With the first day of spring approaching quickly, I’ve already started making preparations for redfish to return to the shallow marshy waters here along the Texas coast. I’ve enjoyed winter trout fishing as much as the next guy, but for me nothing beats stalking reds through a foot of muddy water on a bright sunny day. It’s a style of fishing that requires great patience and the ability to make accurate casts that I have come to enjoy more than any other. While spring tends to bring unfavorable winds that can be torture to the weekend kayaker, it also brings warmer weather and an abundance of bait. It’s a time of the year that many anglers welcome with open arms.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been going through my gear to see what tackle needs to be transferred from storage to the kayak. With so many choices between soft plastics, twitch baits, topwaters, spoons, crankbaits, and numerous other lures, deciding what to bring is always a tough choice. Like most people, I have a few favorites that I never leave home without during the warmer months. Each one serves a specific purpose depending on the area or type of structure I’m fishing along with what the fish seem to want on that particular day. They are lures I have used in the past with great success and as a result I have developed great confidence in each of them. That confidence is the main reason they work so well for me. When I tie one on, I know that it’s capable of producing and expect it to catch fish. Listed below are those five lures and the reasons why I never fish the marsh without them.
1. Gulp and a Popping Cork
A tried and true method that has been proven to catch redfish, Gulp under a popping cork is a great way to bring the fish to you. The chugging noise created by the cork after a solid pull on your rod produces the same sound and splash a redfish makes while feeding. When nearby fish hear this, they head towards the cork and the scent from the Gulp takes care of the rest. It is a very versatile bait that casts well in the wind and allows you to fish different depths of the water depending on the length you make your leader. It works well when fished along grassy shorelines and marsh drains, but really excels when used over or around shallow clumps of oyster.
Midcoast Products makes a great popping cork called the Evolution that I like to use. It’s a very durable cork made with a stainless steel wire that can withstand the abuse from several dozen redfish before needing to be replaced. I like to use a 1/16th ounce jighead so that after each pull on the rod, the gulp falls at a nice slow pace similar to injured or dying bait. I won my first redfish tournament using the Evolution paired with a Gulp pogy to catch both of my fish. The versatility and effectiveness of this combo makes it a must have in your tackle box.
2. MirrOLure She Dog
When it comes to fishing, everyone loves a good topwater bite. What makes it even more exciting is the ability to see that big wake appear behind your lure before the fish explodes on to your bait. While the hookup ratio may not always be great, the thrill of multiple attacks in a single cast is enough to keep most of us from switching lures. While it’s a fun bait to throw, it is also a great lure when fishing near oyster and grass that lies just below the surface. Its ability to stay on top of the water allows you to fish it in areas where underwater grass and shell tend to be a problem for other lures. The walk the dog movement can be retrieved at different speeds and does a great job of imitating an injured baitfish. The noise from the rattles and small splashes made are great ways to help fish locate your bait. I like to keep a topwater tied to one of my rods on most trips. I may not use it every time out, but like to have one available if the opportunity presents itself.
I’ve experimented with a dozen brands of topwaters and the one that I’ve had the most success with is the MirrOLure She Dog. It’s conveniently priced and comes in two additional sizes. I normally use the She Dog (4 inches) but will switch to a She Pup (3.5 inches) if I’m getting lots of short strikes. There is also a He Dog (4.75 inches) that works well on windy days when the water gets choppy. The high frequency rattles do a great job of enticing fish to eat on really slow days.
3. Buggs Lures
One of my favorite things about kayak fishing is the ability to go where most others can’t. Paddling through water that’s less than a foot deep in search of skinny water reds has become my favorite way of fishing. While finding tailing or backing reds in the spring is exciting, it can also be down right frustrating at times. Most of these fish have spent the last few months in slightly deeper areas so it takes them a month or two before they become more comfortable with the shallow water lifestyle again. Splashes from larger baits can easily spook fish making it difficult to convince one to eat of many days. I used soft plastics for a while before discovering Buggs Lures. These lightweight lures are made locally in the Houston area and tied like flies using a special jighead that always lands with the hook facing up. They are one of the softest landing baits I have found making them perfect for shallow water reds. The bunny fur used on these lures undulates with the movement of the water while waiting to be found giving it life like qualities. It usually requires just a few small twitches or a slow drag across a muddy bottom and redfish are all over it.
My favorite Bugg is a Beastie Bugg in the 1/4-ounce size. The 1/8-ounce size is great on days with little or no wind while the 3/8-ounce is good for windy days or while fishing deeper areas. As far as sight casting baits go, it is always my first choice.
4. Chicken Boy Shrimp
Soft plastics are baits that I carry with me year round. The brand, size, and style may change from season to season, but some form of soft plastic is always available on my kayak. While I don’t use them much in the winter, Chicken Boy Shrimp have become my favorite soft plastic to use during the spring, summer, and fall. Another locally produced bait from the Houston area, this bait works well when redfish are keyed in on shrimp. It is a very durable soft plastics capable of withstanding multiple fish before needing to be switched out. They work well when bounced along the bottom or reeled in at a steady pace. On a windy day when I’m having trouble accurately casting a Bugg, this becomes my sight-casting lure paired with a 1/6th ounce jighead. If I were only allowed one soft plastic to use year round, this would be my top choice.
5. Manns 1-Minus Crankbait
The Manns 1-Minus is the best subsurface search bait I have found for fishing shallow water. At top speed this bait will dive to a maximum depth of 1 foot and if reeled at a slower pace will only dive an inch or two deep. The advantage here is that you can still fish below the surface but do not have to worry about hanging up on grass or shell bottoms. It puts off great vibrations and allows me to quickly cover a small marsh lake or cove thoroughly in a matter of minutes. It’s also a great bait for beginners or children because all it requires is a steady retrieve at the speed of your choice. I have purchased several of these crankbaits in the past and all have come with freshwater hooks that will require changing. Once the hooks have been exchanged, these little guys are ready to go and redfish will crush them.
These five lures are proven winners in my book. With them, I feel like I’m prepared for any situation that could possibly arise while chasing reds during the spring season. I’m always open to trying new lures, but will carry these five with me at all times over the next several months.