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July 24, 2013

Gator Trout Hunt

The waters of Florida’s Indian River may be the best big trout habitat in the Southeast.

“I know the conventional wisdom is big plugs for big trout, but I’ve won a bunch of tournaments with shrimp lures,” McBride explains. “I’ll take a handful of two or three favorite colors, and that will be all I fish. Why change when ­something’s working?”

“Those big trout will be facing into the current, and the key to working the shrimp is to keep it right off the bottom,” Nichols adds. “You want to just touch the grass with the lure. Gators won’t go a long way for a bait, but if it’s right in front of them when they’re hunkered down in the grass, they won’t hesitate.”

McBride likes lighter-colored shrimp lures when the water is clear and warm, but switches to darker patterns like ­watermelon when temperatures drop. Nichols prefers glow in clear water because injured or molting baits have a ­phosphorescent hue. If the water is murky or stained, gold glitter is his favorite, although he often splits the difference and uses the glow/gold glitter for contrast. Trout have to see the lure first, but Nichols and McBride are in agreement that getting the lure into the strike zone is more critical than color in prime big-trout habitat.

“I predict the next world-record trout is going to come out of these waters,” Nichols says. “If you’re hunting for that fish of lifetime, southeast Florida is the place to go. It truly is the spot for gators.”


SWS Tackle Box

Reels: 4000-class ­spinning reel, like the Shimano Stradic CI4. The light weight of the carbon-fiber body is an advantage when wading, and the bigger spool and line capacity of the 4000 size allows for longer casts.

71⁄2-foot medium ­action with an extra-fast tip

Line: 10- to 15-pound braided line

Leader: 30-pound fluorocarbon, connected to the braid with a triple ­surgeon’s or double-uni knot, ­loop-knotted to the lure

Lures: 3-inch shrimp lures in various colors; soft-plastic mullet-style plugs or hard-plastic stick baits; large, soft-plastic jerk baits rigged with 1⁄16 to 1⁄8-ounce jig heads, weedless 1⁄8-ounce swimbait hooks or 5/0 worm hook

Live shrimp ­f­ree-lined or under a popping or clacker-style cork; live finger mullet, pinfish, sardines or pilchards rigged with the corresponding-size thin wire circle or Kahle hook


SWS Planner

What: Big spotted seatrout

When: Year-round, peaking in spring and fall

Where: Southeast Florida from Stuart to Fort Pierce


Capt. Ed Zyak

Capt. Rufus Wakeman

Capt. Mike Holliday

Capt. Marcia Foosaner
Fly Trips Exclusively