re fishing them real slow on the bottom, they’re not going to bite.”
Norton Lures can be contacted at 361-790-5329.
When trout are exploding on topwaters but not making contact with the hooks, Hughes turns to a Corky, a soft-plastic jerkbait designed to imitate an injured baitfish.
The lure has two exposed treble hooks and sinks slowly, so it requires some patience, but Hughes said the payoff can be lunker fish.
“It’s a big-trout bait,” he said.
The basic technique is pretty simple: Cast it out, let it sink for a few seconds (but not to the bottom) and begin a slow, jerking retrieve with the rod tip low to the water.
“It’s like using a Catch 2000,” Hughes said.
The difference is the body is soft, so fish don’t mouth the baits — they inhale them.
And for some real fun, the rear of the lure can be adjusted to change the action. Bending it up slightly causes the lure to rise when jerked; a downward bend makes the lure sink. However, don’t bend it too much or the lure will spin and cause a mess.
While Hughes said he sometimes will change the lure’s action if the fish are real finicky, most of the time he just pulls it out of the package and begins fishing.
The rate at which the lure falls also can be altered by pushing about ½ inch of wire into the nose of the lure. Different gauges of wire will result in different sinking rates.
Effective colors include pink and white/chartreuse, Hughes said.
The company’s Web site is www.corkybandl.com.
If water conditions really go to pot, Hughes said he can always get bites by using Berkley Gulp! products.
“You can fish it under a cork, and it works as good as live bait,” he said.
His favorites include Gulp! Pogy, Jerkshad and Shrimp lures.
The trick to the lure is that the Gulp! attractant leaches into the water to form a scent trail trout can literally follow right to the bait.
“It adds scent to the water, and the trout home in on it,” Hughes said, adding that he uses bright colors that incorporate chartreuse.
“Chartreuse is always a good color over here,” he said.
To provide more likelihood of fish locating the bait, he uses chartreuse or red jigheads.
“It adds more color to the lure,” Hughes said. “It definitely helps.”
Gulp! Pogy and Shrimp come in 3- and 4-inch versions, and retail for $6.99 per pack. The Jerkshad also retails for $6.99.
More information can be found online at www.berkley-fishing.com, or call the company at 800-237-5539.
Mann’s Hardnose Mullet and Jerkbait
Capt. Ron Price loves plastic lures, but he hates having to continually push them up the shanks of his jigs. Mann’s Hardnose baits take care of that.
His two favorites are the line’s Mullet and Jerkbait, which have two-part soft-plastic bodies. The rear half of each lure is supple and creates plenty of action. The front of the lures, however, are much stiffer than most soft-plastic lures, and the result is that they squeeze tight to the hook shank.
“When you put it on the hook, it stays on, and you can catch a lot of fish on it,” Price said. “It stays on the jig well, but it still has the action of that limber body.”
The paddle-tailed Mullet comes in two sizes: 3 ½ and 4 ½ inches.
“If I feel like I’ve got the potential for bigger trout, I go with the bigger one, but if they’re finicky, I stick with the smaller one,” Price said.
If he isn’t getting bites on the Mullet, he will often switch to a Hardnose Jerkbait rigged on a jighead.
“I just twitch it, and it’s got more action” Price said.
The go-to color for the Fish Intimidator Guide Service owner is black/chartreuse, which optimizes visibility.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m throwing black/chartreuse,” he said. “The black/chartreuse stands out so much in the water.
“Only if the bite slows down will I change.”
Unlike most other lures, Mann’s places the chartreuse on the front of the lure, and Price believes that helps increase his hookup ratio.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “Maybe it’s because they’re hitting the chartreuse, so they’re getting the hook in their mouths.”
Effective alternate colors include green shrimp and new penny.
To increase the odds that fish will hold on to a lure after the initial strike, Mann’s has coated their Mullets with a crawfish extract known as S.P.I.C.E.
The Mullet retails for $3.60 per pack on Mann’s Web site (www.mannbait.com). The 6-inch Jerkbaits retail for $3.40.
Mann’s Tidewater Mid 1-Minus
When Price is after big bites, he often will put up the soft-plastic lures in favor of hard-plastic Mann’s Mid 1-Minus crankbaits.
“They’re not the kind of bait you’re going to catch a lot of fish on, but when you catch one it’ll be a good one,” he said.
The lures dive only about a foot, so they’re perfect when picking off big trout around submerged vegetation.
“When you know there’s a lot of big trout on the canes, you can use this lure,” Price said. “I like to work it over points of submerged canes: The bait works right over the canes, and the trout will come out of the canes to get it.”
And the best part is that trout will hit it even when the water’s not very clear.
“Crankbaits work great even in dirty water because they make so much noise,” Price explained.
Favored colors include golden croaker and black/chartreuse.
The lures retail for $6.45 on Mann’s Web site.
Mark Nichols has spent time fishing the entire Gulf Coast, and he said the ½-ounce D.O.A. Shrimp is hard to beat.
“It’s not a probing lure,” Nichols said. “But if I know the fish are there, I can kill them.”
He said the lure works well over submerged grass beds or in shallow water, but has to be fished slowly to be effective.
“It has a real slow drop,” Nichols said. “I want to get it to the bottom or to the top of an oyster reef.”
He then flicks his wrist to make the shrimp jump and begin to sink slowly again.
If he needs to have more control over the depth of the lure, he switches to a D.O.A Deadly Combo, which is simply a pre-rigged cork system for the shrimp.
Best colors include glow, purple/chartreuse, clear/silver glitter, avocado/red glitter and baby bream/glow tail.
And don’t think this is just a small-trout bait: Nichols landed a 14-pound yellowmouth on a D.O.A. Shrimp.
Find out more about the lure at www.doalures.com, where the lure retails for $3.75 each. The Deadly Combo costs $5.99.
D.O.A. Bait Buster Shallow Runner
When a faster retrieve is necessary or if the predominant bait is mullet, the D.O.A. Bait Buster Shallow Runner is the perfect option, Nichols said.
“It’s a good finger mullet imitation,” he said. “It’s ugly as sin, but when you put it in the water, that little tail flutter makes fish light up on it.”
Nichols particularly likes to work the lure down rock jetties.
“You can just bump it down the rocks,” he said.
Nichols retrieves it pretty much like a jerkbait.
“I want to surge it 1 to 2 feet to get that tail to flutter, and then I stop,” he said. “They generally hit it on the pause.”
Effective colors in Louisiana include black back/silver glitter, black back/gold glitter, nite glow, chartreuse and red head. However, the Bait Buster comes in a wide range of other colors, so it can be customized an anglers’ particular preference.
The lures retail for $3.50 on the company’s Web site.