What's hot: Trout is the hot ticket in Pinellas County, seemingly on every clean-water grass flat. Finding clean water will be hard this week, though; the wind will be gusting, which makes for muddy water. Finding clean, clear water also is key in finding gator trout. St. Joseph's Sound is a good area in which to search for gator trout; the water flushes quickly, which keeps it moving and cleansed of mud. Use the wind to drift across the grass, and look into the white, sandy potholes for trout scurrying around.
Tactics: Because grass flats don't have hard structure and trout usually come right to the surface when hooked, I prefer tackle as light as possible to really enjoy the fight, preferably 4- to 10-pound class rod and line, a small spinning reel and a fake shrimp for bait. This time of year shrimp is the best live bait, but it will attract pinfish, puffers and catfish.
Tips: When using fake shrimp, a noisy clicker cork or popping cork helps attract fish toward the noise. It fools them into believing other fish are feeding. If you are a purist and like to feel the bite, free-line a DOA, Z-Man or Berkley Gulp shrimp without a cork. If your drift is successful, return to the beginning and drift on.
Jackie Otto can be reached at Betts Fishing Center at (727) 518-7637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.