When I first spoke to Captain Matt Chipperfield from Jacksonville, FL, I told him my goal was to catch a 27″ or larger trout in FL. And his response was “I usually tell my clients that it should take no more than three trips to put them on one of that size”, a pretty bold statement but Matt is a true scholar of big speckled trout and their behaviors and patterns. Our first trip together was a little slow, with a few topwater redfish and one decent trout, maybe 19 or 20 inches. I learned a lot, and we had a good time fishing, even if the catching was slow. Our second trip was also fairly uneventful, but not for lack of trying. It was a day where the fish weren’t actively feeding, so despite Matt’s best efforts and me making 10,000 casts, we only had a few fish to show. That’s fishing, no matter what you see on Instagram. After this trip, I asked Matt to set aside an optimal day for me in the early spring, aka Trout Prime Time.
Fast forward, and I asked Matt to be a speaker at our inaugural Cast It Forward fundraiser for Release Over 20 last February. Matt’s talk was awesome, and can be watched here. There is a lot more to say about that, but in a nutshell, Matt was invited to be a guest on Flats Class TV with CA Richardson as a result of his speaking engagement at this event. The resulting episode “Trout Sensei” can be viewed here. Super rewarding to see all that go down! At the event, Matt suggested a date for our trip in March.
As the date approached, it turned out I had a business trip to Jax about 2 weeks before the date. I had planned to finish up midday so I asked Matt if he was available for a last minute bonus trip. As luck would have it, he was – but the weather was pretty bad. It was downpouring all morning with thunderstorms. Looking at the radar, we pushed our launch time from 1 to 2 to 3pm. I met Matt at the landing just as the last of the raindrops were falling and the front pushed through. Conditions were perfect. Overcast, dark and dreary with a slight breeze. If you are a speckled trout junky like me, you know what I’m talking about.
We launched and you could hear the excitement in Matt’s voice as he observed the wildlife activity and pointed out redfish crushing bait in the shallows – pretty cool, but not our target. As we motored to his chosen bank, we saw tons of activity above and below the water.
Throwing a Mirrolure MR17, I fan-casted the area and it wasn’t long before I got a nice thump and the first Release Over 20 speck came boat side. That was followed by a few other nice, but smaller trout. As Matt pushed along the bank, I made a long cast and started working the lure with an erratic cadence – and then it happened…
It looked like someone dropped a bathtub in the water. A huge swirl and in surprise I pulled the lure away, but no matter – the big girl crushed it. “That’s the one. Take it all in and enjoy the experience”, said Matt. After several drag pulling runs and a lot of praying for her not to come undone, an absolutely giant trout appeared. Matt said it might be over 30…what?? We landed her and collectively freaked out. Wow, what a fish! She measured out at 29″ and 9 lbs. We carefully handled her and released her back to be caught again. I’m not sure I’ll ever catch a giant like that again. To be honest, I’m still shaking.
We followed her up with another Release Over 20 trout, I was lucky to catch three that day. That was a nice bonus, but after the 29, my year was made – hell, maybe my angling career was made.
You might be wondering why I’m writing a blog post on the Eye Strike website while we were fishing Mirrolures, and the truth is, we use what is the best for the conditions. In fact, Matt often uses Eye Strike jigs under a cork here if the conditions are right for it.
With this fish, I now have two states (TX and FL) toward my goal of getting a 27″+ trout in as many states as possible. I’m really stoked about that!
If you’re ever in Jacksonville, FL. Look up Captain Matt Chipperfield at Chips Coastal Charters. Your may not get a giant on your first trip, but he wasn’t lying. This fish came on Trip #3. Well done Captain, well done…
Part 2 coming soon…