Throw a top-water plug on Alabama coastal waters this spring and watch it explode with a speckled trout.
It’s going to be warm—some people up North would say downright hot—later today here on the Alabama Coast, but the early light of dawn is pleasant and the air feels nice after last winter’s chill.
It’s springtime and the surface of the water here in the Mississippi Sound north of Dauphin Island looks like a pane of glass stretching to Bayou La Batre. Here and there a mullet launches itself and breaks the smooth surface of the water. Something big swirls in pursuit of a breakfast.
It seems almost a shame to break such a spectacular sunrise.
An angler in a center-console fishing boat makes a long cast with a top-water plug. The plug sails off in the distance and breaks the perfect surface of the water. It’s so quiet that the gentle blurb of the plug as it walks across the surface back to the boat can be heard. And then it happens.
The plug just disappears and the perfect flat surface of the early morning water is shattered by a big fish. The angler’s reel complains, the line is pulled from the reel, and a heavy silver and black-spotted speckled trout launches itself from the water.
Another couple of gill-rattling leaps and then steady pressure brings the yellow-mouthed speck to the boat. A quick dip of the landing net, and the first of many top-water trout today is being held up for photos.
It’s a strange thing, but mornings that start out being almost perfect like this one can sometimes get even better with the addition of some big, strong, aggressive top-water speckled trout.
Where to Find the Spring Specks
Our buddy Captain Yano Serra has caught a lot of big springtime trout, and he puts his clients on big spring trout, too. He was kind enough to tell us about what we all can do to access some of the hottest top-water fishing for big specks to be found anywhere.
Captain Yano says, “In April I’m looking for water with sandy and grassy bottom. Shell bottoms are good, too. I’m trying to find water with firm bottom. The specks are getting ready to spawn in April, and they like firm bottom.”
He continues, “The water can be from two- to five-feet deep; that’s not so important. And I like to fish around small islands that have shells, firm sand, and good water clarity.”
A very important point Yano makes is that springtime specks like salty water. If we have had heavy spring rain and high amounts of freshwater in the bay and connecting waters, then the trout will be closer to the Gulf.
“Last year we had lots of fresh water,” he says. “We found the big specks around Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan. They were looking for salty water which they prefer in spring.”
Many of the waters around Mobile Bay—Mississippi Sound, the ICW, and the north side of Fort Morgan—have good springtime fishing conditions for big specks. It just takes some fishing and finding to locate where the big specks are holding.
Finding the best concentrations of spring trout for top-water fishing may take a bit of prospecting, but when the fish are located they will generally be willing to bite, and a big trout striking on a top-water plug makes all of the searching and traveling worthwhile.
What are Effective Techniques for Topwater Specks?
When top-water fishing for big specks in Alabama, anglers need to pay attention to what the fish seem to prefer. Instead of going into a fishing trip with a certain retrieve or speed set in mind, anglers will be much more successful if they let the trout indicate how they want the lures presented.
Captain Yano says, “Let the fish tell you what retrieve they prefer. Most days I will start out with a steady walk-the-dog retrieve. If I don’t get bites, then I make pauses. The big specks sometimes blow up on the top-water plug after only one or two ‘steps’ of the walk-the-dog retrieve. But you have got to let the fish determine what speed you retrieve.”
Now, a very important point for top-water anglers who want to achieve maximum success on springtime top-water specks comes when the fish actually strikes. When that big old yellow-mouthed trout explodes on a top-water lure, the first reaction of nearly all anglers is to rear back and set the hook…hard. This is a bad idea.
Sharp hooks are important in successful fishing at all times, but when using top-water lures, very sharp hooks are crucial.
Captain Yano says, “When a big speck hits, don’t set the hook. When you see him blow up, just reel it in. Don’t set the hook! It takes a few seconds for a trout—even a big one— to get the lure in its mouth.”
