With the speckled trout bite burning hot just about everywhere along the North Carolina coast and supplies of live shrimp dwindling in tackle shops, picking the most productive artificial baits is crucial to success. To help narrow the field, guide Ricky Kellum of Jacksonville’s Speckled Specialist Inshore Fishing Charters (910-330-2745) volunteered his five favorite lures for fall specks.
· Billy Bay Halo Shad – “Most lures have a knack; if you don’t fish it right, you’re not going to catch anything,” said Kellum. “The Halo Shad takes 90 percent of the skill out; if you can cast, you can catch fish with it.”
Kellum believes the unique softness of this swimbait allows its paddletail to vibrate even at slow speeds, and the holographic material inside flashes like a menhaden.
“I fish the 3-inch, 1/8-ounce size in less than 10 feet of water and the 5-inch, ¼-ounce size in more than 10 feet,” he said. “The chartreuse works great, but when the water is dark, I like pink.”
· Storm’s WildEye Live Shrimp –“The Storm Shrimp is a really close second,” Kellum said. “I buy the clear ones and dye them either pink or chartreuse.”
Kellum allows the bait to fall to the desired depth before sharply snapping his rod tip, followed by another free fall and snap to mimic a live shrimp. Unlike many shrimp imitations, this bait – available in a 3-inch, ¼-ounce size – contains a small rattle chamber, which echoes the “clicking” sound of live shrimp.
· Billy Bay Halo Shrimp – “If I’m in a smaller, contained area, and I know there’s trout there, I would rather use the Halo Shrimp because it falls so slowly,” said Kellum. “I like the clear silver sparkle.”
The Halo Shrimp is designed with its weight closer to the middle of the lure, so it maintains a horizontal position as it falls, rather than darting to the bottom. This allows the bait more time in the strike zone and gives finicky trout more opportunity to make a bad decision.
This bait comes in a 4-inch model, and Kellum prefers the ¼- ounce weight.
· 17MR MirrOdine/18MR Heavy Dine – “A lot of people would put the 17MR first on the list,” said Kellum. “I wouldn’t, because I lose more fish with the treble hooks, but you have to throw it because it’s a great lure.”
They are retrieved with a twitching motion that makes the lure dart from side to side. Kellum fishes the suspending 17MR in less than 10 feet of water and the sinking 18MR in more than 10 feet. He prefers the electric chicken color and the classic 808 (black back/orange belly) for fishing in creeks.
· Rapala X-Rap/ X-Rap Deep –“The X-Raps are good baits because they suspend,” Kellum said. “I’ll run the lure down and pause it, and it just stares at them. Trout don’t like to be stared at.”
X-Raps are lipped crankbaits that provide a mean wobble with only a straight retrieve and come in variety sizes for the desired water depth. Kellum prefers brighter colors for dirty water and more natural colors for clearer water.