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Best Spotted Sea Trout Baits: A Complete Guide

Found in rivers, bays, estuaries, and coastal flats, the Spotted Sea Trout range from New York down to Northern Mexico, although, you are lucky if you see one north of Virginia. You can catch Spotted Sea Trout on medium spinning tackle using live or artificial bait. 

person holding speckled trout

The fish eat crabs, shrimp, and smaller fish, hunt in schools, and average 15 to 25 inches and up to four pounds.

Occasionally, you can catch a Spotted Sea Trout over two feet and ten pounds. When feeding, they strike constantly.  The following are the best bait for Spotted/Speckled Sea Trout.

Live Shrimp

Spotted Sea Trout love shrimp. Virtually no matter how you fish a shrimp, you can entice a Spotted Sea Trout to strike.

person holding shrimp for bait

Some of the most popular methods are to freeline, fish the shrimp under a popping float or on a jig head. Slip floats are also very popular if you are fishing in deeper water. 

The fish will hunt in shallow water when feeding. Free lining works best when fishing an estuary that opens into fairly shallow flats in a bay.


Pinfish are popular and prolific along the East Coast of the USA, through the Florida Keys, and across the Gulf of Mexico.

multiple pinfish in a bucket

Their abundance and hardiness make them a “go-to” baitfish for many anglers. Just hook them through the top of the head, but I highly recommend a smaller size hook. Target structures, including buoys, docks, and natural outcroppings.

Finding pinfish should not be an issue. Virtually every bait and tackle shop in Spotted Sea Trout territory has them. You also can trap your own.


Minnows are the second favorite of Spotted Sea Trout, after shrimp, but occasionally, the shrimp are nowhere to be found.

minnows in a bait bucket

You can find minnows at virtually any place that sells live bait, catch your own, or order frozen minnows online. 

Dropping and suspending minnows as well as free lining them into creeks, rivers, flats, or structures are the best methods. If you are fishing with dead minnows, hanging them under a float and drifting works best.


Berkley Gulp baits should technically be labeled as fish magnets. A Berkely bait can catch just about anything if the fish are biting.

person holding a package of Gulp! bait

For Spotted Sea Trout, any minnow or shrimp saltwater bait will be effective. Their baits are stinky, but fish love them.

You can hang a Berkley Gulp bait off a float or free line it. If you are targeting Sea Trout, Gulp baits attract just about every fish, which can tie your fishing time up.

Cut Bait

Dead and cut bait can be just as effective with Spotted Sea Trout as live if the fish are feeding. They are not picky eaters.

saltwater catfish on a fishing line

Catfish or smaller baitfish make great dead and cut bait. The key is to trim the bait so it looks somewhat natural and if possible, include a silvery side for reflection.

Drift or drop shot cut bait. If possible, leave enough play in the line to let the current drag the bait. That way, you can cover a lot of territory fairly quickly. 

Finger Mullet

Almost any bait shop will have finger mullet in Spotted Sea Trout territory, mainly because the baitfish is so versatile and popular with anglers.

finger mullet cut up for bait.

Call ahead to make sure there are some left as they tend to go fast. Finger mullets are sleek, easily cast, and perfect for trolling.

Hook them through the head or back. Finger mullets work particularly well when drifting, especially in water four feet deep or less. Drift the bait through schools of fish.

Final Thoughts

Spotted sea trout is a lot of fun to catch. You also will see a lot of different types of water environments because they are so diverse.

The fish are not picky eaters and tend to feed in schools, so presentation is not as important as location, which ranges from flats to river channels. 

You will have to do a little hunting, but any of the baits on this list can land you fish all day.

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