Making Waves for Redfish
There are many lures and tactics that will fool a redfish and that's part of what makes them such a popular target. They're aggressive, have incredible strength, and hold the hearts of anglers throughout their range − the marshes and coastal environments from North Carolina to Texas. Some of the most popular baits and lures have been catching redfish for years, with spoons, swimbaits, jigs, and live bait being popular choices.
Another exciting and relatively new option is fishing a wake bait, according to a well-known guide and accomplished redfish tournament angler, Capt. Mike Frenette of Venice, Louisiana's Redfish Lodge of Louisiana.
Capt. Mike Frenette
An Emerging Trend – Wake Baits for Redfish
It's not a complete secret, but fishing wake baits for redfish is slowly gaining steam. Frenette has seen their power and knows they are ideally suited for redfish when the conditions align.
"Guys are starting to figure it out and it's becoming a trend in the inshore world," says Frenette. "The cool thing is that it's excellent for redfish, but trout and snook will hit them, too. It's just now becoming known as a good way to catch them, and there are times when it's the best way to get them to bite."
He utilizes a Strike King HC KVD 2.5 Wake Bait, a bait with the same square bill crankbait profile that's extremely popular in the freshwater bass fishing world. The difference is a bill angled to keep the lure bulging the surface and "waking" to entice redfish.
Fishing the Wake Bait
Most of the time, Frenette is sight casting a wake bait. It's a highly visual technique and the bait's action is well-suited for cruising redfish.
"It works so well because it has the perfect 'wiggle, wiggle' action on the surface and looks like a wounded fish," he says. "It's not the best bait for covering water because you fish it slowly, but it's perfect for casting to fish you can see. They cast exceptionally well and accurately, and I'll cast them past the fish and work it right towards them. You don't have to move it very fast to get their attention, and a slow and steady retrieve is all you need."
The wake bait is the best tool for these fish because it can stay in the proper position longer than other baits, according to Frenette.
"If you cast a jig to these fish, it will fall into the grass," he says. "A gold spoon is great, but it's harder to keep it in front of them to get their attention because it will sink if you move it too slowly. It's much easier to cast a wake bait to the fish and work it right towards the fish. The wake creates a ‘V’ several yards behind the bait as it pushes water. A redfish sees it as food and has to kill it."
Wake Bait Gear
Many redfish anglers prefer spinning tackle for inshore saltwater species, but Frenette opts for baitcasting gear for his wake bait needs. His rod and reel choice is his signature series 7-foot medium Duckett Fishing Salt Series rod with a Lew's Custom Inshore SLP reel.
"I feel like I'm much more accurate casting with a baitcast reel and that's very important when sight casting to redfish," he says. "The rod I designed has a soft tip, like a topwater rod. Another key when fishing these baits is the hookset; you don't want to set the hook with these baits. Slowly lean away from the fish and let your line tighten and get the rod load to up."
For line, Frenette opts for 30 to 50 lb. Seaguar TactX braided line, a strong and excellent casting braid with a "pebble" texture that helps cut through vegetation better. He varies his size based on how much grass is present and bumps up to 50 lb. for the thickest vegetation.
"It's very strong, casts great and slices through vegetation very well," he says. "Once you hook the fish, they immediately dive into the grass, which can get very heavy with a big fish. A braid like TactX that cuts through grass better helps you land more of those fish."
Timing and Finding the Bite
Fishing a wake bait can be done any time of the year, but Frenette says it shines from late summer to January. But, it's highly dependent on water clarity.
"It can work at all times, but water color is critical," he says. "The fish are more responsive to it in clear water and for us in Louisiana, it starts to clear up in August and stays that way until January. That's true no matter where you fish for redfish, and if the water is relatively clear, a wake bait will do well."
Frenette looks for key areas where redfish congregate to feed when fishing wake baits. High-percentage areas are always his first place to look, but he also focuses on grassy ponds in the marshes as the water cools.
"Some of the best places to start are 100 yards to the left or right of any drain that comes into the marsh where the water is moving," says Frenette. "They'll generally be 10 yards from the shoreline, and if they are up there, they're there to feed."
He also looks for how the fish act, especially when the tide moves. As redfish search to feed, they get into hunting mode and are prime targets for a wake bait.
"We call it 'floating,' and the fish start to swim along the shallow grass," says Frenette. "They are moving very slowly near the surface and looking to feed. The falling tide usually gets them going, but it can also be slack tide right when it starts to fall. Incoming is generally not as productive and doesn't get them to move as much as an outgoing tide."
Fishing a wake bait for redfish is an exciting way to entice surface bites from these aggressive fish. The baits are straightforward to fish and make for an excellent option for sight casting to cruising fish. More and more anglers are learning the power of the slow and bulging action near the surface.
Seaguar TactX Braid comes with a 5-yard Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader in each box. It is available from 10 to 80 lb. test on 150- and 300-yard spools.