Something we have tried to do each year is take a destination fishing trip. Our first adventure was to Louisiana to fish with our Team Eye Strike member Jud Brock. Our report from that trip can be seen here. In 2019 I went to NC to fish with the Speckled Specialist Ricky Kellum for gator trout. Ralph unfortunately wasn’t able to make that trip. On our short list was a visit to big trout mecca, a.k.a. the Laguna Madre in southern Texas. We decided to go at one of the best times of year at the best time of month to catch a true giant trout.
I asked for a guide recommendation from our friend Chris Bush, founder of The Speckled Truth – a great organization dedicated to the pursuit and conservation of big trout. His recommendation was Capt. Wayne Davis out of Port Mansfield, Texas. I contacted him and we batted around some dates, ending up with 3rd week of February near the full moon. Ralph nor I have ever wade-fished for trout, so Wayne was great at answering my stupid questions without making me feel like an idiot. With travel arrangements made, we waited patiently for the big day, hoping for good weather.
I was kind of afraid to look, but a few days out from our trip, sure enough a huge front was predicted for our fishing window. With great weather, we would have had a chance to wade from shore on Thursday afternoon, then had 2 full days of fishing Friday and Saturday. As it turned out, it looked as though we might get a few hours to fish Friday afternoon, then Saturday looked doable. Thursday, no way.
We flew into Harlingen, Texas – a small town near the Mexican border and rented a car. On recommendation from Capt Wayne and a friend, we hit a grocery store and stocked up on food for the weekend. The drive was about 45 minutes to Port Mansfield through huge open space full of windmills and pasture. Port Mansfield is very small and literally 25 miles from any other town. The first thing we noticed was all the deer around. Some really big bucks just walking around acting like neighborhood dogs. The wind was howling, so we drove around town getting our bearings and settled into our rental house.
We met up with Wayne and made a plan. Friday morning was a loss, with maybe a few hours doable in the afternoon. He lent us a few rods and we spend Friday fishing from shore where we could and not really having any luck – but it helped pass the time. The weather did finally break mid-afternoon but we opted to pass and make a full day of it Saturday. I requested that we focus on big trout, since we can catch big redfish pretty much any day in our home waters. We knew that meant we would probably be grinding and also that we might leave empty handed. But, the chance at a big fish is why we came all the way to Texas to fish.
Because the weather and water was still pretty cold we didn’t leave the marina till around 9 am, and got in Wayne’s SCB boat. These rigs are designed for the lagoon, ie very shallow water and ability to hop in and out to wade. Wading is a really cool experience. We got in the knee deep water and fanned out about 100 yards apart and started working the flat. You wade down-wind and after we got a certain distance, Wayne raised the Power Poles on his rig and let it drift back to us. You could barely make out large mats of sea grass though the wind whipped water but you could feel them on your jig as you fan cast the area.
Wayne is owner of KWigglers lures, so we fished his plastics on our jig heads most of the day. The KWigglers have a fairly large profile but matched well with our 2/0 TroutEye jigs. At this first stop I had my first Texas fish, a rat redfish. This spot was a bit slow, so we moved on to a spot where only the big girls reside.
This area was a sandy bottom only about shin deep with no discernible structure. We covered a few areas here with nothing to show, until I saw Wayne climb aboard his boat and pick up Ralph. They started idling my way, when I got slammed! The line shot sideways, slicing the water then ran straight at me. I reeled like a mad-man trying to stay tight. The fish struggled on the surface and threw the lure back at me…ugh! I never did get a good look at it, but it seemed like a really nice fish.
Later in the afternoon we made a long run and immediately started to see bait fish everywhere. As we poled down and slipped out of the boat, I noticed the footing was much more difficult to walk in. I was sinking a few inches some times, so Wayne suggested that Ralph stay in the boat. He would drift the boat downwind while we waded, allowing Ralph to fish the area also.
We were encountering some grass patches, so I switched my lure to a Texas Eye 1/8 oz jig. Texas Eyes need the right plastic to allow a good hookup ratio, so I paired it with a 4″ Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ in Nuked Pilchard color – a setup I’ve done well here in Charleston on for big trout. I started working the area, and I got a sudden thump. The fish tore off line in a fast run, then raised its head up and shook its big head. I yelled “I got a giant!” and Wayne started walking toward me and coaching me through the fight. I made sure to stay tight with rod held high and to back off the drag when she got close. When I saw this fish it took my breath away. It seemed like forever until I could get my Boga Grip to find its mouth and only at that point could I relax and celebrate. Wow what a fish.
You couldn’t script it better. A Texas giant speckled trout on a Texas Eye jig! Wayne took some great pictures, and I promised to keep the pics quiet because it had a chance to make the cover of Texas Saltwater Fishing magazine. Alas, it didn’t make the cover, but he did feature it in his column in the magazine. We participated in Wayne’s “Empty Stringers” program and gladly released this fish.
One of the best parts was that it qualified as a Speckled Truth Citation fish for Texas. I received my sticker today, and am currently planning on how to make a picture frame to commemorate the catch.
We finished the day catching a few smaller fish and a few redfish. A great way to end the trip.
I’m truly thankful that I was able to land such a trophy. It’s very lucky to do so with one day of fishing under fairly tough conditions. Capt Wayne deserves full credit for leading me to this fish, one that I will never forget. Can’t wait to return to the Lower Laguna Madre. Just the opportunity to hook into a 7 lb + trout any given day is an amazing thing.