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As water temperatures fall through the 70s, big speckled trout move in from offshore to feed. These fish are much larger than the juveniles that inhabit local grass flats year-round. The cooler the water the better your chances of catching a speck longer than 20 inches. To target the bigger fish, work areas of the grass bottom less than 3 feet deep. Big fall trout usually prefer shallow water. There are plenty of smaller fish on deeper flats, but the "gators" seldom are found with them. If you are catching lots of 12-inchers, you are probably in the wrong place.

Quietly position your boat up-wind of a large area of shallow grass, preferably with occasional sandy patches or broken bottom. Drift across making long casts in different directions. If you catch a decent-size fish or miss one, slip an anchor over and try a few more casts, then continue drifting. Jumbo trout are loners, so it is essential to keep moving.

Artificial baits work best since they allow you to cover the most water in the least time. My favorite is the soft plastic jerkbait. When rigged Texas-style on an unweighted worm hook, this lure has a subtle action that the big trout find irresistible. Baitfish with colors such as pearl, silver glitter and gold glitter seem to work best. Topwater plugs also are effective, particularly early in the morning or on overcast days.

Light line such as 6- or 8-pound test will allow you to make longer casts and is usually adequate for the trout and redfish found in these areas. A 2-foot leader of 12- or 15-pound test will prevent break-offs but can be eliminated if the fish are finicky.

_ Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (813) 944-3474.