Drifting across the clear, shallow flat, we found an angler’s dream: a huge school of redfish plowing into frantic mullet. Every cast was met with a solid thud and a 25- to 30-inch red rocketing across the sandy bottom. It didn’t matter what bait or redfish lure we tied on — a topwater, swimbait or spoon — it was going to get whacked.
Redfish eat just about anything that will fit in their mouth when hungry. Regardless of their size, redfish hit a variety of artificial baits, from an inch-long fly to a magnum topwater plug.
- Artificial Shrimp
- Artificial Crab
Topwater Lures for Redfish
Topping the list of the 10 best redfish lures is a topwater plug, which takes reds over shell reefs in open bays, along jetties and in the surf. Topwaters like the Heddon Super Spook Jr. drive redfish crazy with its side-to-side action. One of the most entertaining days of redfishing I’ve ever had was out of Venice, Louisiana, with guide Bobby Warren. We left the marina at daylight and headed to an area known as the Wagon Wheel. We clearly saw the wakes of big reds that were feeding on the shallow mud flat in the incoming tide. I made a long, arching cast, and on the first twitch of the chrome-and-blue plug, the water exploded.
It was game on with 20- to 30-inch reds on just about every cast. I’ve caught reds from Mexico to South Carolina and can say from some pretty salty experience that topwaters will catch reds about anywhere you find them. The top colors are chrome-and-blue, spectrum and bone-and-silver. Tie this lure to your line with a loop knot, which facilitates the walk-the-dog action.
Another good option for topwater reds: the Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow. “The Jumpin’ Minnow comes in two sizes,” says Capt. Jerry Norris, who charters on Sabine Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border. “I prefer the 4½-inch model because it more closely resembles a big, panicked mullet. I’ll add a pinch of lead to the rear treble so the tail sinks for better action and more bites. The bone color is good just about any time. But in stained water or in overcast conditions, reds seem to prefer copper-and-orange.”
SUPER SPOOK JR.
Heddon Super Spook Jr.
This topwater walker is often imitated but hardly duplicated, the irresistible side-to-side action and clicking noise of this 31⁄2-inch surface walker draw aggressive strikes from redfish, no matter the location or time of year. The junior-size Spook casts extremely well, comes in a range of color patterns, and is particularly effective in areas where baitfish of similar size are prevalent.
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Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow
This slender topwater walker zigzags and occasionally skips across the surface, simulating a fleeing baitfish. It incorporates a loud, old-style lead rattle to help beckon hungry redfish from afar.
Subsurface Redfish Lures
Next is the Cotton Cordell Jointed Red Fin, a lure I first used two decades ago while fishing the Chandeleur Islands out of Biloxi, Mississippi, with Mike Barnes and Victor Randazzo. One afternoon we slipped up on a school of reds in the surf off Curlew Island. Armed with 5-inch Jointed Red Fins in gold-and-black and gold-and-orange, we cast and popped the lure hard so that it would dive like a baitfish, then slowly resurface. It was a killer fishing technique for redfish, one that thousands of fishermen quickly tapped into. This is a noisy lure when worked on a jerk-jerk-jerk retrieve. Reds hear the commotion, move in, see the lure, and it’s over. A Jointed Red Fin has a small lip that makes it swim just under the surface on a slow but steady retrieve. This is an excellent winter and late spring retrieve to use when reds are sluggish from the cold water.
Cotton Corden Jointed Red Fin
The shallow-running swimmer is most effective when you alternate twitches with steady cranking to mimic a hurt, floundering baitfish. Its segmented body adds to the lure’s natural swimming action.
Spoon Lures for Redfish
The second all-time greatest redfish lure has to be the ¼-ounce Johnson Silver Minnow spoon in gold or copper. The late Rudy Grigar, aka “The Plugger,” was regarded as one of the very best fishermen along the Gulf Coast. “Best lure ever made,” he said of this weedless spoon. “If you can’t catch a stringer of reds and trout on these spoons, you need to quit fishing.” The Johnson spoon is still a favorite. The ½-ounce size works best in the surf for longer casts and a faster sink rate. Cast it and bring it back with a medium-fast retrieve. The flash of this lure is too much for a hungry red to resist.
Johnson Silver Minnow
Vastly popular among redfish anglers, Johnson’s venerable gold weedless spoon is a superb choice to target reds in grassy or patchy bottom, but it’s also often a favorite around oyster beds and other structure.
Soft Plastic Shrimp for Redfish
A lineup of the best artificial baits for redfish wouldn’t be complete without a soft-plastic shrimp. The D.O.A Shrimp, Z-Man EZ ShrimpZ, and LiveTarget Rigged Shrimp are the cream of the crop. Not only is it a lifelike facsimile of the crustacean, it also incorporates a small rattle inside that makes a subtle clicking noise redfish associate with their natural forage. The LiveTarget shrimp comes in 3- and 4-inch sizes, weighing ¼ ounce and ½ ounce, respectively, and is available in 10 color schemes. The white shrimp, brown shrimp and the grass shrimp are popular favorites throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic coasts.
