Many coastal anglers are probably familiar with Matrix Shad soft-plastic paddletail lures and how deadly they are when jigging for speckled trout.
Fishermen love their durability, and trout just can’t seem to resist the lure’s swimming action on the fall, which makes it an angler favorite under a popping cork, as well.
But Capt. Joshua Lim, with Lim-it-Out Charters on the Florida panhandle, recently started rigging his Matrix Shad in a pretty unique way for his Pensacola fishing charters.
The 31-year-old Lim, who’s been guiding full-time in the Pensacola/Perdido/Gulf Breeze area for two years, is using the Louisiana-based lure as a shrimp imitation twitchbait to target trout suspended in the middle of the water column, and he’s been smashing some nice specks this summer.
The good news is he doesn’t see any reason why the line-through rig that’s catching trout in Florida’s gin-clear waters won’t work in Mississippi just as well.
“A shrimp swims horizontally, so I wanted something that falls and swims horizontally,” Lim said. “That’s what I’m trying to imitate, but I didn’t want to go out and buy live shrimp because I like throwing artificials. I was getting tired of using hard baits and having clients casting onto docks, rocks and breaking them off.
“So I said, ‘Let me take this Matrix Shad and play with it and see if I can make this thing suspend.’ That was the deal — I wanted something to work in the middle of the water column.”
Interestingly enough, Lim was inspired to try the line-through rig with a Matrix Shad after bass pro Ott DeFoe won a 2016 bass tournament using the same method and publicized how he rigged his swimbait.
Watch Lim give step-by-step instructions on how he creates his Matrix Shad shrimp imitation line-through rig by clicking here.
To pull it off, you’ll need a pick (or nail) to pierce the Matrix Shad (or the soft plastic lure of your choice), a long stainless steel rivet and a 1/16-ounce tungsten nail weight.
Lim’s hook of choice for the rig is a No. 4 Owner Stinger Series ST-36BC treble. He uses a shrimp creole-colored Matrix Shad to imitate a live shrimp. If you’re trying to imitate another baitfish, like a mullet, Lim recommended an ultraviolet Matrix Shad. The important thing is to match your lure color to whatever you’re trying to mimic, he said.
Lim starts out by using the pick to poke a hole at about a 45-degree angle through the nose of the lure, exiting through the bottom of the bait. That’s where he inserts the rivet sleeve, which creates a sturdy “tunnel” for the line-through.
Then he pokes a second, shallower hole on the top, backside of the body of the lure — not toward the tail — and places the nail weight there so the soft plastic looks natural and balanced as it falls horizontally in the water column.
The final step is putting your line through the rivet sleeve, tying on your treble hook and inserting one point into the bottom of the lure. Then, you’re good to go.
Lim fishes the rig like a traditional twitchbait, with downward pops of his rod.
“Give it a couple of twitches to get the bait moving and just pause, and let it slowly fall in the water column,” Lim said. “That’s what shrimp do, flutter and kind of glide around.
“That’s what I like about the line-through and taking that jighead off and using the Matrix Shad; it just lets me imitate a shrimp that much better.”
Lim said he typically employs the rig in 8 to 14 feet of water, and controlling its depth can be dependent on variables like current and wind — but a big key is the timing of your pause while twitching, he said.
“It’s really based on the amount of weight you put in the lure and how long your pause is,” Lim explained. “It will just keep falling and falling and falling if you don’t ever move it.”
In addition to extending the life of your Matrix Shad — the lure shoots up the line when a trout bites and pretty much avoids the business end of a yellowmouth’s teeth — the rig typically keeps fish buttoned up all the way back to the boat.
“When a big trout bites the lure, it’s biting onto a single treble,” Lim said. “And with the line-through, the Matrix Shad slides up your line, so when she comes up head-shaking, she’s got no leverage to throw the hook because the lure is gone. It’s just the hook inside her mouth, so you end up landing more fish.”
Slidell’s Chas Champagne, who created the Matrix Shad line of lures, said he hadn’t heard of anyone fishing them quite like Lim — but suspected the line-through rig would be effective as a shallow-water technique in other Gulf waters.
“Basically what he’s doing is turning a Matrix Shad into a DOA shrimp, or a MirrODine or a Corky-style jerkbait,” Champagne said. “And the key with the treble hook is if anything comes up and even swipes it at all, you’re just not going to miss many fish.”
Editor’s Note: For more information, contact Capt. Joshua Lim with Lim-It Out Fishing Charters at 650-201-4604, or visit www.limitoutcharters.com.