Hot Baits: Winter
1. Z-Man TroutTrick Series:
Why: This line of durable soft plastics comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors, allowing the angler to find that perfect match. The porous, elastic material in these baits provides them with buoyancy, durability, and the ability to soak up any scent products added to them, like Pro-Cure. When the lizardfish, pinfish, and baby blues are tearing up your other soft plastics, it's time to switch over to a Z-Man, which can withstand the attacks, savibng you time and money.
Our Favorite: Swimmin TroutTrick in Fried Chicken, Scented Jerk ShadZ in Laguna Shrimp, TroutTrick Jerk ShrimpZ
How We Fish Them: Paired with a 1/4oz jighead, these baits are deadly around this time of year on seatrout and the occasional red drum or flounder. Casting them along a deep bank with a visible rip can be an effective strategy, allowing the bait to ride down the bank without reeling-- just pop the rod tip and try not to allow too much slack (a little is fine). When the water cools down late in winter, it's time to start fishing these baits deep. Cast them out in the backs of canals and bays where the water is deep and not moving too much, then slowly hop them back with slight twitches of the rod tip. The slower the better when the water gets cold and the trout aren't as active!
2. MirrOlure Heavy Dine:
Why: Most people know how effective the Classic Series 52MR Sinking Twitchbait can be for targeting cold water seatrout; it is a staple of tackle boxes throughout North Carolina. However, the newer Heavy Dine is quickly finding its way into our tackle boxes with its smaller profile and darting action. Modeled after the popular shallow water MirrOdine, these baits are deadly in deeper water, as they mimic the smaller mullet and baby pinfish that have stuck around through the winter.
Our Favorite: Heavy Dine 18MR in Green Back/White Belly or in Bayou Green Back/Yellow Belly.. we carry custom colors as well!
How We Fish Them: These hard baits work well in a variety of situations, from throwing up against the jetty to targeting sloughs in the surf. One way that has been working for us lately has been slowly twitching these lures in deep basins. Once the water gets closer to 50 degrees, the trout will slow down and move into deeper inshore waters. The Heavy Dine is able to get down deep and still spend more time suspended in front of a lethargic trout's face.
3. Berkley Gulp!:
Why: Packed with as much scent as a block of chum melting in the sun, these soft plastics are about as close to live bait as artificial lures get. Pinfish, lizardfish, bluefish, and other bait-stealers lured in by the strong scent can wreak havoc on these baits in the warmer months but are gone through the colder winter months. This allows the angler to focus his or her efforts upon an NC slam, consisting of a trout, flounder, and red drum.
Our Favorite: 3" Shrimp in Nuclear Chicken or Sugar & Spice, Jerk Shad in New Penny or Smelt, Ripple Mullet in Glow/Chartreuse
How We Fish Them: These can be worked like any other soft plastic, with the added ability to rig the jerk shad weedless to avoid snags. However, the scent is so powerful, we have found that rigging the shrimp under a cork or on a jig head allows us to fish them like live bait. Dead-sticking or slowly hopping the 3" shrimp under docks holding reds can coax a strike when nothing else will.
4. Vudu Shrimp
Why: It doesn't get much easier than fishing these pre-rigged shrimp soft plastics. Featuring a nylon weave through the body for added durability, these baits will catch red drum after red drum, trout after trout, all winter long. We have even had reports of these baits outfishing Gulp! and live bait, especially when placed under a popping cork.
Our Favorite: 3.5" Shrimp in Gold or Brown
How We Fish Them: We like to fish these baits in two distinctively different ways and recommend trying both out next time you use them. The first way involves bumping the bottom, making sure that shrimp slowly bounces off the bottom with each pop of the rod tip. Red drum, often with their heads rooting around in the mud, will suck these right down when they come by. The second technique involves putting the Vudu on a popping cork rig. Certain fishermen we have spoken with swear by this tactic for trout and the occasional red drum.
5. Billy Bay Halo Shad
Why: Ever look over and see that novice in the boat next to you catching fish after fish, while you frantically sift through your tackle box in search of your first bite? We're willing to bet that novice over there was throwing a Halo Shad, a local secret along the coast of NC. These pre-rigged shad imitations feature a holographic body and dynamic paddle tail that make them easy to fish all day long. They may not win any innovation awards at the annual ICAST fishing show, but they sure can catch trout when all else seems to fail.
Our Favorite: 1/4oz in Green Tiger, 1/4oz in Pink/Chartreuse Tail, 1/8oz in Clear/Silver Sparkle
How We Fish Them: You can fish these pre-rigged baits just like any other paddle tail if you wish. However, we have found that less can often be more when fish get finicky. One of our pro-staffers swears that there are days when the only bites he'll get from trout come when he tosses a 1/4oz Halo Shad into deeper water and slowly reels it back to him with no movement whatsoever. The key is to let the paddle tail do all the work, and you just maintain a slow and steady retrieve, bringing the bait back along the bottom. This technique can be tough on the seasoned angler who likes to impart some "proprietary" action on his baits, but when the bite slows down it is certainly worth a try.