Its no secret, I love big trout. I love talking to people about them, I love looking at pictures of gator trout and more importantly I love fishing for them. As Jerry Labella,
a fishing author and trout enthusiast says in one of his articles "true trophies test the patience of an angler, and the degree of difficulty it takes to pursue them is what makes them so special." He also states that those who understand the “where,” “when,” and “how” can either make or break the success of an angler. For him though, depending on the degree to which you have appreciated each, leads me to the focus of this blog post.
One of the last tasks I performed before heading overseas was to give a talk about how to target trophy trout at a CCA Mississippi Fishing Seminar. It was a last minute invite by Johnny Marquez, CCA Regional Director, who heard I was on the coast filming an Episode of The Fishermans Guide with Capt Ronnie Daniels. So with a slight change in schedule and my parents in tow, I made the drive from Luling, LA to Ocean Springs, MS and discussed three things that I believe need to be present while in pursuit of the trout of a lifetime. In short, it boils down to 3 things, Mindset, Structure and Lure Selection. However, I've purposefully left out one key word.."Big".
Throughout my years of reading, researching and time on the water, I've gathered a few things from various troutmasters, all of which lead back to my word of emphasis aforementioned. Big trout, and their pursuit, require everything in terms of scale to be of a larger capacity, first of which is your mindset.
Having a "Big" mindset, helps manage expectations and frames the level of effort. In an article from Todd Masson, NOLA.com outdoors writer, talks about the success of 3 SE LA troutmasters, particulrly in tournments. He states that main reason for their success is due to their "remarkable level of self-discipline." He goes on to state that this team, "forces themselves to leave a school of 2- to 3-pound speckled trout that were biting every cast," in search for those big loners. In other words, its like a BASS Elite Series event, where the best anglers in the world, push the limits in search of "5" bites, knowing good and well that the 20 smaller ones to success, let alone a pay day of $250K. The same principal applies, that having a "Big" mindset towards pursuing a trophy, will help manage your expectations and fulfill the void when "just getting bit" isn't good enough. Of course, self discipline is the key, because at times its awefully difficult passing on a limit of smaller trout, to look for those gators that will eat the peanuts you've been catching.
The second point, which I beleive is the most important, is stucture. As we become comfortable with fishing an estuary or location, its easy to learn spots and become pleased with their productivity. From ledges and drop offs, to flats and bottom contour, its easy to accentuate why some areas are more productive then others. The same holds true with big trout...but they don't want structure, they want "Big" structure. To give you an idea, think about your favorite fishing areas and consider why some spots hold bigger trout then others. It may be the time of year and the structure on the bottom (spawning), it may be a bayou draining into another bayou (current), or it may be something like dock pilings or a cement wall (type of bait it attracts). For me, I'll use the MS Gulf Coast as my example, since I've been fornunate enough to call it home for awhile.
The MS Gulf Coast is unique, small but very dynamic. It has rivers, beaches and I believe most important, the biggest structure of all...Manmade structures. Gulfport Harbor located smack dab in the middle of the coast, is an enourmous man made combine which provides not only structure but lots and lots of "Big" structure, from steep 30' drops to concrete walls to catwalks for ship docks. Everything about this structure is big. It has big water adjacent (the MS Sound), big tides, and more importantly, attracts a variety of bait and fish. Its a smaller ecosystem, in the grand scheme of it all, and nature, as raw as it is, lends itself to the food pyramid (the bigger you are the better chance you have to survive). As a result, its no surprise that it's produced numerous 8 plus pound trout in recent years, and tops the list of local anglers looking for one to put on the wall, but the harbor is not alone. MS also has other large manmade structures along its tiny coast to include, casino's, ship yards like Ingall's in Pascagoula and bridges. Although it doesn't have a fraction of the productivity of its neighbor Louisiana, it makes up for in quality trout. So what if you don't live in MS? Look for structure previously described in your area and see the same holds true. Each estuary has spots that hold bigger fish, but cracking the code is what seperates a everyday angler from a troutmaster. South Texas is undeniably a big trout heaven and no place is more famous tha Baffin Bay. This place is the most notable big trout bay in the world, and I've been fortunate enough to fish it. However, one thing I found while researching Baffin is that they have what is called "worm rock". Really, what looks and feels like a cross between cement and oysters, is ancient calcified worm excrement that has mounded up over the centuries of Baffin's existence. Not only does this provide superb trout habitat, but it provides the "Big" structure that gives the apex predators the upper hand while looking for a meal. Unfortunately though, for boaters, it makes this one of the most formidible places to navigate, and has probably consumed more lower units, than its yielded trophy trout. That being said, I think you get the gist...big trout, like big structure. So if you have jetties in your area, bridges, rigs, etc...its probably best to start looking there for big trout.
Last but not least, lures. This is probably, in my view, the least important, but it does hold weight when all the other conditions have been met. Notable big trout anglers generally throw 3 things, a corkie, a topwater, or a larger soft-plastic 4.5" or bigger. Its not to say you can't catch them on a smaller soft plastic but if you want to increase the size of the trout you catch, increase the size of your bait.
As always, I'll use my dad as an example. Since he's hopped on board as my biggest disciple, he's really tried to focus on walking my walk with me (targeting trophy trout exclusively). A process that invloves, putting aside decades of success catching smaller trout and learning how to target trophy fish i.e. throwing bigger baits, fishing bigger structure and learning new tecniques (corkies, mirrOdine's, etc...). As a result, and much to my delight, I've been peppered through many text messages of him hoisting larger than normal trout, as I sit at my office desk, staring at my work computer, and even while I'm deployed. So there is truth to teaching an old dog new tricks...just kidding, I love ya' pops, but it does show that a change in focus can lead to bigger trout hitting the deck of your boat. Once that starts happening, the trophy addiction takes over, and before you know it, you're calling New Wave Taxidermy to get a replica mount made capturing your pinacle of success.
As we know,trophy trout are hard to catch, and since I'm currently unable to wade the flats in pursuit of ole yellowouth, I'd figure I'd put into words some of what I've learned and seen over the years. So if you want one for the wall, just remember, everything about big trout is exactly that...big.
Tight lines and God Bless!