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Tips for Slow-Trolling for Lunker Speckled Trout

Trolling, trolling, trolling on the river. It’s a little known non-fact that Ike and Tina met when their lines got crossed while trolling for speckled trout in Parker’s Creek off the Tchoutacabouffa River.

Mississippi State University engineering student Zach Carroll, who lives in Ocean Springs, slow-trolls coastal waters and catches some great winter speckled trout. Photo by Sam Davis.
Mississippi State University engineering student Zach Carroll, who lives in Ocean Springs, slow-trolls coastal waters and catches some great winter speckled trout. Photo by Sam Davis.

Trolling for trout is a deadly technique practiced by many anglers on the coast. Anglers troll soft plastics, live shrimp, and various types of hard baits. Ocean Spring’s Zach, a Mississippi State engineering student, is one of the aficionados of this tactic.

Carroll prefers to troll over-sized bull minnows because of the larger trout attracted to the bigger bait. Bull minnows can be purchased at local bait shops, but Zach prefers to catch and store his own bait.

“There are many different tactics to catching bull minnows,” Carroll explained.  “The one I use most often is throwing a cast net in small bayous or canals.

“Another method that works well is using a bull minnow trap. These traps can be bought at any sporting goods store or just made out of chicken wire. The bait I use most often for these traps is cut mullet or crushed up blue crabs.”

Fishing with bull minnows obviously requires prior planning, so Carroll starts catching bait a couple of days before his trip.

“When I catch a high quantity of minnows, I have a cooler with an aerator in my shed where I keep them alive,” Carroll said. “Changing out the water every couple of days seems to help (keep the baitfish alive).”

Bull minnows are a very resilient baitfish, and there have been numerous occasions when Carroll has caught multiple trout on one minnow. Catching and taking care of his own bait results in a more lively, longer-lasting bull minnow.

Carroll is as meticulous with his tackle preparation as he is with caring for his bait. He ties his main line — 30-pound Power Pro — to a barrel swivel and a 24-inch monofilament leader with a No. 2 treble hook. He threads the treble through the bottom lip of a bull minnow, eases the bait out of the back of the boat and creeps along ever so slowly with the trolling motor.

“From my experiences winter fishing for speckled trout, they can be an exceptionally finicky fish,” he said. “The hookset slow-trolling, most of the time, is made by just leaving the rod in the rod holder.

“You will see the bull minnow start to get nervous with the rod tip fluttering; then all of a sudden the rod will look like it is about to touch the water.”

Some days there is more to trolling than just casting the minnow out the back of the boat; many variables are taken into consideration. For instance, the fish tend to hold on the bottom if the tide is slack. In this scenario, Carroll crimps a small splitshot right above the swivel to make sure the bait is getting down deep where the trout are holding.

“Slow-trolling in the winter time can be some of the most-exciting trout fishing you will do,”  Carroll said. “I have been on multiple trips where you can barely get the bull minnow out the back of the boat without the rod doubling over.

Carroll’s personal best, a speckled beauty tipping the scales at close to 7 pounds, came on a 6-inch bull minnow.

“When the bite is off it can be some of the slowest fishing that you can think of, but trust me — it is worth the wait.”

Sam Davis works for Mississippi Sportsman.

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