Every year at this time, specks and reds get the itch to slam jerkbaits.
Professional bass fisherman Shaw Grigsby of Gainesville, Fla., has won $1.3 million just on the BASS circuit with a combined total of about $2 million in wins. However, when he’s not fishing for bass, Grigsby enjoys fishing inshore for specks and reds.
As the host and producer of his TV show, “One More Cast,” on the Versus Network, Grigsby features five of his 13 yearly shows on saltwater fishing. He belives strongly in the power of jerkbaits when he fishes for speckled trout and redfish, and names the Strike King 3X Zulu as his favorite soft-plastic lure.
“I fish from Golden Meadow to Lake Charles, and I’ve learned that no matter where you fish, if you want to catch more speckled trout and redfish than you’re currently catching, learn to fish a jerkbait,” Grigsby said. “I call the Louisiana fishery the mecca of inshore fishing because I don’t know of any more-productive place to fish on the whole Gulf Coast. You can catch a lot of specks and reds there — and particularly, really big ones.”
Since speckled trout react so positively to erratic baits, Grigsby believes there’s nothing better for catching speckled trout and redfish than a soft-plastic jerkbait.
“There are many reasons why I like the Zulu, but one of the main ones is that I can get more casts with it than I can with any other plastic jerkbait,” he said. “This bait is virtually indestructible.
“Also, you can fish any story of the water with it. If the trout are in the grass, you can rig it weedless and fish it on top or just under the surface. And your hooking percentage is just fantastic.
“If the fish are a little deeper, you can let the bait sink more and jerk it just under the surface. If the trout are even deeper, you can rig it with a lead-headed jig and let it fall to the bottom, jerk it up to the bottom, twitch it a few times and allow it to fall again.”
Most of the time, Grigsby uses a No. 5/0 worm hook and rigs the Zulu weedless, but you can use a No. 4/0 worm hook. Grigsby casts the bait out, lets it fall and then twitches it to make it come back to the surface. A trout often will take the bait just as the Zulu breaks the surface of the water. At other times, a trout will wait until the bait starts to fall to hit it. You’ll see a big swirl, your reel will scream, and your rod will pretzel.
If Grigsby spots redfish tailing in shallow water, he casts ahead and just in front of the fish and twitches the bait until it’s right in front of them.
“Once the redfish see the bait, they’ll usually turn and go right for it,” he says. “The redfish like that skinny water, and often you can see them push water even if they’re not tailing.
The good thing about the Zulu is that you can make a very soft presentation and not spook the fish you’re trying to catch. Most of the time, as soon as the bait hits the water, I’ll give it a twitch-twitch-twitch-stop action, and the redfish go berserk. If I’m fishing the edge of deep grass or along an oyster bar, I’ll put a small jig head in the Zulu.”
To keep the small plastic jighead on the bait, Grigsby uses Pro Soft-Bait Glue and glues the Zulu to the head of the jig. Because the Zulu’s made of such spongy material, it’ll pull down on the jig after you’ve caught several trout with it.
“When you glue the Zulu to the head of the jig, you can literally catch 100 fish on it without having to replace it,” Grigsby reports. “That’s what’s cool about the Zulu. Most of the time when you’re fishing soft plastics for specks and reds, you can easily go through an entire bag of lures in one day. I’ve fished the same Zulu before for several weeks without having to replace it. I’ve actually worn out jig heads before I’ve worn out the Zulu.”
If Grigsby’s fishing primarily for redfish, he’ll fish 17- to 20-pound-test Sufix Elite Line. If he’s fishing primarily for trout using a spinning rod, he’ll use 12- to 15-pound-test line. The size of jighead he uses depends on the depth of the water he’s fishing. He’ll fish as small as a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jighead in really shallow water or possibly a 1/2-ounce jighead to fish off the sharp drops.
When he’s trout fishing, he prefers the 1/4-ounce jig head.
“With this light jighead, if I’m fishing a grass edge, I want to swim the bait down and let it tickle the top of the grass,” Grigsby explains. “Then I’ll give the bait a pumping motion and let it fall.”
The Z Too, a salt-impregnated jerkbait companion lure to the Zulu, floats and sinks slowly.
“When I’m fishing the Z Too, I fish it just the opposite way from how I fish the Zulu,” Grigsby says. “I let the Z Too fall to the bottom and then twitch-twitch-twitch it before allowing it to fall back to the bottom. Around oyster beds, rip-rap, the edges of grass and/or drop-offs, usually I’ll use the Z Too to fish for those deep trout, instead of the Zulu.”
Grigsby likes the Z Too and the Zulu in white, avocado with red-metal flake and either chartreuse or chartreuse/white. He always starts fishing for specks with the white jerkbait, but in dark water or overcast days, the avocado red-metal flake generally works best. When Grigsby needs more flash on his bait, he’ll use white/chartreuse or all chartreuse.
Grigsby also fishes the Wild Shiner for specks and reds. The Wild Shiner comes in two models: floating and suspending.
“I like to fish the suspending jerkbait when the trout are holding down on deep bars, deep oyster beds, along the edge of rip-rap or in deep holes,” he said. “I can jerk the bait down to 5 or 6 feet and let it suspend off the bottom.
“The trout will take the Wild Shiner when it’s sitting dead still in the water. Your line will either jump or move off to the side when you catch a fish. Because of the large size of the Wild Shiner, you’ll often catch some big fish on it.”
Since the Wild Shiner is made of hard plastic, you don’t have to worry about the fish tearing up the bait like you do with other baits.
