I love catching speckled trout, and my goal since starting this quest five years ago has been to learn everything I possibly could.
I’ve heard lots of dock talk, lots of lies and lots of advice that amounts to nothing. I’ve also heard — and seen — living proof of what really works and why.
If someone is always losing that big one at the net, write it off and move on. If someone produces day in and day out, and backs it up with pictures and posts on social media, it’s time to listen.
Back in my bass-fishing days, I experienced all of the above on a regular basis. One of my favorite stories involved my participation in a local bass club where one angler dominated every club tournament.
Mark was a young Marine stationed at Keesler who stayed on the cutting edge of lures and tactics by reading everything that was happening on the West Coast bass scene.
One club season he was smoking the bass along the coast using a Monster King spinnerbait in the rainbow trout color — no kidding — rainbow trout.
It was a small-profile, ½-ounce spinnerbait that had a body shaped like a baitfish with just a few strands of silicone skirt, along with small silver and gold willow leaf blades.
He could fish that spinnerbait fast, slow or in-between — and the bass loved it.
He won most of the club tournaments that year. At worst, he finished second before an assignment sent him elsewhere.
Of course, I had to check them out, and had sticker shock when I found out they cost close to $15 each. Not such a big deal for a bait now, but in the early 1990s that was outrageous.
After one club tournament on the Pearl River that he won running away, he told us he was using the same Monster King spinnerbait as the other tournaments.
“That’s just plain stupid to pay $15 for a spinnerbait,” said one of our fellow club members who was a good fisherman. “The Saints will win a Superbowl before I spend that much money on a dang lure.
“Here’s my $20 entry fee.”
I’m no rocket surgeon, but that same guy and I — along with a few others — were chipping in $20 every time Mark spanked us with that Monster King spinnerbait.
No doubt he was a great angler, but that spinnerbait produced time after time, so why on earth wouldn’t we buy one?
The answer is simple: Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.
Had the other angler just spent the money for a Monster King spinnerbait, he might have been in the winner’s circle or darned close, but the price tag scared him off — fine by Mark.
I said all that to say this: Sometimes spending a few extra dollars and listening to folks who constantly produce can pay off and pay off big time.
I’ve heard fishermen talk about using line from 8-pound test to braid coupled with a 20-pound leader. Believe it or not, it’s the braid and heavy-leader guys who lead the pack when it comes to filling the cooler consistently.
Sure, I can buy a bulk spool of cheap monofilament for next to nothing, but that line has more stretch than my mother-in-laws sweatpants — not something you want when a big trout is dancing on the end of your line.
More times than not, it pays off to spend the money and get quality tackle.
One angler who consistently catches trout — and big trout, at that — is Alex Smith from Gulfport. He’s the guy who caught the monster 10-pound speckled trout about this time last year, and he caught her on braided line with a stout fluorocarbon leader.
“I’ve always got the Fins 20-pound Windtamer on there with a 20-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader,” Smith said. “I tie my leader straight to the braid; I don’t use a swivel.”
To minimize knot size, he uses an Alberto knot. You can watch a short instructional video on this knot at MS-sportsman.com/how-to-tie-the-alberto-knot.
“Even if I have a 4-foot piece of fluorocarbon, it’ll still go through the guides just fine,” Smith said.
With our turbid waters, line color doesn’t really matter, so it boils down to personal choice. I know some anglers who use straight braid with no leader and some who use the bright-yellow braid to aid in seeing the subtle ticks associated with a light bite.
“I haven’t really noticed a difference with the color,” Smith said. “Now granted, if you were fishing just straight braid tied to a lure, I could see maybe it’d have an influence, but with our waters as stained as they are I don’t think the fish can really see it, and I’m always fishing at least a 2-foot piece of fluorocarbon; they’re not going to notice it.”
He said he backs his reels with mono before spooling on the braided main line.
“I spool on about ¼ of the reel with monofilament because I’ll never throw 200 yards of braid,” Smith said.
Using monofilament backing will not only save you a few dollars, but it will also prevent the braid from slipping on your spool.
There’s a laundry list of braided line out there, and Alex has tried most of them. After years of trial and error, he chose Fins Windtamer as his braid of choice.
“Over time I noticed that other braids would fade fast and wear out; they’d knot up when you got a backlash,” Smith said. “I mean, it was bad. It wasn’t coming out.
“With the Fins, I don’t know what it is about it (but) it seems like every time I’ve gotten a backlash it comes right out.”
A real key is to spool the braid tightly on the reel.
“When I’m spooling my reel, I try to think about how much pressure a fish puts on it, and I try to put about that much pressure while spooling the line on,” Smith said. “If it’s really tight, it’s going to mess you up later on because when you’re fishing and you have that tight bottom line and loose line on top then when it knots up it’s really going to knot up bad.”
When Smith ties a bait to the leader, he uses a MirrOlure knot when using MirrOlures and other sinking baits or topwaters; otherwise he ties directly to his lure.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: Braid is going to cost you more money than a bulk spool of monofilament, but is the end result worth the cost to you? I don’t know about you, but I think it is.
When that big girl hits my MirrOdine, I want to be able to sink the steel into her jaw so it holds. I don’t want 30 yards of banjo string between me and her that results in a mediocre hook set — a hook set that ends in heartbreak when she comes up and shakes her beautiful head, flares her gills and opens that pretty yellow mouth.
The last thing I want to see is my bait coming back at me at mach II.
I’m going to spend a few extra dollars and put the odds more in my favor. Something I should’ve done 20 years ago when Mark took my $20 every time I showed up at the ramp.
For more insights into catching monster speckled trout, check out Alex’s blog at www.alexsmithfishing.com.
*Watch a video showing how to tie the Alberto knot, which allows you to attach a fluorocarbon leader to braid without using a barrel swivel, by logging onto MS-sportsman.com/how-to-tie-the-alberto-knot.