Two Must-Fish Baits For Redfish
Part of what makes the redfish so popular is their affinity to bite. They're generally a willing predator, making them a favorite target for inshore anglers no matter where they live. From the Gulf Coast and north to the Atlantic, redfish have the hearts of many anglers due to their hard fighting ways. Texas Capt. Brett Sweeny of Matagorda and Ken Craig of Florida's Nature Coast make their living because of the species and catch redfish with a plethora of different artificial lures, but each has one that they never leave at the dock.
Captain Brett Sweeny | Owner of Brett Sweeny's Guide Service, Matagorda, TX
Captain Brett Sweeny of Matagorda, Texas, guides over 200 days each year, focusing on wade fishing for trophy trout and inshore redfish. Redfish are a popular target and he says there is one lure that produces fish for him when fishing redfish tournaments up and down the Texas coast and also for his clients throughout the year: a paddle tail swimbait.
"It's foolproof and always works for redfish around here," he says. "No matter what the skill level of my client is, it works because it's so simple to fish and catches fish year round. There's no wrong way to fish it; throw it out and reel it back in."
Most of the time, Sweeny will have three rods rigged up at all times and two of them will be swimbaits because of how well they work. He's a fan of the 3 ¾" MirrOlure Marsh Minnow swimbait on a ¼-ounce jighead.
"That combination gives you long and accurate casts when you see fish, but it also works blind casting to areas the fish are using," says Sweeny. "During low tide, redfish like to get in the ditches and the swimbait is perfect for fishing these areas. I'm always searching for the ditches and pinch points and places the fish can pull up on flats to feed."
For colors, he also keeps it simple with some tried and true hues that perform day in and day out. The sun is the most significant factor for deciding which color to tie on.
"The brighter the skies, the brighter the bait," he shares. "I like pearl white when the sun is out and go with something with a darker back when fishing on overcast days or during lowlight conditions. The water isn't very clear here in most places, so it needs to be something that will stand out a little bit."
Sweeny prefers 6'9" medium heavy Waterloo Power Mag rods paired with a 7.3:1 13 Fishing Concept C2 baitcast reel spooled with 30 to 40 lb. Seaguar TactX braided line without a fluorocarbon leader.
"The 30 lb. casts a little better, but sometimes you have to go to 40 lb. when fishing around those gnarly shell beds," he says. "TactX casts great, holds up very well and has great abrasion resistance. The camouflage color is another big plus and blends right in with the brackish, stained water we fish around here. We don't even need to add a fluorocarbon leader and they still bite it just fine."
Captain Ken Craig | Owner of Ken's Custom Charters, Homosassa Springs, FL
The Classic Weedless Spoon
Fishing lures for all species come and go in waves and trends, but some remain for decades. One timeless lure is the weedless gold spoon. It was once a very popular freshwater bass lure for fishing aquatic vegetation but it has remained a top lure for the inshore saltwater anglers. Captain Ken Craig of Ken's Custom Charters in Homosassa Springs, Florida, believes the spoon is an underrated lure.
"It's year round and versatile," he said. "You can use the cheapest version you find at Wal-Mart or go and get the best quality spoon money can buy with 24kt gold plating and they all work great. There's something about that flash and action that gets a reaction from big redfish."
Fishing the spoon is simple and Craig slowly retrieves it so it gently rocks, walking and flashing near the surface to entice redfish.
"Keep your rod tip high and just make sure it doesn't start to spin," he shares. "It will walk right under the surface and cause a reaction strike. During the colder months, the fish will stay right on the bottom to stay warm and you can also bounce it off oyster beds and hard bottoms to make some noise to get their attention."
Capt. Craig prefers spinning tackle for fishing the spoon; a 7'6" medium Bull Bay Rod paired with a 2500-sized Shimano spinning reel. Braided line is a must and he prefers a 10 lb. braided line with a leader of 25 lb. Gold Label leader material.
"The light braid is crucial for making long casts to spooky fish," he shares. "Our water here is so clear that my clients often say it feels like we are floating in an aquarium. So getting the bait away from the boat is very important because the fish know when you are getting too close."
The gin clear water near Homosassa Springs and Crystal River is unique and produces big redfish, with many over 30 inches long and trophy fish up to 37 inches. In the past, using a heavy 30 or 40 lb. monofilament line was common due to the size of the redfish and snook living here.
"Gold Label is so thin and makes small, tight knots, and you get more bites," he says. "We all used to use monofilament for abrasion reasons from these bigger fish, but Gold Label has outperformed it in every way because it's thinner and stronger. Almost every Captain in my circle has switched over to it because of how well it performs in our waters."
Redfish are a top species for the coastal crowd from Texas to Florida. They grow big and fight hard and keep anglers coming back for more. According to two popular inshore guides, they will bite many lures, but a paddle tail swimbait and weedless spoon are must-haves for any redfish angler.
Seaguar TactX Camo Braid is available in 10 to 80 lb. test on 150 and 300 yard spools.
Seaguar Gold Label fluorocarbon leader is available in 25-yard spools in 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 & 12 lb. test for fresh water use, complementing the 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 80 lb. test leaders available for saltwater.