I usually start off fishing for early-spring speckled trout with soft plastic lures on 1/16- to 1/4-ounce jig heads. The determining factors on what size jig head I use will be the current and the depth of water I’m fishing. I want to make sure I can stay in contact with the bottom, as I’m fishing my soft plastics. Sometimes I’ll pop the jig up off the bottom and let it fall back. If a strong current’s running where I’m fishing, I may twitch the jig at about the same speed that the current is running just off the bottom.
If I’m trying to catch a limit of eating-size trout, I like to fish a popping cork up the line. I fish the popping cork in the early spring with a different technique than I fish it in the summer months. The popping cork allows you to suspend a soft plastic bait. If you’re fishing in 4 feet of water in the summer months, you must keep that bait moving, or else the jig will sink to the bottom. But by using a popping cork in the early spring, even if the trout are in a negative mood and not actively feeding, I can set the popping cork, so that the jig runs a few inches off the bottom. I’ll cast the jig out and let the cork carry the jig at the speed of the current, which causes the jig to look very realistic as it moves with the shallow water’s current.
So, even though you’re fishing with a lead head and a soft plastic bait, that bait is moving so slowly that the trout just can't resist it. If you’re at a party, and a waiter walks past you with a platter of hors d’oeuvres, moving quickly, chances are you won't be able to grab one of those hors d’oeuvres. However, if that waiter moves slowly, close to you, you’ll look at those hors d’oeuvres and more than likely say, “I think I’ll grab me one.” That’s exactly what the trout does.
If I’m fishing my home waters and know where the trout should be holding, I’ll start off letting my jig run with the current or reeling it very slowly. If the trout are feeding really aggressively, I’ll reel that jig faster, faster and faster. I’ll usually have an 18-inch leader on the end of my main line. If I’m catching speckled trout on almost every cast, nothing’s more fun than catching speckled trout using a popping cork, a lead-headed jig and a soft plastic grub. I guess there’s enough youngster still left in me that I really enjoy seeing that popping cork sink and then fighting the trout to the boat.