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June 15, 2011

Drifting for Specks

A new age of Texas anglers chooses drifting over wading for speckled trout.

The Real Thing
Another aspect of fishing I admit is new to me is live-baiting. I had always been a plugger, choosing to toss topwaters or soft-plastics nearly 100 percent of the time. However, change in angler attitude has also resulted in a change in angler aptitude.

In the good ol’ days, fishers wanted to catch a big trout and didn’t mind wading for hours for the big bite. Now time is more precious. The texting generation has distorted patience. It’s more, “We just want to catch fish.”

Texas enjoys an estimated 2,000 new anglers a month on the brine. That’s 24,000 rookies a year, and this past year it seemed like 10,000 of them boarded my boat. Taking a page out of a good friend’s book, I made another change. Last summer, Capt. Kirk Stansel of Hackberry Rod and Gun asked me, “Hey, you want to do something different?”

My family and I cross the border to fish with him a couple of days a year. Normally, when it is just him and me, we toss Super Spooks and She Dogs in search of a “picture fish.” But with mercury readings exceeding the century mark on this day, live bait was a better option.

Stansel dropped his trolling motor and began working a stretch of shoreline teeming with finger mullet. With a dozen tosses of the cast net, we had all the trout candy we needed.

With a single Kahle hook, Stansel Carolina-rigged a couple of pinch weights and threaded a spirited 4-inch mullet through the lips. With the boat anchored within a cast of an old set of jetty rocks, he tossed the mullet toward the granite. Less than a minute after the bait hit the water, energy surged through my braided line. A 3-pound speck had found the candy store.

“In the heat of the summer, when tides are weak and water temperatures are near 90 degrees, you can still catch trout on plastics, but you can do so much better with live bait,” says Stansel. “We use live shrimp too, but better-quality trout eat mullet.”

The first five years I owned my boat, I never knew if my livewell even worked. Now, in my home waters of Matagorda, especially during the summer, I never leave the dock without a least a quart of live shrimp ready to be rigged under a popping cork. When working the jetty, I mirror Stansel’s tactics.

When you’re jigging for deepwater speckled trout, Bass Assassins, Texas Tackle Factory Killer Flats Minnows and Norton Sand Eels still work, but my clients get bites at a ratio of 10-to-1 when using live bait versus lures.

The Power of the Pole

I too was reluctant. I can do a heck of a lot of anchoring for the $1,500 plus the labor it takes to install a Power-Pole, but I finally succumbed.

Man, has it changed the way I fish for trout!

My favorite method of fishing from the boat for trout is drifting. Pick a piece of scattered shell, start upwind, and then gingerly work the area as anglers fan-cast in every direction. When we hit a fish, I mark it. When we hit another fish, I stab the Power-Pole down and work the area more soundly.

Rarely do we draw a blank when the Power-Pole goes down. Most of the time we put another half-dozen trout on ice. When the action slows, I pull the pole and keep drifting until we mark another school.

It is precision drifting at its best. Sure, we caught plenty of fish when all we had was an anchor, but now our back and shoulder muscles are not as sore.

Change is often a hard pill to swallow, but it’s worth it.
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