Here’s a largemouth lure that redfish love.
When you’re redfishing around structure, you’ll need some specific baits and presentations to catch the fish instead of the structure. For instance, when reds roam the kind of shallow oyster that can quickly deplete a tackle box of its jig and spoon inventory, there is a solution waiting in the “bass” section of your local tackle shop.
“Wake baits” (as they have become known) are a class of floater/diver crankbaits characterized by a short, compact body and an abbreviated, downward-angled lip that serves two important purposes.
First, that lip makes the bait run very shallow. An angler has to work hard to get these baits to run deeper than two feet, which makes them ideal for shallow areas. Secondly, that lip makes the bait deflect easily off of cover. Bass fishermen routinely toss these into fallen timber and just bang their way through.
The Mann’s 1-Minus was one of the first, but there are a number currently on the market, including the Bomber Square A, XCalibur Wake Bait, Bandit Footloose Crankbait, Storm SubWart and others.
They’re not easy to hang up, which is why they are finding favor among saltwater anglers fishing shallow oyster. Oysters eat jigs, spoons and other sinking lures at a rate that equals or exceeds that of reds. But wake baits just pick their way over this gnarly stuff. Should one hang up, throwing a bit of slack in the line floats it free.
Given their compact size and the fact that they are readily available in browns, greens and crawfish colors, wake baits are also a perfect imitation of the crabs the reds are roaming the oysters to find. If reds are chasing mullet, shift to a shad or chrome color and slow the retrieve. That will wallow the lure near the sur¬face and make the same visual wake as a finger mullet.
Wake baits can cover a shallow flat quickly, but they can also zero in on a specific target. On more than a few occasions I’ve seen reds tailing on shal¬low oyster, flipped the lure beyond and ahead of them, and just guided it to them. When the red’s tail went up I could stop the bait and it floated instead of becoming a permanent addition to the bottom. When the tail went down I could con¬tinue intercepting the red. A jig wouldn’t have survived that journey.
As effective as the wake baits are, the life expectancy of their hardware can be short. Reds are tough on any lure, but they will trash the light wire hooks and copper split rings that normally adorn these baits at about the same speed a machete will dismember a Twinkie.
Plan on replacing hooks and split rings after the first couple of fish if you use these lures right out of the package. Any well-stocked tackle emporium will have replacement hooks and split rings. I favor heavier stainless steel rings and the Mustad 2X stainless steel hooks. Rather than wait for a red to trash the factory offerings, I normally replace them before I use the bait. Swapping out hooks and split rings at the kitchen table before a trip is much easier than it is in a drifting boat while the reds are biting.
The heavier split rings don’t affect the lure action, and you can even go up one size on the rear hook without prob¬lems. It doesn’t change the action, and replacing a No. 6 with a 4 or a No. 4 with a 2 will give you a better hook hold. Even with this reinforcing, it’s wise to carry some spare hooks and rings with you on the water.
While heavier hooks and split rings are an asset, savvy anglers will toss these baits on a softer rod. The hooks may be stouter, but they are still relatively small treble hooks. They don’t take a big bite and if the angler applies too much pressure those small hooks will often rip free. Stick a red on a 5/0 leadhead jig hook and you can use a heavy rod to muscle him. Change that to a small treble hook and you can’t. FS
First published in Florida Sportsman Magazine, print edition.