I love December. I love Christmas music, Christmas trees, Christmas presents, Christmas cookies, the movies Elf and A Christmas Story, cool temps and the fact that trout are stacked up in deep bayous no more than a long cast wide.
Yes, sir, it’s a fun month for this guy.
Contrast that to four months earlier, when it was 95 degrees and I was staring across the bow of my Hewes flats boat looking at the Gulf of Mexico wondering where the hell to start.
But this is a month when a fisherman should try new lures and techniques for the simple reason that trout are stacked up like cordwood.
Last December I had the trout dialed in tighter than my mother-in-law’s yoga pants, so I used that time to learn a new lure — the MirrOlure 52MR sinking twitch bait.
This old MirrOlure has been the standard for trout fishing for years. It’s an unassuming lure that isn’t flashy and doesn’t have much wiggle or make much noise.
The first time I used one, I fished it like a Rat-L-Trap: I made a long cast and reeled it in. It was like reeling in a 3-inch stick.
I was so unimpressed with the action of the lure that I tossed it in the trash and cursed it as the stupidest thing I’d ever purchased.
It wasn’t until I was steered to a local saltwater fishing forum that I had a re-introduction to the 52MR.
I read post after post made by Long Beach’s Jimmy Barnes showing off the trout he caught on various colors of the 52MR and 52M. His catches dwarfed most of the trout others were posting — except those caught by other 52MR guys.
The first person I reached out to was Jimmy. He said he fished the 52MR similar to the way he fished a jig, which varies according to the prevailing conditions.
Like a tight-lined jig, the 52MR is cast out, allowed to sink to the bottom and hopped back to the boat.
But it also can be counted down to a specific depth and slow-rolled with the occasional twitch. Or it can be retrieved with sharp snaps that cause the bait to jump 2 or 3 feet and then flutter back down to the bottom.
Any way you fish a soft plastic on a jig you can fish a 52MR.
The difference is the fall rate and action, or lack thereof. The 52MR doesn’t have a paddle tail or rat tail to impart action — it is just a cigar-shaped chunk of plastic that goes through the water column with minimal fanfare.
Another angler I reached out to was Glenn Ellis Jr. with Goin' Coastal Charters.
Glenn fishes the 52MR much like Jimmy, but he did share a technique his dad had used with great success. The elder Ellis would make a long cast and reel the lure back with a straight, painfully slow retrieve. No twitching, popping, nothing — just a straight slow retrieve.
Glenn said he’s seen his dad catch some impressive stringers of trout using this retrieve. We’ve both tried the do-nothing retrieve, and after about three casts we’re back to twitching and popping.
Glenn and Jimmy use the same rod-and-reel combo for their MirrOlures that they use for their soft plastics: a baitcaster spooled with braided line on a 6-foot, 6-inch to 7-foot medium-light rod.
The difference is that Jimmy ties his bait directly to the braid, whereas Glenn uses a 6-foot monofilament leader. The medium-action rod is needed to prevent the treble hooks from pulling free of a trout’s soft mouth when she surges or shakes her head.
MirrOlure has a rainbow of colors for their baits, and each is denoted with a series of numbers and letters. It’s a bit confusing at first, but once you learn the lingo you’ll be communicating like a pro and impressing your friends.
I prefer a 52MR 808, CH, HP, 18 or 11. The good thing is the color chart is the same across all baits. So “HP” is hot pink on every MirrOlure bait, and “CH” is chartreuse back and belly.
I’ll be honest: The 52MR was hard for me to have confidence in at first, even though I knew Jimmy and Glenn tore up big trout on the bait. Its do-nothing action was a distraction, and I got into the habit of making 10 casts and then picking up a Matrix Shad.
It wasn’t until I had the trout dialed in and knew without a doubt I could catch them that I gained confidence in the 52MR.
One morning I left everything I owned at home except my jig rod and a handful of 52MRs. I hit my normal holes and guess what? I caught ’em, and I caught ’em good.
I had been catching nice limits of trout by hitting the inside points of sharp bends in the bayou by slow-rolling a shrimp Creole Matrix Shad. I’d make a long cast across the point and simply reel in the bait with the occasional light twitch.
I did the same thing with the 52MR and caught fish. The only difference I noticed is that the trout hit the 52MR like they were mad at it. There was no light tap or mushy feeling on the end of the line like the typical winter bite — it was a twitch, twitch, BAM!
Needless to say I was hooked.
Don’t get me wrong: There were times when trout wanted a Matrix Shad or a MirrOdine or a Rapala X-Rap. The 52MR isn’t a silver bullet end-all-be-all, but it is a lure you need to add to your arsenal.
Do yourself a favor and hit up one of our local tackle shops like Sea 2 Swamp in Gautier and buy one MirrOlure 52MR to try. Find a color similar to the soft plastic you like that works well where you fish. If you want my advice start with a 52MR 808 and just fish it.
Once you get that first MirrOlure bite you’ll be hooked just like me.
Hey, I’ve never claimed to be the brightest color in the box, but I will claim I’m darn good at learning from other people’s success — and my mistakes.
So listen to what the 52MR boys shared with me and get hooked on a MirrOlure bite.
And take my advice on your mother-in-law’s choice of attire: Do not, by any means, state within earshot, “Good gravy, Mom! Those stretch pants don’t have a choice!”
Editor’s note: Capt. Glenn Ellis can be reached at 228-297-7258 or online at http://www.goincoastalcharters.com.