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April 08, 2010

Trophy Sea Trout Hang With Redfish

Looking for gator sea trout in the Gulf of Mexico? Follow the redfish.

I vividly recall my first speeding ticket. Back then, I thought if I waited as long as possible and presented it to my father at just the right moment, time and mood might make for less of an impact on my allowance. I adopted a similar strategy as my dad and I raced across the bay in a shotgun-start trophy-trout tournament. He looked increasingly uneasy as we zipped past several groups of gulls working over obvious seatrout schools. As I drove and he helplessly gripped the console handrail, my confession loomed.

"We are not fishing those birds - we're going to fish a shoreline and search for redfish and hope for a couple of big trout with them," I said. My father shook his head in disbelief while looking back at the surface-busting trout. This had better work, or I would have some serious explaining to do.

A Set Scene
Upon arrival at our destination, we noticed that a strong flood tide was pushing brilliant green water toward the shoreline while a gentle southeast breeze forced vast schools of large mullet to surge, struggle, and leap into and out of gentle breaking swells. Likewise, small schools of finger mullet and menhaden darted and ducked into and out of oyster grass, displaying a nervousness only big feeding fish can create. Remember that redfish generally position themselves upstream and downstream from the mouths of cuts where waters empty into larger areas, such as lakes and lagoons. This particular shoreline proved ideal because it provided structure, water clarity and bait. Soon after our arrival, the water began retreating from the grassy edges, pulling a variety of crustaceans and baitfish into open water.

Lesson Learned
Just like the day I searched for words and stumbled over excuses after showing my dad that speeding ticket, I found myself grasping for words of encouragement and patience as we worked the area for 30 minutes without a bite. As I began to question my sanity, a redfish exploded on my Mirr-Olure. I felt the boat shudder a bit and, out of the corner of my eye, saw my father lean into a fish as well. Calm turned to chaos as the fish began moving up and down that shoreline like speedy red vacuum cleaners - feeding voraciously on anything and everything in their path. Puffs of mud clouds grew from the bottom, and slicks started to appear periodically off in the distance. My father and I positioned ourselves on the front deck and intermittently took turns running the trolling motor and hooking fish. Once we established some confidence in the fish's pattern, I began trying baits of increasing size in an attempt to persuade a trophy-size seatrout. I continued to throw various topwater lures and big crank baits while my father made long casts with B&L Corky and MirrOlure Catch 2000 lures. Although a soft-plastic suspended lure, the Corky held up well to the constant barrage of those deep bronze-backed bruisers. The trout we were seeking had to be somewhere in the midst of that feeding frenzy. Methodically, we worked that school, hopefully anticipating that the next thump or topwater explosion would be our tournament winner. I watched as my father quickly reared back on yet another strike. This fish was different; although it peeled a good deal of line off his reel, it stayed near the surface, making a series of surface kicks and rolls. Finally, after a few seconds, the fish came up, shaking its head in a furious attempt to rid its jaws of my father's lure. Seatrout! My dad fought it admirably, then landed it and placed it carefully in our release well: a beautiful 7-pound trout that won the tournament for us that day.

Mission accomplished.

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