Early in the fishing season, the inshore species of speckled trout (spotted seatrout) and redfish don’t seem to be too finicky about what they bite after a winter of relative inactivity. That means that artificial lures will usually work well once you locate where the fish are hanging out.
I’m a “grub” fisherman, personally. I love to cast lures and feel that strike. And the grub, a plastic minnow-imitation body, with a lead jighead is my default lure.
Therefore, my tackle box is filled with a variety of plastic bodies from those that look like the minnows and other baitfish the sportfish species prefer. I use grubs from 2 ½ to 4 inches long most of the time in a wide variety of colors - white, silver, chartreuse or combinations of colors, some with flakes for flash or different colors on the paddle tails, which gives the minnow imitation a swimming motion.
I also have a variety of jig heads in sizes of ¼-ounce, 3/8-ounce and half-ounce. Most of the time I use the ¼-ounce because most of the inshore waters in Alabama are relatively shallow. If you head out into some deeper water and want to get the bait to the bottom in a hurry, choose the half-ounce.
Those jigheads will also be in a variety of colors, including red, white, chartreuse and natural. Have plenty of all of them if you’re fishing in areas with a great deal of structure, like the inshore reefs, rock jetties or petroleum platforms.
Also in my tackle box are shrimp-imitation soft plastics in a variety of sizes and colors, which can be mind-boggling when you visit the tackle store. I always have some DOA shrimp, Vudu Shrimp and Berkley Gulp shrimp imitations on hand. Sometimes the fish prefer one over the others, and some days all will work. You just never know what’s going to happen when you get on the water so it’s best to have a variety to try to see which works best.
And don’t forget the popping corks or similar devices that suspend the bait off the bottom. A quick snap of the rod tip causes the concave surface of the popping cork to make a slurping sound that sounds like a fish feeding on the surface. It can attract fish that normally wouldn’t see your bait if you’re only using a grub or shrimp imitation.
If you’re lucky enough to be on the water when the fish are hitting on top, be sure to have some topwater lures, like a Top Dog, Super Spook and Skitter Walk, in the box. Throw in a few Johnson Silver Minnow gold spoons in case the redfish are cruising the edges in shallow water.
When it gets to be live bait time, stock your tackle box with a variety of hooks to match the species. Most of the time, I’ll use a Kahle hook, which has a distinct bend and offset that aids in hooking the fish. A 1/0 Kahle is good for speckled trout and “stringer” redfish up to about 20 inches. Go up in size for the larger redfish. If you’re looking for sheepshead, go with a double-strength hook because a fine-wire hook is too easy to bend.
Include a variety of egg sinkers and small swivels. I use black swivels because sometimes fish will hit the flash of a bronze swivel and cut your line. You’ll need leader material, as well, usually fluorocarbon or monofilament line of 15 to 20-pound break strength.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to put in your tackle box, visit one of the well-stocked tackled stores in the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area, and the salespeople will help you get the right gear to have a successful day of fishing.