Finding the “X” isn’t just for pirates. Anglers are looking for it, too, that little known and hard to find location that holds the key to consistently catching quality speckled trout at jetty systems on the Gulf Coast.

 The location of the “X,” from early to mid summer, often is a “washout.” These are the places in granite monoliths where water flows from the channel to the Gulf side and vice versa. They’re not to be confused with the boat cuts used for navigation, but are spots where erosion has taken its toll and compromised the structure.

While speckled trout are known as schooling predators that corral, surround and attack schools of baitfish, the very biggest trout behave differently. At jetties in particular, they body up around washouts to ambush mullet, menhaden, glass minnows, croaker and other finfish that are pushed through the holes in the rocks. The washouts act as an ongoing seafood buffet that draws in trout like no other jetty location.

The best washouts are where holes have eroded through the entire jetty wall and allow enough flow to be seen easily by the naked eye and scouted by online sources like Google maps.

As boats move through, the water flows through the rocks and pushes out the smaller baitfish with ease and creates new travel corridors for larger ones.

Trout tend to body up beginning a few feet down current of the flow, which allows them easy access to the baitfish as it passes through. The easiest way to fish these spots is to position the boat parallel to the rocks so you can cover a lot of water. Make pattern casts past the washout starting tight to the rocks at 12 o’clock and moving out to about four o’clock, and then repeat.

Early in the morning, throw topwaters like the Badonk-A-Donk worked with a quick retrieve to search out bites. If the topwater bite fades as the sun rises, switch over to a Badonk-A-Donk SS to get below the surface. Slow-sinking plugs are underutilized at jetties because most anglers have a hard time fishing them in the current. The key is to let the lure sink naturally with the flow and give it very little action. Most of the time, trout will hit the lure on the fall and as it washes away from the rocks through the flow of the washout. This makes it appear like a dying baitfish slowing sinking toward the bottom.

Another good method involves using two rods with different lures and preferably with a partner. One angler rigs up with a topwater and the other with a soft plastic like a Mud Minnow paddle tail on a jighead. This lure effectively mimics many of the baitfish that inhabits these areas and keys in on a very important aspect of big trout behavior. Trout start losing their hunger for shrimp when they reach 20 inches or so, and while they will eat them throughout their life, the bulk of their food at this stage and beyond is finfish.

One angler should work the topwater and another have the Mud Minnow paddle tail on standby. If the angler using the topwater gets a blowup but no commitment, immediately throw the plastic right behind it. Trout that are willing to strike at a surface lure are usually willing to take a plastic presented immediately thereafter, especially around these washouts.

Another option for targeting washout trout is direct casting.

This involves pitching or flipping a soft plastic right to the hot spot just down current of the washout or right on top of it and letting the lure simply go with the flow. As mentioned earlier, trout usually hit slow-sinking hard baits on the fall and if you use light jigheads (1/8-ounce is optimal) you get a similar effect here with a simple soft plastic.

A more unusual method involves flipping a chugging style topwater like an A-Salt Popper out about 10 feet directly at the hole in the rocks. Chug it a couple of times and then let it flow back a few feet. Chug again and then repeat process.

More-extreme types of washouts can be found where current has formed trenches in the Gulf’s floor and allowed the wall to sink a couple of feet. The most common places to find these are around the southern tip of jetties or boating cuts where there is constant water flow. The sinking of the wall creates gaps that allow for cross-tidal flow and produces a lot of wave action over rocks submerged near the surface.

These tend to be less consistent than standard washouts, but at times they hold big trout. The key here is to use electronics to look for rock outcroppings below the surface. Look for big fish positioned on the down-current side of the rocks, especially those holding super tight to one particular piece. While jetties provided literally millions of rocks to bond to, trout can be territorial and this is what tends to happen in these more extreme cases of washouts.

The same methods mentioned above will work here, but for some unknown reason the trout tend to be more finicky in terms of what size and color lures they prefer. This is especially true for plastics and sub-surface plugs, so bring a good variety that closely represent the predominant prey base (i.e. menhaden) and patterns like black/chartreuse that create a strong silhouette when water conditions are less than favorable.

With powerful currents and shipping traffic, the water clarity at jetties can change quickly so be prepared for anything. There are many trout around jetty washouts but anglers need to be prepared with not only solid tactics but specific gear.

Target washouts the next time you fish the jetties and learn for yourself that some of the biggest trout on the Gulf Coast dwell there amongst the rocks and tidal flow.

The conditions are extreme and the tactics a little offbeat, but the rewards are there for anglers willing to think outside the box and take up the challenge of the rocks.