Bass lures expand saltwater arsenal
The morning sun had just climbed out of the marsh grass on the Louisiana shoreline and was straining against the low-hanging clouds in an effort to break the chill of a misting rain. Arlon Douglas clipped off the Assassin eel tied on the end of his seven-foot popping rod and joined me on the front deck. “This sure doesn’t feel like trout fishing,” he said in a dubious tone of voice while tying on a quarter-ounce spinner bait. “You’re not trout fishing.” I reminded him. “At this point, you are fishing for redfish and flounder.”
A stiff southeast wind that cranked it up well before sunrise whistled through the cane directly in our face. Fortunately, the incoming tide had the water stacked up in the grass and longer casts were not necessary.
When his partner, Dale Weiss, caught two rat reds and a keeper flounder on a conventional Sea Shad, Douglas was hard pressed to stick with the spinnerbait. “Why am I throwing a bass bait at saltwater fish while Dale is catching fish on my favorite bait,” he asked.
A 23-inch red answered his question before I was forced to deliver another pep talk. Because we were so close to the shoreline, the fish was quickly under the boat in an all out attempt to gain its freedom.
Arlon managed to run the length of the boat and steer the fish around the big engine to counter that tactic.
By the time we stopped to grab a snack and cold drink, everyone in the boat was fishing a lure designed for bass fishing. More importantly, we had six flounder and three reds in the cooler and had already released twice that many smaller fish. Swim baits, crank baits, and spinnerbaits are finding their way to into more and more saltwater tackle boxes everyday!
While those choices are relatively new options for the saltwater fishermen, trout and redfish anglers have used lures like the Redfin and Rat-L-Trap for years. Easily, the most unlikely addition has been one of the plastic frogs like the Stanley Ribbit or Zoom Horny Toad. The imitation frogs seldom see the light of day when fishing the open lake, but they are deadly on both redfish and big trout when dissecting moss covered shorelines in the backwater.
Perhaps the most versatile of the newcomers is the medium diving crankbait. Cajun guides carving a living out of the miles of canals south of New Orleans have relied on shallow diving crankbaits like the Baby 1-Minus, Swim’n Image, and Little N for years. The short lip and wide body produces a great deal of fish attracting vibration at depths of 3 to 5 feet.
While scouting for redfish in the marsh with Dr. Tommy Lemonte, he caught two small slot fish with a crankbait when nothing else would work. It was the fish that he did not catch, however, that earned the lure a spot in my box. He had a red on the upper end of the slot hit the lure on the surface three times as it wobbled its way through the scattered grass.
Bobby James, a very good local angler has been relying on crankbaits for years and seemingly manages to catch a few fish on even the toughest of days. James is convinced that even though the crankbait works, it will never gain much popularity with saltwater fishermen.
“Most people fish for specks and reds because they like quick action and like to go through lots fish,” points out James. “On even the best of days, you are still not going to go through a lot of trout or reds fishing a crankbait. We stick with it because we do not get in a big hurry and we generally catch fewer, but larger fish.”
While I very much agree with James’ assessment of the diving crankbait, the same cannot be said for the Trap or even the spinnerbait. I know a large number of Sabine Lake fishermen that leave the dock with a Trap tied on at least one rod and they fish it year round.
The Rat-L-Trap possesses every key ingredient necessary to dupe saltwater fish. It is easy to cast long distances, can be fished from top to bottom, comes in every color imaginable, and the vibration is unmatched. Redfish find the Trap irresistible and it is equally deadly on both school trout and their larger kin folk!
I am quickly developing the same confidence in the spinnerbait when targeting flounder and redfish. We have caught an incredible number of both species on the bladed lure over the past two years. I know there are other combinations that work well, but I prefer a quarter ounce single spin with a number three Colorado blade. I replace the soft plastic trailer with a Blurp Sea Shad as it has a built in scent that really helps with the flounder bite.
The one negative aspect in stealing a page from the bass fishing manual to include these additional lures is that there may not be enough room for all of the tackle in your boat. Maybe that is the reason the simplistic approach of fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork has weathered the test of time!