Tip the scales in your favor for trophy trout

There are some real gator trout swimming along the coast. You just have to know how to target them.

Have you ever known someone who seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to catching fish? They seem to have them dialed in all the time, even if they haven’t been on the water in a few weeks.

I know a few fishermen like that: Jimmy Barnes of Sportsman’s Junction Outdoor Adventures.

When Barnes hits the water, it’s like all of his senses kick into overdrive, including that sixth one — and they’re fed into a computer that tabulates all the data to aid in pinpointing where the trout should be at that moment in time.

Barnes is a bit older than me, so I picture the computer in his mind being one of those made from a series of gears, levers and mechanical switches that click, flip and whir.

April is the beginning of prime time on the coast. We’re coming off two or three months of windy, rainy, aggravating weather that make trout hard to find, and we want to stay inside.

But the water is starting to warm and there’s cynoscion nebulosus love in the air.

“(April) is when we will catch most of the bigger trout we will catch for the year,” Barnes said. “Since it is the start of the spawning season, five factors play into what we are looking for when fishing for trout, especially the bigger females.”

Bait is a year-round factor, but during the spawn the right salinity, current, current breaks and deeper water are keys.

“No. 1, the spot has to be known to maintain a good food supply,” Barnes said. “No. 2, the water in the area has to have good salinity — at least 15 parts per thousand; again this is mostly important for best chances of catching some of the bigger females.

“Number 3, the area has to have good current for the females to lay their eggs in to be carried out into the Gulf. Number 4, there needs to be a decent current break for the trout to lay in to ambush whatever food source they are on —mostly finfish at this time, but they still will eat shrimp.

“Number 5, we like spots with some 8-foot or deeper water nearby.

The man-made reefs such as Gene Taylor Reef are prime locations in April and May, Barnes said.

“It always has a ton of forage around it, maintains steady salinity levels under most conditions, has great currents during tide movements — especially where it pours through the breaks in the reef — and has good current breaks on each side of the openings in the reef where the trout can hang waiting to ambush prey and has 10-feet of water just off the reef,” he said of Gene Taylor Reef.

The baits Barnes uses is dependent on a number of factors: water clarity, depth, current and time of month.

For most of the month, he uses various colors of Matrix or Vortex Shad based on water clarity, with depth and current determining the size jighead he uses.

“April and May is a period where I use a lot of the shrimp Creole, shrimp cocktail and kamikaze (colors) in clear water or bright sunny days for trout feeding on shrimp,” Barnes said. “I will also fish a lot of magneto on sunny days in clear water when the trout are feeding on pogies and mullet.

“If it is a cloudy day or the water gets dirty from spring rains, I switch over to darker colors such as the green hornet, blazing hornet, spartacus or purple haze.

“Jig size is always decided by tidal flow, wind, water depth and where the fish are located in the water column for that day, which also controls what type of retrieve you might have to use. One day the trout may want your jig hopped aggressively off the bottom and will hit it almost every time on the fall, and the next day they may want it slowly swimming on the bottom or just under the surface or anywhere in between.”

The three days before and after a full moon, Barnes will use some type of MirrOlure or other hard bait to simulate a finfish that’ll attract the larger females who are feeding up for the spawn.

“Big female trout feed mostly on big forage, like finfish,” Barnes said. “So, for that reason, during the three-day period prior to a full moon and the three-day period after a full moon I always have at least two different models of jerk baits and a topwater lure tied on three separate rods at all times: MirrOlures or Corkies and a Super Spook Jr. or a Skitter Walk.”

Water depth plays a part in choosing subsurface lures.

“I will fish a faster-sinking 52MR or a TTR for water in the 6- to 8-foot depth range and slower-sinking suspending baits like a 17MR, Catch 2000, Catch 5000 or some model of Corky in water under 6 feet deep,” he said. “I throw jerk baits and topwaters a lot during the three-day period prior and three-day period after a full moon each month because the opportunities of catching a truly big trout are greatly increased during this six-day period due to the big females needing to feed heavily and spawn — and big females love big food.”

According to Barnes, trout will spawn from April all the way into September, but he catches most of the bigger females during April and May.

The full moon this month is on April 4. What better April Fools gag could you come up with than to trick a giant female trout into hitting an artificial lure? April Fools, big girl! You just ate a chunk of plastic!

MS-Sportsman.com features lunar tables right at your finger tips under the Weather tab. Lunar tables are in the back of this magazine; these tables also provide primary feeding times that are beneficial when planning a trip.

A little planning and the right tackle go a long way. Take some time right now and plan a trout-catching trip during the first week of April.

You just might bring home a big girl for dinner — and I ain’t talking about your mother-in-law.

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