Speckled trout are one of the easier saltwater gamefish that you can catch. However, you still need to know the proper bait if you want to consistently catch speckled trout.
If you don’t know the proper bait, then you’ll be stuck catching trout on an occasional basis. And that’s just no fun.
This article will cover everything you need to know about the bait that you need to catch speckled trout.
Speckled Trout Live Bait
In my experience, live bait is the best bait for catching speckled trout. In fact, it’s so effective that many trout fishermen only use live bait when going for speckled trout.
Believe it or not, these trout fishermen actually catch a lot of trout. Here are the best live baits for catching speckled trout.
Live shrimp is by far the best bait for catching speckled trout. It’s so superior to any other bait that you could exclusively use live shrimp when fishing for trout and do perfectly fine.
It really is that good of a bait.
With that said, there are a few tips that you should know before using live shrimp as bait.
Freelining Live Shrimp
Freelining live shrimp is the preferred method if you are fishing on a dock. Fortunately, freelining shrimp is extremely simple. All you need to do is tie a size 1 or 1/0 hook, bait the shrimp, and cast it out.
Simply let the shrimp swim around on the surface and wait for a trout to bite.
That’s it. You don’t even need a leader when freelining shrimp.
Live Shrimp + Popping Cork
Popping corks are great when going for trout. You can use a popping cork pretty much anytime that you are fishing for trout. However, there are two trout fishing situations that I really like using a popping cork:
- Oyster Bars
As I mentioned earlier, you can use a popping cork every single time that you fish for trout. Grass flats and oyster bars are simply the places that you will notice the most benefit when using a popping cork.
Anyway, you should use a leader with your popping cork. I recommend a 12-18 inch 10-15 pound monofilament leader.
Retrieving the cork with live shrimp is easy. All you have to do is pop the cork every 15 to 45 seconds on your retrieve. The exact amount of time between pops depends on the location – experiment with different intervals!
Expect Other Fish
Just about every inshore fish eats shrimp. This means that you will basically catch every type of fish on the flats when you’re using live shrimp.
Snook, redfish, black drum, various baitfish, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, whiting, stingray, and more are all fair game while using live shrimp.
Personally, I find this pretty entertaining. But it does mean that a huge redfish, snook, or stingray might bite your line.
Keep that in mind when selecting your tackle and leader.
Finger Mullet and other baitfish
Shrimp is the best live bait if you’re going for speckled trout. However, shrimp isn’t the best bait if you’re going for large speckled trout (gator trout). You will also catch a lot of junk fish when using live shrimp as bait.
Gator trout prefer large bait, so it makes sense to use larger bait.
With that in mind, finger mullet are as good as it gets when going for those large trophy speckled trout. Other baitfish for catching gator trout include pinfish, grunts, and menhaden.
Large finger mullet (6+ inches) is the best for the truly large speckled trout.
Using these baitfish is fairly easy. Simply hook the bait through the lips or near the dorsal fin.
You can freeline baitfish or use a Carolina rig. The best rig when using live fish as bait depends on your location.
Personally, I don’t recommend freelining if you’re near structure as the baitfish have a tendency to wrap themselves around any obstacle they can find.
Note: Baitfish works best for trout in Louisiana and Texas. Florida trout tend to be much smaller, which means most trout do not eat larger baitfish.
Speckled Trout Lures
Lures are another popular option when fishing for speckled trout. Many fishermen actually prefer lures because they don’t have to worry about a live well, bait bucket, catching bait, or buying bait.
Lure technology has also improved a lot over the past two decades. It’s actually improved so much that you might do better with a lure than with live bait if you know proper technique.
Anyway, here are my favorite lures and types of lures for catching speckled trout.
Gulp Shrimp are the best soft plastics to use for catching trout. Really, various types of Gulp! soft plastics work great for speckled trout, but I like Gulp Shrimp. I prefer the 3” shrimp when going for speckled trout.
There really isn’t much strategy to using Gulp Shrimp. All you have to do is attach the shrimp to a jig head.
A ¼ ounce jig head works fine in most situations. However, you should use a lighter jighead in shallower water for the best results.
I recommend a ⅛ ounce jighead in water under 3 feet deep. And a ¼ ounce jighead for all other situations. You shouldn’t need a larger jighead than that unless you’re going for very large speckled trout.
Other Soft Plastics
Gulp Shrimp aren’t the only soft plastics that you can use when going for speckled trout – they’re just the best soft plastic. You can use pretty much any type of 3” soft plastic when going for speckled trout.
I’ve actually had good luck with green 3” curly tail grubs fished off of a fishing pier. Other soft plastics probably don’t work as well as Gulp, but trout will still hit them.
I recommend other soft plastics if you don’t have room in your budget for Gulp. If you have the room in your budget, then Gulp is the best choice.
