As an avid surf fisherman, I enjoy the variety of fish that can be caught from the beach. Of course, catching anything worthwhile can be a challenge. Depending on the tide, time of year, time of day, water temperature, lunar phase, what color socks the mailman is wearing and what uncle Eddie had for dinner last night can all play a part. This is especially true when targeting speckled sea trout, especially big gators.
With so many things swimming just off the shore, targeting a single species from the beach doesn’t always pay. There are, however, ways to increase your odds. Using the proper bait, lures and techniques are paramount.
When surf fishing, I like to consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. In other words, I like to come prepared. If one thing doesn’t work, I don’t wait long to move on to the next thing. I have favorite confidence baits. There are times, however, when those fail and I’m quick to change it up.
When targeting big trout from the beach, I like to throw a gold spoon. It’s a quintessential bait for nearly anything, and it rarely fails to produce. With low visibility or when it’s slow and the big gators, or little specks for that matter, just aren’t interested, a paddletail with contrasting colors is a great choice.
Again, the gold spoon is killer in low-vis situations, but a 3-inch Bass Assassin Chicken on a Chain rigged with a red or chartreuse jig head also fits the bill perfectly. I also like the Berkley white paddletails with the same color jigs.
Another way to put a good gator in the cooler is try bouncing a Doc’s Goofy Jig off the bottom, just like fishing for pompano. The pink and yellow seem to produce best, and don’t be afraid to be a little aggressive with them.
When fishing a paddletail or a Goofy Jig, let the jig contact the bottom then give a sharp lift and let it drop until it contacts the bottom again. Raise your rod tip straight up and allow the jig to drag across the bottom. Give it an occasional twitch, and then repeat the sharp lift action. Changing the tempo of the retrieve and frequency of your lift can make all the difference.
Long casts are crucial in the surf, and require a medium action rod at least 7.5-feet long. I use 30-pound-test braid. The super thin diameter coupled with the ability to really load up the rod provides plenty of inertia to launch relatively light baits a good distance into the surf.
Targeting gator trout in the surf is challenging, and using the old standbys is often great strategy. But using a variety of baits and techniques can increase your odds of success.
By Chris Beardsley