The big trout hunt

You don’t build a stringer like this by fishing from the boat — even on the Mississippi coast.
You don’t build a stringer like this by fishing from the boat — even on the Mississippi coast.

Setting fishing goals for the new year

I’ve never been a big New Year’s resolution guy. Yeah, I’ve made some resolutions in the past, usually revolving around exercise, eating better and losing weight.

It never worked.

However, I’ve decided to take the same route that has failed me in the past with my New Year’s resolutions this year.

I’m going to exercise, eat better and GAIN weight. This makes zero sense right?

Hear me out.

I’m going to wade fish more — exercise.

I’m going to eat more speckled trout (not fried) — eat better.

I’m going to target big speckled trout — gain weight. OK, that one was a bit misleading.

It’s a little-known fact but Mississippi waters have some fine speckled trout fishing. We don’t produce the staggering numbers our friends to the west enjoy, but we do have some big trout.

The key to chasing big trout in Mississippi is to adjust your tactics and state of mind. Do you have the patience to cast a large bait like a Corky Fat Boy and get one bite per 10 bites compared to your buddy casting a smaller swim bait? If not, stop here and go back to reading Vanity Fair.

Capt. Travis Paige of Goin’ Coastal Charters has caught his fair share of big Mississippi trout.

A trip to South Texas with some friends in 2009 changed how he approaches trout fishing in his home state. He brought the tactics learned in Texas to Mississippi, and he has been extremely successful.

Sure, he can go out and bust a limit of 13- to 18-inchers before most of us have sat down at work, but his passion has become chasing big trout — trout in the 5-plus-pound range.

“Fishing in Texas has changed the way I fish in Mississippi entirely,” Paige said. “Same techniques; look for the same signs.”

While most of us are looking for deep holes in the upper reaches of a bayou or river to drag a bait through, Paige is fishing shallow water adjacent to deeper water in the mouth of Biloxi Bay.

“You’ve always thought that when the water gets cold they go in the deeper holes,” he said. “That’s true in some circumstances. (But t)hese fish (big trout) are always caught in shallow water.

“My theory is that when it gets really cold or the water blows out they’ll go down in the deeper holes; but if they’re going to feed, they’re going to feed up on the flats.

He said moving just off the deep holes is the key.

“We catch them shallow,” Paige said. “A lot of people don’t fish the shallow waters, and that’s where the bigger fish are. They may be on a bar or they may be on the edge of the bar — you just got to fish it.”

To catch big trout, Paige prefers to wade and use a big bait, typically a Corky Fat Boy.

“Wading, the odds are on your side to catch a bigger fish; bigger fish are spooky,” Paige said. “They hear the water slapping on the boat, any noise — your depth finder (pinging) the bottom. I don’t have any proof of that, but it just makes sense.”

And you can’t argue with success.

“We catch more wading,” Paige said. “We’ve tried it both ways. How many fish have we missed working the trolling motor in the wind?”

Once Paige has located a flat he wants to fish, he puts the Corky to work. It isn’t a flashy bait but has proven to be a big-fish killer.

“The bigger fish seem to want the larger bait, the easier meal, less effort to fill up,” Paige said. “The Corky is just proven to catch bigger fish all around.

“The good thing about those baits is that they have a rattle, another attractant to it. You want to work it slow. When you work it, you almost want to work it like you’re walking the dog with a topwater lure: three or four twitches, then let the current kind of pull it around or the waves.

“The thing about the Corkies (is) they call them floaters, but they still sink some. Depending on how you work them, even the sinkers or the normal Fat Boys, some of those float and are more buoyant than others. It’s all about how you work it. You can work it right below the water line; you can let it sink some. You can actually bend them and make them dive or come to the top.”

It takes some practice to learn the cadence.

Capt. Travis Paige learned a Corky Fat Boy can be deadly on big fish lurking in the shallows.
Capt. Travis Paige learned a Corky Fat Boy can be deadly on big fish lurking in the shallows.

“Corkies take a while to get used to fishing them,” Paige said. “You can’t work them fast. If you work them fast they’re going to be real erratic. You want them to look like a bait.

“If you ever sit and take the time to watch a mullet swim, they’re not swimming real fast all the time; they’re just kind of cruising. They’ll flip their tail a time or two, and they’ll cruise a little bit — and that’s what you’re trying to duplicate.

“You want it to look as natural as possible.”

To fish Fat Boys, Paige uses a 7-foot medium-action rod and an Abu Garcia Orra Inshore spooled with 20-pound Power Pro with a 6-foot 15-pound fluorocarbon leader.

He ties the bait on using a loop knot.

If the Fat Boy bite isn’t happening, Paige doesn’t hesitate to switch to soft plastics, but he does maintain the big bait-big trout mentality.

“We use a lot of the sand eel-type baits —the longer baits, the 5-inch baits,” Paige said. “You can use your regular cocahoe-style minnows like your Matrix Shad, but most of the time we’re using the longer baits.”

The main ingredient to catching big trout is confidence and persistence. If you set out on a big-trout hunt, stay with it. Don’t punt after 30 minutes of not getting a bite. Big trout are a different breed: She didn’t get big by snapping at any bait that passed by her nose.

Paige fishes out of Biloxi Boardwalk Marina, and can be reached at 228-297-0207 or by email at

If you’re a true big-trout hunter and want to learn more about your quarry, check out Capt. Chris Bush’s blog at He is a true trout master who has caught more specks over 5 pounds than some of us have caught over 13 inches.

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