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FIVE Essential Redfish Lures: Catch redfish statewide with these five go-to baits.

If you were asked to name one fish that inhabits inshore waters around the state, you'd most likely say redfish. From Escambia County to Nassau County, and just about every place on the coast in between, redfish can be caught. Some reds are found shallow, some found deep, some in the backwater, and some on the beach. Baitfish and crustaceans may vary from place to place, but establishing a baseline of productive lures will put more redfish in the boat, no matter where you are. These are lures that stay in the box at all times, usually in multiples--different sizes, colors. It's always fun to experiment, but it's hard to beat a "confidence" bait that you know produces.


WHEN Topwaters are killer when redfish are active. This is a go-to bait for guys in the early morning and late evening, when reds are more alert and active than in the midday sun. You can make long casts with these plugs, which allows you to cover more water during these windows of lower light, when sight-fishing is out of the picture. Tip: Work the lure with your rodtip down; when you get an eat, be sure to feel the pressure before setting the hook. Since their mouth is on the bottom of their head, redfish can have a hard time getting a plug on the first swing. Don't jump the gun and rip it away from the fish, keep it moving. Often times the red that rolled up on your topwater bait will eat again. It will definitely test your nerves, too.

WHERE Bait, bait, bait. We get a hard push of mullet on Florida's east coast come fall. These forage fish love to mill on the surface--and a topwater does just that. This works around all types of bait. Work the edges, as if your lure is an injured or frantic bait that got away from the pack, an easy meal in the mind of a redfish. Choke points, structure and easy ambush spots are all great areas for a topwater. Find a mangrove point or dock with current and bait, you'll most likely find a redfish somewhere in the mix.

HOW This is typically the angler's preference, but let the fish dictate how they want it. I like a steady retrieve when fishing with a "walk the dog" style bait, not moving at warp speed, but fast enough to mimic a stressed bait. Although I've had days where they hit it when it's sitting still. Watch what the fish are doing. Are they showering bait all over? Popping here and there? Not doing anything? Try different retrieves until you find the golden ticket.


WHEN Redfish depend heavily on their olfactory system when feeding. Burying their nose in the marl to dig out a crustacean, sniffing their prey out, is often more efficient than using their eyes. It's never a bad idea to throw something with scent in their path when they are doing this. Dirty water is also another perfect time to fish something with some stink to it. Instead of depending on just their lateral line to feel the vibrations of your lure, adding another dynamic can be the difference in a bite or not. Remember this connection during very cold and very hot times of the year, when fish are lethargic. The scented soft bait is a solid tool to have in your box, when needed.

WHERE When rigged weedless, sight-fishing on thick, grass-laden flats, a scented bait can be found by reds, often times when other baits can't. And, if they can't seem to find it, let it sit and allow for that scent to disperse.

While recently fishing the Spartina grass edges in Northeast Florida, a scented bait was ideal. These fish were traversing the edge, but with plenty of spots to snake through these sprigs of grass, hard baits and treble hooks were out of the picture. We needed something that would not snag, and had some scent, making it easier for the fish to find in the dark water. Flipping and pitching a Texas-rigged Gulp! Mud Minnow into the pockets and points (much like bass fishing) was our ticket.

HOW Use the scent to your advantage, working your lure on the slower side, letting it disperse as much as possible. I like a "twitch, twitch, pause" technique for baitfish, and a slow hop and drag for crustacean style baits. Again, it's never a bad idea to let it sit for a few, especially when the fish are being lazy.


WHEN A timeless classic that has probably caught more redfish than any lure out there, there's not many bad times to throw a gold spoon. The vibration and flash that it gives off when wobbling through the water is as enticing as they come. Add that they cast a country mile, and this is perfect recipe for a search bait.

