Is There a "Best Bait" for Spotted Seatrout?
By Ron Brooks
Seatrout Under a FloatPhoto © Ron Brooks
Live ShrimpPerhaps the all time favorite bait for seatrout anglers is the good old live shrimp. Whether fished under a popping float, a slip float, free lined, and on a jig head, shrimp catch more seatrout than all other natural baits.
- Popping Floats
Popping floats help attract the trout to your bait. They are used
in shallower water than other floats, and as the name implies, they
"pop" at the surface, imitating feeding fish.
Slip floats allow you to fish a bait with a float in
comparatively deep water - up to 20 feet or even more. The slip knot
lets the float slide up the line and stop at a predetermined knot. As
the float drifts along with the current, the bait, 20 feet below, drifts
along at the same speed and at the designated depth. Trout have a habit
of suspending at a certain depth depending on water conditions. These
floats let you put the bait right there with them.
Free lining is just what it sounds. Hook the live shrimp on you
line with no weight and no float, and let it drift along with the
current. This works particularly well in creeks where there is a deep bend.
The bait will drift along naturally with the current right through the
bend in the creek where the trout like to suspend in the water column.
This method can work well drifting a mud or grass flat as well.
Hooking a live shrimp on a jig head gives you the option of
longer casts and more control over your bait. When you want your bait
close to the bottom in deeper water, jig heads
can make the difference. Hook the shrimp through the tail vertically,
so that the jig head brings it through the water backwards and in an
upright position. You also have the ability with a jig head to move the
bait in a vertical "jigging" motion - up and down. This jigging imitates
a shrimp escaping backwards - which is what they do when they need to
escape a predator.
Live BaitfishDepending on your area of the country, baitfish will vary. In South Florida, pinfish are by far the most popular bait for trout. Anglers catch their own over the vast grass flats of Florida Bay. The fish them much like a live shrimp, under a float or free lined. This is also a favorite bait in the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida all the way around to Texas. If the pinfish is too big, we will cut a filet off the side, trim it up, and drift it along under a float or free lined. We also butterfly the medium sized pinfish and fish this bait the same way. In other parts of the coastal fishing communities, baitfish vary. Menhaden, pork fish, greenies - all of these baitfish are used to catch seatrout in the same fashion as pinfish. As mentioned, pinfish that have been filleted or butterflied can make a really good bait. The piece you use needs to be neat, clean cut, and flexible. It must look natural as it drifts long and flutters either free lined or under a float. There are many days where dead bait catches just as many fish as live bait - at a substantial reduction in bait cost!! It is all in how you present the bait. Unnatural looking bait - ragged or spinning on the hook - just will not draw a strike for a trout. Mullet, pinfish, pigfish, ballyhoo - all of these can make good dead bait. One of the best dead baits I have used is a filet off the side of a lady fish. Cut even and trimmed thin, that silvery side flashes in the light and really draws some vicious strikes.
Artificial LuresSeatrout love top water lures. They tend to like to feed on the surface more than other fish. Any noisy top water lure will usually work if there are feeding trout in the area. While there are newer lures on the market, I like the old Dalton Special and the Boone Spinana or Castana lures. My favorite color schemes are red and white or a pink/chartreuse and white. I also use jig heads with plastic trailers - grubs or imitation shrimp. Again, that pink/chartreuse color (electric chicken) is one that consistently produces for me.
Bottom LineSpotted seatrout are very cooperative fish. If they are in the area, you can usually catch them without a lot of effort. And - it really does not matter which bait you use. Locate the depth at which the fish are feeding, out a bait in front of them at that depth, and hold on!