Hard-bodied baits such as MirrOlures have long been celebrated for their effectiveness in the backwaters of our coastal fisheries, however, they are just as deadly in the surf zone.  While productive right out of the box, a fisherman from Surf City, N.C., known locally as “the trout pro” has been fine-tuning his MirrOlures for more than a decade to maximize his results on trout in the surf.

“When I take a MirrOlure 52MR out of the box, it comes with No. 2 treble hooks, which are really too big,” said Chuck Johnson of East Coast Sports (910-328-1887). “I replace those with No. 6 black nickel treble hooks.  They make the plug a lot lighter, and that gives it more action when you twitch it.  The smaller hooks also cut down on the tangles you get when fishing with braided line.”

Although the stainless steel hooks from the factory are designed for strength and saltwater use, the black nickel hooks are a worthwhile investment.

“They stay sharper longer and they won’t rust as bad,” said Johnson.  “I’ve caught a lot more fish with these hooks because they penetrate deeper, and a trout is less likely to throw them in the surf.”

While most would assume a shiny new lure is at its pinnacle when removed from the packaging, Johnson said these lures benefit from a little breaking in. 

“When I get a plug from the factory that has a lot of glitter on it, I like to take a piece of real fine steel wool or Scotch Brite and sand the bottom and front to dull it up a little bit.  I get more strikes on these than a real shiny plug,” said Johnson.

Also, if one of Johnson’s plugs has a brightly colored head, such as red or orange, he will allow that bait to fade on the dash of his truck for about a month before flipping it over to the other side.

Johnson also provides tips on when and where to fish these plugs.  “The best trout fishing in the surf is done early and late in the day and at night,” he said. “The sun hurts a trout’s eyes, and when you’re fishing a slough close to the beach, it’s only a couple feet deep.

Sloughs, which are depressions in the surf zone, come in several forms.  Johnson’s favorites feature a sandbar that splits the slough with a break in that bar that allows bait to funnel in and out. 

“I like to fish them on a high falling tide,” he said.