Trophy hunters are a unique lot; whether the game is whitetail deer, tuna or speckled trout, trophy hunters are just different. The lengths they'll go to kill or capture their quarry is typically well above and beyond what the average sportsman is willing to face.
Alex Smith, a college student from Gulfport, is no exception when it comes to chasing big speckled trout. The interesting thing about Smith is that his busy schedule as a student and a dad fit perfectly with chasing his favorite fish. When the schoolwork is done and his girlfriend, Morgan, and their 4-month-old daughter, Marleigh, are asleep, he's going fishing — regardless of the conditions.
"I catch my biggest trout at night when it's windy, choppy and the water is dirty," Smith said. "Usually we're the only boat at the ramp."
When Smith and his brother-in-law hit the water on March 28, the conditions were perfect to have the area to themselves; sloppy water caused by a stout 20 mph southeast wind. Yes sir, I was safe and sound at the house watching a rerun of Cops or doing something else equally as creative. No way, no how would I have been out that night.
Smith's efforts paid off with a speckled behemoth that weighed in at 10 ½ pounds, had a 16-inch girth and was 34-inches long. She weighed 10 ½ pounds after upchucking a large mullet in the net and being weighed more than 12 hours after being caught.
Smith looks for areas that have light near the shore and like most trophy hunters, focuses on the edges.
"I'm looking for dirty water on the edge of where the light and the shadows meet," Smith said. "You can see them (trout) come out of the shadows hitting shrimp and baitfish."
Smith has caught several 4- and 5-pounders using this technique with some up to 8 pounds. On this particular evening the trout were all small. Of course small is a relative term. Small to Smith meant 2- and 3-pounders.
"We started with live shrimp to get them (trout) going because action brings action," Smith said. "The little ones move out when the big ones move in."
Smith said they like to have croakers onboard once the bigger trout move in but none of the local bait shops had any.
Smith, an Egret Baits pro staffer, switched over to a 3 ½-inch creole magic Wedgetail once the live shrimp had the smaller trout actively feeding.
"We were using live shrimp that night but only catching small ones," Smith said. "I switched over to a Wedgetail on a ¼-ounce GoldenEye jighead and made a cast to the edge of the light. I didn't even work it, she hit as soon as it hit the water."
Smith's last statement had me wondering about all the things I've heard and read. A 10-pound trout hit his bait as soon as it hit the water, which means she was high in the water column actively feeding on whatever unfortunate critter swam by her gaping mouth.
I thought these fat girls lay around on the bottom scratching their belly on an oyster shell waiting on some unsuspecting delectable morsel to swim by. Nope, this big girl was chasing bait on top in 6-foot of water.
I asked Smith why he didn't stop fishing and weigh the giant trout as soon as possible. He said they were still catching fish and he didn't know where he could get her weighed at that time of night so he made the call to keep fishing and weigh her the next day.
They ended the evening with 22 trout that would go about 52 pounds, and that's being conservative since some of the fish were upwards of 3 pounds. That's a lot of trout folks.
Smith grew up fishing the coast with the early years being mostly fresh water. A wade fishing trip for trout and redfish in Long Beach with an uncle turned the tide for this young man and he's never looked back. He's a diehard big trout hunter through-and-through and is blessed to have a girlfriend like Morgan that shares his passion for fishing. It wouldn't surprise me if Marleigh is catching trout like her pops before she even starts kindergarten.
That's the thing about our coast; once that saltwater enters your blood you're hooked.