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February is almost upon us and that means anglers are out tossing fishing lures trying to catch schooled up speckled trout and redfish. They are also out at boat shows and tackle shops buying the many different kinds of lures that are used to target specks and red drum today.
Right now the fishing is still good for these fish inshore near hard structures and backwater creeks, as well as out at the jetties when the weather allows that type of fishing. The most fishable days inshore will be sunny ones where the water warms in the shallows and fish seek the banks on low tides. At the jetties you will want to fish when the current is moving well, and wind or rain will be the biggest barrier to good fishing days.
Just remember the fish will be moving slower than the fishermen, so keep retrieves at their speed. The number one mistake anglers make with inshore fishing lures is to bring them back to the boat or shore too fast. As water temperatures warm you can retrieve faster, but slowing down can lead to big benefits almost any time of the year in saltwater fishing.
In recent years the number and style of inshore saltwater lures has increased exponentially as more and more fishing tackle companies are making baits geared toward inshore saltwater fishing. In fact, the wide variety of inshore saltwater lures on the market can seem bewildering to fishermen not familiar with the latest explosions in the scented baits and soft bait lines.
A lot of different lures can be used to effectively catch speckled trout and redfish in the winter. Although plastic grubs on lead head jigs are the traditional inshore bait for specks and redfish, they have gradually been replaced in many fishermen’s tackle boxes by scented baits. That doesn’t mean that those plastic grubs still won’t work, but the scented baits definitely increase your odds.
Scented soft baits get the most attention at boat shows and tackle expos because they really do effectively close the gap between the average angler and the fishing guide or pro. Although the way you work the grub and where you work it remain pivotal, scented inshore baits have added another dimension to lure fishing that can pay off for an angler less experienced in the nuisance techniques of soft bait fishing.
The Berkley Gulp saltwater shrimp are the model for the scented soft bait lures, and like most of them they are durable and long-lasting baits that disperse a great deal of scent into the water. They can be rigged and fished exactly like a live shrimp. They are impregnated with Gulp’s 400x Scent Dispersion and the scent released by these little fellas is powerful and far reaching.
Swim these lures on a jig or crawl them on a Carolina rig to get trout or redfish excited and smashing them. When fishing them on a jog head, a slow pull and pause method will also work well and at times you can just let the shrimp drift with the current and pick up trout or redfish bites.
Another great scent-dispersing soft bait from Gulp is their pogy body with the paddletail. These lures are made to resemble pogies and other schooling baitfish and have a vibrating paddletail with action that really draws the trout in. The lure leaves an irresistible scent trail for redfish and larger speckled trout looking to dine on baitfish and taste real enough so that the trout won’t spit the bait out before you can set the hook.
The paddletail allows you to work this one with a slow and steady retrieve and still get great action, although with a pull-and-pause method you get a lot of trout and redfish bites as the lure falls back. That is one good reason to keep the line tight, as in cold water these hits may be mere taps from slow-moving fish and you might miss the bite if you aren’t paying attention.
The DOA brands shrimp lures come pre-rigged and weighted, which is a great convenience to trout anglers. You can just tie one on and start throwing if you like, or you can fish them under a popping cork just like live shrimp. You should use a very slow retrieve with these lures, throwing in a few short hops to make them move like a natural shrimp.
Fishbites baits made their names as replacements for natural cut bait on the bottom, and then the company moved into the soft bait market as well using the same formulas. The Fishbites models release their patented Xtreme Scent into the water, which some anglers feel works even better than the Gulp brand.
Certainly, Fishbites has been at the cutting edge of the scent-bait market for the past few years. Fish these lures on a jig head slowly for trout, using a steady retrieve and letting the paddletail provide the action.
Companies like Bass Assassin have popular fluke-style and shad-style bodied soft baits. Some are scented and some are not, but the scented ones have a lot of fans among trout and red drum anglers. These lures can be fished as jerkbaits, and using a long fluke style bait instead of a shrimp-body can often get you strikes from bigger fish looking to hit baitfish.
All of these trout and redfish lures come in many different colors, but the ones most often cited by anglers in their reports are the chartreuse colors, the electric and nuclear chicken color. Darker colors are better in the early morning and just at sunset, as well as during the night.
Don’t be afraid to try something new or something that just looks like as if might work. As more folks make and use these scented baits we are finding them successful in more situations and in more waters than previously thought. Certainly they are more fun to fish than live bait, and these days they really are almost as good or even better than the real thing.
Jeffrey Weeks, author of “Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas,” is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. You may reach him at email@example.com or follow updated fishing reports on his blog at http://saltyweeks.blogspot.com.