Speckled trout are abundant in lower Tampa Bay and are hitting artificial lures like there is no tomorrow.
Light, 1/16-ounce jigs with soft-plastic tails are being nailed so frequently it's not uncommon to get a bite on every cast. With so many bites, keeping the tail on the jig can be a problem unless the jig head is a spring-lock style. Instead of having barbs to hold the tail, spring-lock heads have a small corkscrew wire attached to the head, and tails twist on. It's tough to pull the tail off without tearing it.
Holographic shad tails seem to be the ticket in clear water. If it's a little murky, root beer jigs with red glitter are a good choice, as are motor-oil jigs.
Most of the trout hold in 3 to 4 feet of water over grass adjacent to sand or oyster bars. Incoming tides are most productive.
After the tide slows, head to the nearest rock pile or bridge for furious sheepshead action. Five-pounders are possible, and they're eating. Mussels draw the most strikes, but small crabs and barnacles work. Big breeder females will be around through March.
- Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at 727 510-4376 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org