Grigsby’s favorite colors of Wild Shiners include a chartreuse back with silver sides, a white body and a blue head or a chrome with a blue back.
Most of the time, Grigsby will use the floating Wild Shiner when he’s fishing for redfish and the suspending Wild Shiner when he’s fishing for trout.
“I always keep a suspending Wild Shiner tied on one rod when I’m fishing the Zulu or the floating Wild Shiner because many times speckled trout and redfish will slap at the bait but not take it,” he said. “When I miss a speck or a red on the surface, I can pick up that suspending Wild Shiner, cast right back to the fish and work the bait slower underwater. Often the fish will want to eat it.
“Do be careful though when you’re unhooking a fish using this bait, because the Wild Shiner has three sets of treble hooks.”
Worm that Squirms
Capts. Jeff and Mary Poe at Big Lake Guide Service have fished Calcasieu Lake for more than 25 years.
“We use soft plastics most of the time we’re fishing because we can vary the sizes of our lead heads, and jerk and twitch them through any depth of water we want to fish,” Jeff Poe said. “Our favorite lure is the Norton Sand Eel, which most people fish like a grub. However, we’ve found we catch more fishing the Sand Eel like it’s a jerkbait.”
Poe uses the Sand Eel in water as shallow as 1 foot when he’s fishing around the grass or as deep as 35 feet at the rigs.
“The technique that I’ve learned that will get trout and redfish to bite is to twitch the bait just under the surface, twitch it in the middle story or twitch it along the bottom instead of hopping it,” Poe said. “If I’m fishing it in shallow water, I’ll either use an extremely light jighead, or swim it. I’ll fish with a No. 2/0 hook, 20-pound-test leader and 10- or 12-pound-test main line.”
Poe catches most redfish and trout in that shallow water with this technique that works almost all year, except when the water becomes very hot.
Even when the weather’s really hot, however, the redfish will concentrate in that shallow water. Poe doesn’t have to see the fish to cast to them.
“Most of the time, we’re blind casting because the water here’s so dark that we rarely can ever see them,” he said.
Poe considers the glow/chartreuse tail as his most-effective color. He also uses black/chartreuse tail, and in the middle of the summer, he fishes with opening night, a lavender or a purple color with holographic glitter.
“I also use the Catch 2000 and the Catch 5, which are suspending jerkbaits made by MirrOlure,” Poe said. “These lures are especially effective during the winter months, but I also fish them in May and June. I can work them in any water depth where I think the trout are holding from 18 inches deep to 6-feet deep.”
Poe mentions that once you reach the depth you want to fish you need to twitch it often.
“One of the problems most people have when they fish these MirrOlures is they reel their baits instead of twitching them or jerking them,” he said. “When I get my lure down to the depth where I want to fish it, I never reel the bait, except when I want to take up slack.”
Poe uses mullet colors like a black back with silver or gold sides and a green back with silver or gold sides. However, he’s also taken specks and reds on a black back/gold side/ orange belly, the electric chicken and the woodpecker color (red and white). Also, Poe will use a chartreuse belly and black with gold sides, another off-the-wall color, from time to time.
“During the winter months, I fish jerkbaits an awful lot for specks and reds, but I also use them in the summertime when the fish are short-striking my topwater lures,” he said.
Thunder on the Water
Kirk Stansel of Hackberry Rod and Gun Club, has guided anglers on Calcasieu Lake for 26 years.
“My favorite jerkbait is the Jointed Thunderstick by Storm Lures,” he said. “This bait seems to catch bigger fish than other lures I use. The bait’s fairly large, and I can cast it a long way. There may be other jerkbaits that work just as well, but this is my favorite.”
According to Stansel, Storm quit making this bait for a while and then starting back making it just recently. He’s excited to see this lure making a comeback.
“The trout start hitting this bait in mid-April, and bite it well throughout May and June,” Stansel said. “Then the fish start taking it again in the fall on the shallow flats in that 1- and 2-foot-deep water.”
Stansel’s favorite areas to fish the Thunderstick include oyster reefs when the water gets really clear.
“The Thunderstick will go about 2 feet under the water, and I like to fish it really fast with a lot of erratic action, giving the lure plenty of jerks, twitches and pops,” he said. “Now some people like to twitch the Thunderstick slowly, but I get more and bigger bites by jerking the bait fast.”
Although redfish will take this bait, Stansel says he catches mostly big speckled trout that will weigh 5 to 10 pounds each when using this bait. He’s caught a 9 1/2-pound speck before on a Thunderstick.
“We catch a lot of 5-, 6- and 7-pound fish on this lure,” he said.
Stansel believes the bait’s built-in rattle and the flash that the lure gives off also make it very enticing to big trout. He prefers to fish the chrome-colored Thundersticks.
Stansel also fishes the Slapstick made by Bill Lewis Lures.
“But my favorite wintertime jerkbait is the Corky, especially when big trout move into shallow water during the fall,” he said. “As the water warms up later in the day, the bigger trout will come out of that deep water and feed in the shallows, and the Corky is one of the only baits I can get the fish to hit.”
You have to know someone who knows someone to get a Corky.
“The lures are made by Dave Brown in Houston, Texas, in his garage, and the only place he sells them is out of his garage,” Stansel said. “If you want one, you have to drive to Houston to get it. After you meet him, then if he likes you and trusts you, you can set up an account with him. Then you can send him a check, and after your check clears the bank, he’ll send you a lure. This lure is a big piece of rubber with a little piece of cork in it, and it will catch trout.”
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