Trophy Specks for Valentine's Day
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Valentine's Day is the first thing that most people think of when mid-February rolls around. Weather this time of year can be a bit brisk, windy and often times a little wet. Casual anglers don't think of fishing for another month or so. However, a select few Gulf Coast fishermen know that this is the time of year when our bay systems offer up prizes that are far more treasured than those found in a box of chocolates.

Early February through mid-March offers perhaps the best window of opportunity for landing a career speckled trout. Some years this window opens a little earlier or a little later. Regardless, by mid-February it is always a good bet that trophy trout are prowling the flats.

All trophy trout are female. At this time of year, these big sows are preparing to spawn. It is necessary for these fish to put on some extra weight to see them through the post-spawn period. In addition, their egg sacs enlarge as the eggs ripen. This change adds substantial girth and weight to the fish. It is not uncommon for a fish caught during the early spring to weigh as much as three pounds more than if caught in late summer.

The need to pack on added weight and find a suitable spawning site will have these fish cruising the flats earlier than their smaller cousins. But, the water is still cool, so the fish won't be quite as energetic as they are during warmer weather. In addition, they are trying gain weight, not lose it. Therefore, they wish to move as little as possible and get the most calories per bite.

All of this points to using big baits. Year in and year out, more trophy trout are taken on big, ugly topwaters than any other type of lures. Coming in a close second are slow-sinking plugs. Corky's, 51 series MirroLures, Chattertubes and Catch 5s are perfect examples of finesse-style, slow-sinking plugs. Lightly-weighted or unweighted soft-plastics like the Brown Lures' Devil Eyes can also be worked in much the same manner as a slow-sinking plug. These baits would probably account for more fish if more anglers were patient enough to work them properly.

One of the most overlooked yet effective means of catching trophy trout this time of year is to 'slow-roll' jumbo paddle tail plastics like the Texas Tackle Factory Big Mino. Slow-rolling simply entails reeling just fast enough to keep the bait off the bottom or above the grass, whichever the case may be. This is a straight-line retrieve, no jigging or jerking - just slowly reeling the bait back.  

The common denominator between these baits is they resemble sizable baitfish and they can (should) be worked slowly. This is one instance where a high-speed retrieve reel may be a disadvantage. In order to be effective, these baits should crawl back to the rod tip. Often times it is difficult to establish the right pace with a reel that has a retrieve ratio higher than 5 to 1.

A slightly different rod is also handy. Although the standard seven-foot popping stick will make it through the day, a six-six to seven foot rod with a bit more backbone will offer a decided advantage when working big plugs and setting the hook. Despite the stout butt section, the ideal rod has a soft, slow-action tip. This provides much needed shock absorption when playing a fish close at hand. It also prevents pulling the plug away from the fish on the hook set, as fast-action rods are prone to do. For these reasons, many dedicated big trout fishermen prefer fiberglass, glass/graphite composites or older generation graphite, such as IM6.

Regardless of tackle configuration, the most important element in big trout fishing is timing. For the next few weeks, the time is right. Don't miss the opportunity for that fish of a lifetime and, perhaps, the perfect Valentine.

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