WHERE There's not really a bad place to fish a spoon. Schooling reds found in shallow water have a hard time passing it up, and with a steel weedguard, you won't worry about it hanging up in the grass. Rocky edges or oyster bars can be a death trap for plugs, but the flash and vibration are often hard to beat. Compensate with a spoon, that allow you to dissect these areas without a worry. Bring it across the top of a bar, let it fall off the edge, if it drops into the gauntlet of rip-rap, just reel, it's weedless.

HOW Slow and steady keeps a good wobble in the spoon, just what you want. Let it flutter down to the bottom every once in a while, with a quick twitch of the rod tip and continue the retrieve. Fish will track a lure, looking for the perfect time to pounce, this is it. Avoid a really fast retrieve, they can spin sometimes, twisting up your line. Tip: Add a scented curly tail grub to the end of your spoon and marry both tactics.


WHEN This one's for the fly guys out there. The Kwan pattern--a shrimpy, crabby hybrid streamer--has fooled many redfish in its day (and plenty other species). This fly excels when sight-fishing. Tied with bead chain or lead dumbbell eyes, sink rate varies on your preference, but it's always making its way to the bottom.

WHERE Where do you do a majority of your sight-fishing? In shallow water. Most of the time redfish up in the skinny, especially when tailing, are feeding on crustaceans, whether it be crabs or shrimp. The wide body of a Kwan gives a crabby profile, but the craft fur tail has attributes of a shrimp, an excellent blend of both forages. A weed guard is standard on a fly like this, making it easy to pull through the grass and snags.

There is an exception to fishing this fly in deep water. On an outgoing tide, crabs can be found being swept out of passes and inlets from the backcountry. Usually around the full moon. A weightless Kwan worked with the tide mimics these crabs adrift. Add foam eyes for more buoyancy, if necessary.

HOW Think about what crustaceans do when fleeing a predator. Shrimp typically pop their tails, giving a quick and erratic escape. Very short tick-tick strips match this perfect (my personal favorite.) A spooked crab will run or swim sideways, not nearly as fast as the shrimp. A long, steady strip will keep that fly at a uniform pace. Winter time, when the water is cold, and the fish are lethargic, try a very slow, steady strip, you'll be surprised how it can wake the fish up real quick


WHEN ATTENTION EVERYONE! Did I get your attention? That's pretty much what a popping cork is doing in the water, getting their attention. When do you need to get the fish's attention? Dirty water is at top of that list. A quick "pop" of the cork in the water, the beads and weight will "clack," and fish come to see what the commotion was about. They are then greeted by the soft-plastic of your choice, an easy meal in their eyes.

WHERE This technique thrives on open water flats from two to six feet deep. The weight of your rig makes long casts easy, covering those vast areas. Drifting is the best way to find the fish, always scanning for broken bottom such as grass, potholes and oyster bars; reds favor these areas. The ability to adjust your leader length, knowing exactly how deep your bait is, also adds to the success when fishing these areas.

HOW You can't work a popping cork too slow. You just can't. A quick snap of the rod-tip will make that cork pop, as well as twitch the bait. I will usually pop it two or three times in 10 seconds, then let it sit for 15 seconds, or more. Let the fish hear it and come find it. I like to make sure my bait stays just above the bottom (typically grass) making for an easy ambush. Be sure to watch that cork; fish will quickly grab it and pull it under before you notice. Tip: If the bite is slow, don't be afraid to switch out that soft-plastic to a circle hook and live shrimp.

Caption: Dock on Indian River Lagoon is a good place to throw a top-water plug (or, in this case, a soft-body D.O.A. PT-7).

Caption: Clockwise from above: Berkley Gulp! Mud Minnow; Rapala Skitter Walk Vtopwater; versatile Kwan fly pattern; popping cork and soft plastic shrimp; Johnson Silver Minnow weedless spoon.

Caption: Captain Terry Lacoss fires a long cast into a creek on Amelia island in Northeast Florida. In addition to lures named in the main story, box below has spinnerbait, buzzbait and other bass-style "crossover" lures.
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Author:Roberts, Brenton
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Nov 1, 2018
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