MirrOlures are a type of lure that resembles a wounded baitfish on the surface, bottom, or suspended in the middle of the water column. These lures have become extremely popular amongst trout and redfish fishermen over the past few years because they work extremely well.
This section will detail the best MirrOlures for trout fishing in a few different habitats.
You have two types of grass flats when it comes to trout fishing: deep grass flats and shallow (under 3 feet deep) grass flats. The depth determines the type of MirrOlure that you should use.
If you’re in a shallow grass flat, then I highly recommend using a topwater MirrOlure such as the Top Dog or Top Dog Jr.
It’s important to note that you will have to “walk-the-dog” with a topwater MirrOlure. This retrieval technique requires a bit of practice, but it’s worth it for the amount of trout that you will catch.
Now, if you are fishing in deeper grass flats, then you should use a suspending twitch bait MirrOlure. In this case, I really like the C-Eye Skin Series from MirrOlures. The CS17MR-MULLET is my personal favorite for trout in deeper grass flats.
You will find plenty of trout on docks in deeper water. And any MirrOlure will catch trout at a dock.
I have had the best luck with the Top Dog Jr. MirrOlure at docks, though. Fishing either near the pilings or where the light meets the darkness.
The Top Dog also works if you want big trout. However, I prefer the Top Dog Jr. because there aren’t usually that many large trout at docks.
Oyster bars are a surprisingly good place to fish for speckled trout. The one caveat is that the oyster bar must have a grass flat nearby.
Fortunately, most oyster bars are located near grass flats.
I like the CS17MR-MULLET suspending twitch bait when fishing for trout on a shallow oyster bar. I usually cast it out around the oyster bar itself or the mud flats surrounding the oyster bar.
The Top Dog works better for fishing the channel alongside the oyster bar. It works particularly well on the outside of the channel where many of the gator trout will stack up to prey on baitfish getting pushed through with the tide.
Gold spoons work surprisingly well for speckled trout. I will say that they aren’t the ideal lure for trout, but they definitely have a place in trout fishing. Where is that place?
Casting long distances across the flats to find trout.
Seriously. You can cast a spoon extremely far, which allows you to cover a huge portion of the grass flats.
This is especially useful when you can’t spot cast any trout. Or if the trout aren’t biting at the normal locations.
I do recommend using a weedless gold spoon when on the flats. It will obviously save you from constantly pulling weeds off the spoon. And it may even save a few spoons. You can also reel much slower with a weedless setup as you don’t have to worry about getting caught in grass.
What color lure works best for speckled trout?
Lure color really doesn’t seem to matter that much when fishing for trout. If it does matter, then it definitely varies based on location. It may even vary based on the time of day.
With that in mind, I have had the best luck with lures that are natural colors. Glitter also seems to get more bites than lures without glitter.
However, if there is less water visibility, then you might be better off with a brighter color. I definitely wouldn’t recommend a brownish lure when the water visibility is low.
What size lure should I use for speckled trout?
The size lure you use when going for speckled trout depends on the size trout that you want to catch.
Do you want to catch big gator trout?
You should use lures that are 4” or larger. The Top Dog MirrOlure is my recommendation.
Do you want to catch smaller, yet still legal, trout?
A soft plastic in the 2” to 3” range will work perfectly fine. Remember, you will catch a lot of smaller fish if you use a smaller lure.
Can I use a popping cork for Speckled Trout?
I highly recommend using a popping cork if you are fishing for speckled trout. And yes, you can use the popping cork with soft plastics or live bait.
Obviously, you can’t use a popping cork with a MirrOlure or spoon, but that’s fine. MirrOlures and spoons work fine without a popping cork.
As for the type of popping cork, it really doesn’t matter. The basic mechanics of popping corks are the same. You could probably make your own popping cork if you really wanted to make one.
I recommend first trying a soft plastic with a popping cork. If that doesn’t work (rare), then ditch the popping cork and use your wrist movement to make the soft plastic dance.
In my experience, the popping cork works much better than your wrist. If you have two or more people in your group, then one can fish with a popping cork to attract fish while the other person freelines a shrimp.
That works surprisingly well. It’s also a fun way to fish for speckled trout with someone else.
That covers it for the different types of bait and lures for speckled trout. Speckled trout are not snook – they’re pretty easy to catch compared to most other fish on the flats.
Basically, use live shrimp if it’s available to you and you don’t mind catching ‘junk’ fish. If you want to avoid the junk fish, then 3” curly tails or Gulp Shrimp work pretty well. You will still catch some junk fish, but it will be far less than with live shrimp.
For those of you that want gator trout, the Top Dog MirrOlure, live finger mullet, or other live baitfish (pinfish, grunts, menhaden, etc.) work excellent. It’s actually your best bet. The added benefit of larger bait is that you also avoid most of the junk fish that devour shrimp.
As I said, trout aren’t particularly difficult to catch. It mostly comes down to knowing the proper bait to use when fishing for them.