For most, nature shows are the closest they will come to viewing a predator attacking prey. Full high definition television makes the conflict between the hunter and hunted even closer to reality. If you are a saltwater enthusiast, you are well aware that there are many similar thrills to be found on the water. Over the past few years, topwater speckled trout have become my favorite way to wake up. It has all the essentials of a quality drama: the quiet anticipation, the steady rattle of the an innocent lure, the shocking explosion of a take, and the strong fight of an aggressive attacker. I can hardly say that I am well versed in this fishing method, but after a few years of experience in topwater here are my takeaways.
Wake Up Early or Stay Late
This is pretty much true across the board for all species in nature, fin, feather, or fur. When I woke up on my days off in medical school, my alarm was set to ensure that, with the hour commute and walk on the beach, I was casting as first light was just beginning to illuminate the night. The bite comes and goes quickly at times and it’s important to take advantage of it.
The early morning has always served me best. For some reason the bite always tends to last longer and lead to more successful takes. Afternoons in the last hour of sunlight can also be productive, although much more hit-and-miss.
Vary Your Retrieve
There are lots of theories and it boils down to personal experience and preference. Personally, I start working the noise of the lure as quickly as possible with a slow retrieve. The means slowly reeling while at the same time twitching the bait vigorously. This leads to many more hits and informs me where the fish are located. The quick rattle seems to excite the school. Once the bite starts, I tend to slow down and even periodically stop the lure for more successful hook ups.
Change Lures and Sounds
I am probably too active in changing baits. If I haven’t had a hit in 8-10 casts, I often changes topwater size, color, or sound. This is only because I know I can change my lure in less than a minute. My best advice for this is to practice tying loop knots quick and efficiently. Eventually, I find the lure that is working and stick with it.
My preferred arsenal includes a skitter walk (usually pearl colored and gold), a few Mirrolure Top Dogs (the classic green and silver), a few She Dogs (at least one pink), and a couple Heddon Spook Jr lures (including the trout pattern). Aside from pliers, leader, and a stringer, this is all I have in my bag for a morning of casting.
The Bait is a Tell
Our most successful days are usually prefaced by the water boiling in every direction with bait. You can feel the fish moving and see or hear explosions in the distance. I’ve been surprised at how much noise we can make wading and splashing on these days without disturbing the bite.
Special Secret Spots are a Myth
Of course, I have preferred areas I am comfortable fishing. But, the underwater topography and the location of the bait largely drive where you will locate fish. Frequently, my brothers and I have anglers near us casting into shallow, 1-foot flats, unknowingly. They go the whole morning without a bite. Meanwhile, we will have multiple hook ups and fill a stringer. The difference is that we find the changes in depth.
Steep dropoffs and 4-6 feet of water bring us success. These can easily be found with a google map satellite image and can be found in any coastal area. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to be scientific about temperature, salinity, and pressure, but frankly we just like to fish when we can. With a sample size of 10-15 days out of a year, it’s hardly an argument for ground breaking research on the mysterious speckled trout. All we need is sand, changes in depth, and the right time of year to find some good topwater explosions along the beach.
You Will Strike Out
About 1 in 4 topwater sessions end without a single attack or splash. More than half of attacks on a lure end without a hook up. It can be frustrating, and in the beginning it would irritate me to miss multiple fish. It always helps to have a companion who can cover ground and work the bait differently, offering helpful clues.
Over time, you learn that it’s just the nature of the game. You learn from the “empty cooler” days and subtle changes. Hopefully, this leads to learning and more success in the future. Regardless of the level of the day’s fishing activity, you’ve just seen another sunrise and spent the waking hours on the beach. That’s already more than the average person, even without a fish on the line.
In my opinion, it’s the bad days that make those great, explosive topwater strikes worth it and even more rewarding. Feel free to comment below with your own experience!