LiveTarget Rigged Shrimp
This realistic crustacean imitation incorporates a small rattle to help reds zero in. Tie it straight to your line, or fish it under a popping cork.
Soft Plastic Crabs for Redfish
One of the best soft baits for redfish that no one talks about is the artificial crab. The crustacean imitator is a great option when red drum are eating blue crabs and smaller local brown-colored crabs. Drum are crab eaters to the core, often slurping a tasty crab when they won’t eat anything else. Z-Man offers a realistic, sideways swimming Kicker CrabZ, that’s easy to rig on a weighted worm hook or jig head. Instead of a paddle tail, the Kicker CrabZ trails a single claw that produces plenty of vibrating motion. The CrabZ can be rigged to swim at the surface, along the bottom, or all the depths in between. An abundance of color options are available.
Z-Man Kicker CrabZ
Designed with little beady crab eyes, wiggling legs and a trailing claw, the Z-Man Kicker CrabZ is worth tying on. Plus, with a keeled belly, the bait won’t spin in the water. Rig weedless in a number of configurations — in fact, take a page from the bass angler’s playbook in how they rig their creature baits.
Best Swimbaits for Redfish
Next on the redfish-magnet hit parade is the Egret Wedgetail Mullet , a soft-plastic swimbait that’s evolved into a redfish killer along the Texas coast. It too is simple to use. The 5½-inch Wedgetail resembles a swimming mullet. Not only does it look like the real deal, the wedge on the tail kicks out a lot of vibration, and it’s perfect for fishing shallow flats with a medium retrieve. The best colors are Limeade and White Diamond.
The 3½-inch Yum Money Minnow is another excellent soft-plastic swimbait with a vibrating tail. Rigged on a 1/8-ounce jig head, this lure can be fished on 1- to 3-foot-deep flats on a steady retrieve. For deeper water along jetties, bayous and the surf, go with a ¼-ounce jig head. The best color schemes are pearl-and-chartreuse and Clown.
Other swimbaits definitely worth trying are the Z-Man HerculeZ, D.O.A Bait Buster, Storm Largo Shad, and Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet.
Egret Wedgetail Mullet
As the name implies, the wedge on the tail of this soft-plastic swimbait creates enticing kicking and vibration. It works best rigged on a jig head or a swimbait hook.
Yum Money Minnow
The paddle tail of this soft-plastic swimbait produces a tight swimming action. The hollow body adds buoyancy and allows better hook penetration for solid hookups.
Best Jerkbaits for Redfish
Jerk- or twitchbaits are reaction lures that are very good at getting the attention of prowling redfish. Lately, Z-Man DarterZ and MirrOlure Lil’ John twitchbaits have come on strong as top soft plastics for clear flats. This bait is best fished on a light spinning rig and 12-pound line. When the lure is twitched, the darting action draws strikes from reds that aren’t even hungry. It’s an ideal lure to rig on a super lightweight 1⁄16- or 1⁄32-ounce jig head that allows you to twitch the bait and let it flutter down, which is when most of the strikes occur.
There is no way to talk about great redfish lures without mentioning the Berkley Gulp! Saltwater lineup. “These lures catch reds in just about any situation, whether in murky or clear water,” says Capt. Ron Arlitt of Port O’Connor on the middle Texas coast. “They’re designed to bridge the gap between an artificial and a live bait. One that really performs on just about any given day is the Jerk Shad in New Penny color. In really shallow water, I’ll rig them on 1⁄16-ounce jig heads. Along the jetties or in the surf, I’ll go with a heavier ¼-ounce head for the faster sink rate.”
MirrOlure Lil’ John
The darting action, flashy finish and built-in scent of this scented soft-plastic twitchbait make this a sexy choice in a variety of situations, but at just 3 3⁄4 inches in length, it’s particularly good when the reds are skittish.
Gulp! Saltwater Jerk Shad
The scent of this soft-plastic jerkbait leads reds right to it. The suppleness makes them think it’s live prey. The soft feel makes them hold on to it. Use a jig head or an unweighted hook to cover different depths.
Best Spinnerbaits for Redfish
Rounding out the 10 best redfish lures is a spinnerbait. One of the finest days I’ve ever had catching redfish was out of Venice, Louisiana, with professional angler Bobby Murray. We pitched ¼-ounce spinnerbaits into pockets of cane and caught reds all day. It was explosive fishing at its very finest. Since that day, I’ve used spinnerbaits all along the Gulf Coast. They perform best in murky water, like in the Calcasieu and Sabine lakes. The thump of the spinner, the flash of the blade and the action of the tail are a combination that reds like to attack. A few of my favorites are the Z-Man Chatterbait, Strike King Redfish Magic and Bass Assassin Red Daddy.
Bass Assassin Red Daddy
The great looks and natural action of the jig and paddle tail, combined with the flash and vibration of the blade, make this spinnerbait a versatile search lure.
Editor’s Note: What other redfish lures should we include on the list? The lures outlined above are mostly time-tested baits, but we understand new lures are regularly entering the market that definitely catch red drum. Have any new favorites?