Be sure to work your baits DEAD slow. If you think you are working it slow, work it slower. Trout are lethargic this time of year. Have you heard this before? Sure you have, repeatedly. It’s something I simply don’t believe in, here’s why.
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to fish with legendary trophy trout guide, Captain Mike McBride, out of Port Mansfield, Texas. This guy knows big trout. I was invited on this trip by Chris and Charlie Bush as a token of Chris’ appreciation for me helping out with his blog, The Speckled Truth (a trophy trout enthusiast blog), they couldn’t have given me a better gift. What I learned from them on that trip forever changed the way I fish for big trout here on the Mississippi Coast.
This was their fourth trip with Capt Mike so I was able to spend the majority of the time picking his brain. If you mentioned trout and lethargic in the same sentence, Capt Mike would bust out laughing while disagreeing. Capt Mike opened my eyes to how they started throwing more suspending baits vs topwaters. I pulled out my He Dog (95mr MirrOlure 5 inch topwater), Capt Mike looked over and said, “Man we catch a ton of big trout slow rolling those high-pitch topwaters.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much joy in my heart. He said, “Sure, we can get a big trout mad enough to hit a topwater just about any day, but when you are able to put something right in their face, they are more likely to commit.” That really got me thinking, because when I first transitioned to targeting big trout, I thought my best odds were on topwater. It goes against every thing I’ve heard, but when you sit down and think about it, do trout really get lethargic? Do we really believe they just mope around all day only looking for easy meals? Na man, I’m not buying that anymore. Especially here where it’s only “cold” for maybe two months out of the year.
Before this trip, I caught my biggest trout here in January on a topwater. I went almost every morning and fished the sunrise slow rolling a He Dog. I don’t mean dead slow and pausing forever in-between twitches, I mean a slow steady cadence so that high-pitch lure just chugs along. I might throw in a pause every now and again, but guess how I work it during the spring and summer? Yep, the exact same way. There is no real slowing it down for big winter trout.
Here lies the problem, I had no idea how or why I landed my biggest trout that fateful morning. As far as I could see the conditions were pretty much the same as the days before. During our drive back to Gulfport, Mr. Charlie Bush made me realize I was missing the most important factor. The moon! Not just a full moon like everyone tells you to fish, but the major (halfway between moonrise and moonset) and minor (moonrise and moonset) phases. I went back and looked at all the big trout that I had caught in the past, each was during a major or minor and that’s no coincidence.
Once I sat down and really soaked it all in, I finally started catching big trout consistently. Here are my key-points from that trip that I apply here this time of year when targeting big trout:
1. “Big trout only mindset”- This is the most important. Not only does this mean leave numbers of trout behind to find that one trout, but keeping your expectations low. Big trout aren’t plentiful here. If you convince yourself that getting just a bite from a big trout will satisfy your trip, then your motivation will stay high. Commend yourself for simply finding one and it will make you strive for more. Throw the small ones back and let them grow.
2. Location- This one isn’t easy to solve. I catch the majority of big trout in February in shallow water or near lots of structure. I don’t just fish shallow water late in the day when it warms up. It’s more important to know when the moon phase is and when bait is there. When fishing shallow water, I’m wading if possible. Stealth is key anytime for big trout, especially when it’s cold. If you have to fish from a boat stay quiet and you better slap your buddy if he slams a hatch.
For structure, I fish rocks and anything concrete. Concrete holds heats and attracts multiple species. Throwing weedless setups will reduce snags and allow you to keep the presentation front of face.
3. Tackle selection- Stay versatile. Big trout here can be caught on small baits. I prefer throwing bigger baits but will occasionally step down in size. My go-to lure is the 5 inch Wedgetail by Egret Baits with a 5/0 swimbait hook. It’s uniquely versatile, and allows you to present a large profile swimbait in situations you usually can’t. My favorite topwater being the MirrOmullet by MirrOlure in 808 color. The key here is to be confident in what you’re throwing.
4. Timing- When targeting big trout, I always know when the moon phases are. We can’t always fish exactly when we want to, so plan your big trout trip during a major or minor. Not only does this enhance your chances, but it will keep you motivated. Fishing during these moon phases will limit your trips to a few hours at a time.
5. Confidence- Have confidence in everything you do while targeting big trout. If you second guess yourself at every turn you won’t get anywhere. Stick with your gut feeling, what you know works!
Now is the time to get out there and land that big trout. Try new things, and don’t give up. It’s all worth it in the end watching that big girl swim off.