When it comes to Florida fishing, most anglers will agree that nothing beats a surface strike from a feeding fish on a top-water lure. While many more fish are caught on subsurface lures, it’s the top-water bait that wins my vote because it gets the big fish chewing and my blood pumping! Every species has its distinct way of crashing top-water bait but I love the way trout have the tenacity to stalk their prey and then suck it in.
Small trout feed very differently from bigger ones – they are forgiving, and most times will hit lures larger than they are. But the big trout is a huge challenge to land. Trout that are in the 30-inch class push the 10-pound notch on the scale, and with their paper thin mouths it’s a challenge to keep one on the hook without tearing it from the fish’s mouth.
So here’s a “How To” on mastering a surface strike from a trout by using a top-water lure. There are only three steps you’ll need to get that big trout up on your boat.
Once you master it, you’ll be yelling, “Fish On!”
1) Fish Where the Fish Are
If you put the best lure in a spot where there are no fish, you’re not gonna have much luck, so finding a “fishy area” is key. The first way to spot your fishy area is to look for signs of baitfish. You want to note the kind, size and color of the baitfish you see. Having this information will help you choose the right lure.
Finding that “fishy area” will vary for different species, but for trout, the big ones tend to be shallow at times and they typically lay on the edges of “changes.” The changes I’m referring to include depth changes, changes in the way the bottom of the ocean floor is made up (like sand holes meeting grass or shell meeting mud) and even temperature changes. Trout like to be where they are comfortable ambushing their prey and they also like to stay away from their predators. Water movement is also important. Fish are lazy, so if the water is moving they don’t have to work for their food – it comes to them. So check the tide charts. When the tides change, the water’s flow will be strongest. And at that point, the fish will be ready to bite.
Another critical thing you will need to help you find these “fishy areas” is a good pair of Polarized sunglasses. With the glare removed from the water, you can see through the surface down to the bottom. You can also see the changes in the water’s depth and the changes on the ocean floor (where it is grass, mud or sand). You’ll also be able to see the baitfish, and of course, the trout. There are a number of excellent brands of Polarized sunglasses available today like Ocean Waves, Costa Del Mar, Maui Jim, Hobie Polarized and more. There are also many lens colors available that will help enhance sight fishing and provide added contrast to allow your target to be more “visible.” I have several brands, but for most of my fishing, I like the Ocean Waves Backwater Green lens for flats fishing. The lens is an amber brown color making fish “jump out” in contrast to the bottom.
OK, you’ve found your “fishy spot” so now we’re onto the second step.
2) Be Sure About Your Lure
You want to choose a lure that mimics what the trout are eating. Their “foods of choice” include glass minnows, smaller scaled sardines and pinfish, needlefish, ballyhoo and finger mullet.
Trout can’t resist a glass minnow, so when you see glass minnows “raining” on the water’s surface you can be sure that trout are nearby. Most lures are too large to imitate “glassies,” but several do. You’ll want to look for a lure that is at least three-inches long. Smaller “chugger” lures like the Storm Chug Bug 3 1/4 inch model, are excellent choices.
Scaled sardines and pinfish “flash” in the water and they range from tiny to about five or six inches long, but typically, trout eat those that are between two and four inches long. The 7M MirrOlure flash lure is world famous for being an exceptional top water floater/diver that brings on some ferocious strikes from big trout.
Needlefish and ballyhoo are long and cylindrical. If you use a jerk bait, such as one from the DOA CAL lure series, and rig it with a DOA Chug Head, it will stay on top when moved constantly. The DOA Chug Head is the secret to keeping this slow sinking bait on the surface. The 5M MirrOlure, with its surface disturbing propellers, creates such a commotion that it calls trout to see what’s making the sound.
Finally, the mac-daddy of all baits…the finger mullet. This bait runs in schools. It jumps, runs, and zigzags from side to side as it moves. There are various lure sizes that mimic this baitfish ranging from the smaller (as seen in the MirrOmullet) to the larger (like the MirrOlure Top Dog). The “Dog” is my all-time favorite top-water lure because it is guaranteed to give you the heart-pounding excitement that you’re looking for.
Now you have your lure tide on, so we’re ready for the moment of truth.
3) Master Your Presentation
Trout will stalk your lure as it moves through the water. The initial landing of the lure can be beyond or up-current of the fish which will eventually bring it in front of the trout (particularly when fishing shallow – from 1 to 2 feet of water). When fishing in 3 to 5 feet of water with top water lures, it’s not as critical how your lure approaches your fish, since most trout will hang near the bottom and not feel threatened by an approaching lure, but will rise to the surface to check it out. Keep the lure moving but allow pauses that make the lure appear to be crippled. All fish, big and small, will eat wounded bait before they will eat frisky, fresh bait.
These are the basic principles used to approach trout. So find the right area, use the right bait, make the proper presentation and before long, you too will be shouting, “FISH ON!”
On the Rocks, Please! Find out how you can catch some snook, redfish, grouper here!