Casters to the left of me, trollers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you. Stealers Wheel may have never fished the Gulf Coast for speckled trout in the winter, but if they had, they would have sung those lyrics. Love it or hate it, trolling is a main tactic during the winter months for catching limits of specks. Of course casting remains a viable technique as well.
In this report, Capt. Chris Bush of Southern Salt Charters shares his favorite technique, tight lining Matrix Shad soft plastics on a jig head, and how he deals with trolling traffic in the bayou.
According to Bush, fishing for trout this time of year can be tricky due to the weather.
"It can get pretty warm, days in the 80’s, but it’s not outside the norm to have highs not getting above 50," he said. "As a result, you want to keep your options open in a variety of depths throughout the water column.
“Jig head size is the key component to staying versatile, and making the right determination can lead to more fish in the box. In depths up to 15 feet I like to throw a ¼ or 5/16 ounce Hoosier Hooker Jig Head. Depths greater than 15 feet I throw a 3/8 or a ½ ounce.
“That being said, it doesn’t mean I won’t throw a ¼ ounce in 20 feet of water. I let the fish tell me what they want. What I mean by that, is the lighter the jig head and the deeper the water, you’re allowing that bait to slowly drift through the water column. This can be a deadly tactic for fish suspended in 15 to 20 feet of water as water temps rise.”
Bush also always pays attention to the tide and its direction compared to his spot.
"I generally like to bring my bait either with or perpendicular to the tide," he said. "This provides a more natural presentation, and allows you to fish that lighter jig head in deep waters. As your bait is coming back with the tide, your jig head is being forced down the water column, allowing you to fish all depths thoroughly. Sometimes the unfortunate part is the ability to feel the hit.
"The technique I use is to wait a couple of seconds before I begin my retrieve; this allows your bait to sink to the bottom. Once I let it sink, I slowly raise my rod straight up and give it two hard pops, then reel in my slack with my rod tip down then repeat. About 90% of my strikes happen when I’m slowly lifting my rod and you’ll feel a slight tap. When that happens, set the steel!”
According to Bush, the key to fishing bayous or banks choked with trollers is to get out of there way.
"If you accept what they are doing, not get discouraged, and have confidence in your spot and ability, you will catch fish," he said. "To avoid conflict and confusion I like to get on one side of the bayou and slowly drift with the tide, casting perpendicular to the tide. This allows the trollers to see what kind of technique I’m using and affords them an opportunity to come up with a game plan of how to fish around me.
"That said, once I get a bite, I put my Stick It Anchor Pin down and repeat that technique as closely as possible. It also prevents me from drifting through or past the fish and not disrupting anyone else. Trout, except for the trophies, generally school up, so by getting bit you did something correct to trigger that strike. If you can duplicate that technique and get another strike, then expect to have a good day.”
Always be civil, there is plenty of water for all of us to fish. Trollers, allow casters to make their drifts through productive areas. Casters, allow trollers to make a pass through the area you are fishing. A little give and take goes a long way when the bayou is crowded.
*Check back for part two of this report in which Zach Carroll of Ocean Springs will share his techniques and tactics on trolling for trout.