A wide variety of live bait is used in the Texas Coastal Bend to target speckled trout. The most widely used bait is shrimp. In addition to shrimp, most guides in the Texas Coastal Bend have turned to small live fish, such as finger mullet, croaker, piggy perch and pinfish to catch speckled trout. While shrimp are very effective, they also attract a lot of non-game fish such as pinfish and hard head catfish. Using live fish as bait will tend to minimize the “trash” action and weed out the smaller trout to some extent.
Live shrimp is often rigged under a popping cork. The cork serves a dual purpose. When popped intermittently, it simulates other speckled trout feeding at the top of the water. Additionally, it will suspend the shrimp above grass lines or near the top of the water in deeper water. Vary the length of line between the hook and the popping cork to present the shrimp at portions of the water column.
In calm conditions or in very clear water, shrimp are simply mounted on a hook with no additional tackle and “free shrimped.” This allows them to make a natural presentation in waters where speckled trout may be easily spooked. A small split shot is sometimes added to assist in casting.
Live fish will typically be fished on a couple of different rigs. A Carolina rig, where the main line passes freely through an egg weight and is attached to a swivel followed by 18” to 24” of leader material and a 3/0 to 6/0 Kahle hook is popular because it is easy to cast and the weight will keep the bait in a pot hole or near other structure, while allowing it to freely swim.
A “Mansfield Mauler” or other type of small torpedo or egg shaped popper trailed by 18” to 24” of leader material and a 3/0 to 6/0 Kahle hook is also used. Often the pink or chartreuse popper will attract the attention of the fish and keep the bait from burying itself in the grass of shallow flats.