Go weightless for lowcountry trout

Kalee Crouse caught this lowcountry speck on live bait. (Picture by Brian Cope)

Free the line for inshore specks

As baitfish continue flooding into the inshore waters of the lowcountry, Capt. Joe Dennis of Captain J Hook Charters said the speckled trout can’t resist a lively mud minnow or menhaden.

“The specks are starting to really feed up on baitfish, and we find plenty of them willing to bite live mud minnows and menhaden,” he said.

Many anglers target specks this time of year by using live bait, but Dennis does something a little different than others.

“The most common way for anglers to target them right now is either with a Carolina rig or a popping cork rig. But I prefer to free-line baitfish,” he said.

A typical Carolina rig includes an egg sinker, a bead and a swivel. A popping cork usually includes a cork with beads and weight built-in, along with at least one ball bearing swivel. Dennis drops all the hardware except for the swivel.

“I use a Catch The Fever Striper Stealth rod and a spinning reel with 15- to 20-pound Slime Line monofilament for my main line. I use a swivel, then tie an 18-inch section of leader to my 3/0 circle hook. That swivel offers just enough weight to help anglers cast, and to ensure the baitfish doesn’t swim all the way up on the surface,” he said.

The slight amount of weight offered by the swivel allows the menhaden or mud minnow to swim freely, without it sinking all the way to the bottom where it can get hung up or hide in between oyster shells.

Good for grass lines

It makes an irresistible presentation to speckled trout.

“The swivel also helps to keep your line from twisting. And with very little weight, the current helps keep your bait floating freely, where its lively action looks natural to specks,” said Dennis (843-245-3762).

Anglers will find this tactic works in many places along the Carolina coastlines. Inshore waters are prime areas. Oyster bars, rocky points, and deep drop-offs near grass lines will draw plenty of strikes.

“One of my favorite scenarios is finding a grass line in water that is 2 or 3 feet deep, with a hole 10-feet deep or deeper right off of that grass line. Speckled trout hang out and patrol areas just like this because it makes a good ambush spot. When they see that free-lined baitfish, they just can’t resist,” he said.

Dennis said anglers don’t need to impart any action in their bait. All they need to do is make a cast, then let nature takes its course.

This tactic usually works as long as the tide is moving in one direction or the other. When the tide is completely slack, Dennis said that’s when he opts for a cork. But instead of a popping cork, he uses a Betts Billy Boy slip bobber.

“Using a slip bobber allows you to change your depth quickly without having to retie. So keeping your bait off the bottom is easy, even if you change locations. You just slide the slip knot up or down,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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