Captain Yano continues, “When a big trout blows up on a top-water plug, the line is already tight. Just pull with the reel and the hooks are already in place.”
This brings up another very important point when top-water fishing for speck trout in the spring. Sharp hooks are important in successful fishing at all times, but when using top-water lures, very sharp hooks are crucial.
Oftentimes, big trout will be hooked somewhere outside of their mouths. Dull hooks won’t penetrate tough fish scales and outside skins very well. Top-water anglers need to have a good hook file aboard and use it after each fish is caught.
It doesn’t take long for hooks to get dull and ineffective, and it also doesn’t take long to use the file and put a good sharp point back on the hooks.
What’s a Good Top-water Speck Rig?
When it comes to selecting the right equipment for springtime top-water speckled trout fishing, spinning and casting gear anglers need to keep in mind that they will often be fishing in very clear water, so long casts are the name of the game. Rigs that allow maximum casting distance are best.
“Some people prefer braid line, but I like mono,” Captain Yano says. “Mono is much better in the clear water that big springtime trout are often in.”
He adds, “Braid line is good for top-water fishing. It helps in walking-the-dog retrieves because it doesn’t stretch, and the angler can feel the lure working and also strikes better. It depends on what line each angler prefers.”
Twelve pound test line is good for springtime top-water fishing.
A very important point for best top-water fishing and line choice: Captain Yano urges anglers to use a loop knot when fishing top-water plugs. A loop knot allows the plug to have maximum movement and side-to-side motion, which the big trout like.
When asked what kind of rod he prefers for springtime top-water fishing, Captain Yano says, “A seven- or eight-foot-long rod—pretty stiff—is good. This kind of rod allows very long casts with top-water lures. I throw it just as far as I can.”
With the clear and sometimes shallow water of April, anglers will need to be able to put the lure over fish that have not yet detected the boat and spooked.
When it comes to choosing the right top-water lure for big springtime speck fishing, anglers have a world of choice. And they all work from time to time. When asked to name his favorite lures and colors, Captain Yano says, “My favorite is a She-Dog in chrome and bone color. This plug comes already rigged with good stainless steel saltwater hooks. A Skitterwalk in pink or bone color is a good choice. Sometimes, very big trout will like a Heddon Super-Spook—the big three hook model—also in bone or pink.”
What About Boat handling?
If an angler has the best gear and best technique in the world, success in top-water trout fishing won’t happen if the angler can’t manage the boat properly. Springtime specks are spooky at times, and the big ones especially don’t like noise and commotion in their vicinity.
“I try to not anchor in springtime,” he says. “It’s hard to reposition the boat, and the anchor makes noise that spooks the fish.” – Capt. Yano Serra
“When I’m top-water fishing, I use my I-Pilot and my trolling motor,” Yano says. “The I-Pilot holds my position quietly and firmly for accurate casts. I will drift fish, and then I’ll use my Power-Pole to hold a good position when we get good top-water bites.”
Yano rarely anchors in the spring. “I try to not anchor in springtime,” he says. “It’s hard to reposition the boat, and the anchor makes noise that spooks the fish.”
Why Try Top-water Speckled Trout Fishing in the Spring?
Of course, after a long winter of cold winds and rough waters, April usually brings smoother sea conditions and much more pleasant temperatures. This is reason enough to get on the water for a fishing trip.
However, the real reason to go looking for big speckled trout in spring is that the fish really do bite.
Captain Yano tells us, “Spring is normally when I catch my biggest fish. “The fish are hungry and full of eggs, so they are eating a lot. I’ve caught seven pounders on top-water in April, and I’ve hooked even bigger specks on top-water lures.”
That final statement should be plenty of reason for anglers to get on the inshore waters of Alabama to throw some top-water lures on Mobile Bay and the surrounding waters. And when that biggest speckled trout of the year rolls up and engulfs a top-water lure, it should be obvious that this is the time and place for a really great day outdoors.
Important Contact Information:
Captain Yano Serra