Crankbaits are my favorite lure for catching redfish when the fish get a little finicky.
These highly versatile lures can allow anglers a level of precision crucial to catching spooky fish and offer an amazing ability to cover large tracts of water in short order. This has earned crankbaits a permanent place in my saltwater tackle box as a frequent tool in the pursuit of redfish.
A great option for big reds on crankbaits is in the Intracoastal from the just past the Gulf and upwards of two miles north. If you run this area on your depth finder, you will notice large pods of baitfish that sort of stack up. Most of the time it’s menhaden, but often it can be mullet. Both will draw in these big reds, which tend to suspend below the bait.
A deep diving crankbait is the key here as these reds will suspend as deep as 20 feet. You can cast smaller crankbaits or use trolling plugs run through the baitfish schools at a medium pace.
If you don’t want to troll for these fish, drifting is a viable option. Drop some marker buoys around the baitfish schools, then drift over them while throwing the diving crankbaits. Be very mindful of where you’re getting strikes and mark the depth. Most of the time, these reds will be in a very specific spot and might not deviate even a few feet.
Coastal river systems are also great for catching reds on crankbaits. Target the areas where these canals empty large marsh ponds or dump into a bay on outgoing tides.
Reds gather in the deepest holes and absolutely hammer the menhaden, shrimp and crabs coming out of the marsh. These canals typically range from three to six feet deep.
Where you have adjoining canals or the edge of a pond, tidal flow creates potholes. They can be as shallow as six inches or as deep as two feet, and they are like magnets for reds.
You can fish crankbaits on virtually any kind of medium-heavy rod, even on spinning gear, although that’s not recommended.
I never really learned how to catch river reds until I got to fish with my all-time fishing hero Rick Clunn. I learned all about how to match a crankbait to a rod when I accompanied him on the Sabine River in 2013, before cut-off time for a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
“Super sensitive rods will actually work against you when fishing with crankbaits. A fish will actually ‘push’ the lure as it pursues it, and if you are fishing a super sensitive (graphite/composite) rod you will set the hook before the fish actually has the lure,” Clunn said.
Clunn was speaking of bass when he gave me this information, but I immediately transferred the concept to redfish—and it works.
Clunn collaborated with Wright & McGill to create the S-Glass Series of rods that use old fiberglass technology with modern flare. These are the rods I use for my crankbait action.
I’ve had serious success everywhere from the Mississippi River near Venice, Louisiana to the Sabine Jetties on the Texas/Louisiana border. There are numerous fiberglass crankbait rods on the market now, and they can make a huge difference in the pursuit of redfish.
Redfish are far from dumb fish that will hit anything. Anyone who has truly pursued them for any length of time knows they can be quite challenging, which is why crankbaits are crucial for the coastal angler.
Crankbaits allow a level of precision fishing not possible with any other kind of lure, and that makes a bull redfish-sized difference.
—story by CHESTER MOORE