Large Speckled Trout or "gator trout" are a very different animal than their schoolie sized sibs. As a rule, trout under 20" tend to school fairly tight, whereas on the other hand, larger trout are generally loners. When targeting large trout, you have to be single minded and willing to settle for quality instead of quantity. While you are looking for 4 or 5 quality bites, sometimes you may have to settle for only one or two...or none.
My personal preference for hunting big trout consists of using large artificial baits. I like various lip divers, top water plugs, slow sinking plugs and assorted soft plastics. I like to work the lip diver (and any bait) with the current. One of my most favorite ways to target big trout is to work the diver sharply off riprap or docks or both. Tide is not a major factor as long as the water is moving and clear. I present my diver with a series of jerks, twitches and most importantly...the pause. 9 out of 10 strikes will come on this pause, as the lure either sinks, suspends or floats upward. Bring your presentation with the current, whenever possible.
With a top water bait, the presentation is a little different. My perfect set up is positioning the boat in deep water, in current, and throwing into a cove or shoreline with broken grass or small islands that break up the current. I like to throw the bait into eddied or still water pockets at the top of the tides in low light conditions. Current will alter your presentation on a top water lure. Often you can maneuver your boat close to shore and make long casts paralleling the shore. Long casts and stealth are paramount in targeting big trout, with the exception of deep jigging (with we'll discuss in a later blog). Presentation with the current is very important to me if you hadn't figured that out yet.
Slow sinking plugs (like MirrOlure 52m) are a little tougher to work, but are unique in that they can fish many depths. The basic concept is to count your lure down one second per foot. If you see a gnarly looking dock that you think ought to hold a big fish, and it is sitting in 11' of water, you would basically count 10 seconds and then begin to work your plug at a 10' depth. Different from the lip divers (that are worked with a series of sharp twitches and cranks), the slow sinkers seem to work better with small intermittent twitches and slow pulls. The beauty of this lure is that you can cover all depths just like you can with a jig, but you are now using a larger profile lure to pick off a bigger fish.
Finally, jigs. Probably more fish have been caught off a jig and plastic or jig and hair than any other lure. The reason is because they work. Although there are many theories on how to work a jig I work mine slow...and then slower...and even slower again. I know this sounds redundant, but I've found that I get more bites with small one inch hops and pauses and slow lifts and drops than any other presentation. I think the important factor with a jig is to maintain contact with your lure. You have to know what your lure is doing at all times. I think one of the most crucial factors in working a jig (along with bringing it with the current) is to eliminate any bow in your line. This can be achieved by having no wind (which is extremely rare) or more practically, positioning your cast so that you are throwing directly into the wind or with the wind directly behind you. This can be tricky, as not all shorelines, structure, targets and wind patterns will align. One thing you can do is to hold your rod tip extremely low to eliminate the bow in the line. I prefer to jig with the rod in the ten o'clock position and bring it up to the eleven o'clock position. In order to increase my hook ups, I will often sacrifice fishy looking places in favor of other spots that allow me to maintain direct contact with my lure. While a jig, and its small profile, often catch smaller trout, make no mistake-thrown in the right place, a big trout will hammer it. Finally, the most important thing to remember in jig fishing is often the bite is a small tick or tap or slight pressure. The next thing you won't feel is the fish spitting your jig out...so on any tick, tap or pressure-set the hook immediately and sharpley!
Hope this helps. Until the next time, you won't know if you don't go!
Capt. Tim Cutting
Coastal Georgia Inshore Charters
St Simons Island, Georgia