For most anglers, saltwater and fresh alike, the process of picking favorite lures would create a virtual encyclopedia of choices. Although I’ve thrown about everything made, I always end up with a few “go to” baits. The following list is not so much a gear review, as what works for me. I’ve thrown these baits from Virginia to the Keys on the East Coast, and from the Keys to Texas on the Gulf. Many of these manufactures have supported me in the past and continue to do so today, and a big thanks goes out to those folks. Some of these manufacturers I’ve never met or spoken to, but kudos are in order for making a great product. In alphabetical order, here are the lures that STAY in my box.
Captain Mike Hakala has tweaked a flats favorite into one of the most popular Red Fish spoons on the market today. This bait is great for sight fishing as well as a long casting search bait. Just reel, and hold on.
One of my favorite lures for big trout, this lure also catches plenty of redfish and one of my biggest flounder to date. I like both the suspending and floating model. Jerk, jerk, pause, repeat. Vary the length pauses.
Shrimp imitating baits are everywhere. Some are no longer made and some are still in the developing stage waiting to hit a website or tackle store near you. I have never found one as effective as one of the originals. Mark Nichols, owner and creator, has put a lot of time in producing a perfectly formed and weighted product. While there are many ways to work this bait, perhaps one of the best is suspended about 24-28” under a popping cork. Whether drifting a flat in the shallows of the Gulf, throwing to covered grass and shell in bigger tidal zones on the east coast, or working open bays, this rig catches fish. Although many fishing guides and tournament anglers keep this rig in their arsenal, this rig is perfect for the novice angler and kids alike. Make a long cast, pop it a few times, give a two to three second pause. And if there are fish around the cork will disappear. I often refer to this set-up as “the deadliest rig in the marsh”.
Mirrolure has been on the saltwater plugging scene catching trophies since the beginning. Those slow to medium sinking plugs like the old reliable 52 and some of the newer Mirrodine series are just plain deadly on big trout as well as other saltwater species. The retrieve often varies from angler to angler and I’ve seen them catch fish in a variety of presentations. I generally slow roll, or sweep this bait with a mix of small twitches. Sometimes one twitch, sometimes just plain walking the dog. Throw a pause in there somewhere and wait for that strike.
With so many walk-the-dog lures on the market, and half of them hanging on my wall in much need of hook replacement, I’ll go with the Skitterwalk. Great profile, nice sound, and easy to walk. Don’t set the hook until you feel the fish.
Probably a little sentimental value involved in this choice because it was one of the first plastics I used. Although I have pegged nearly every soft plastic to a jig head over the years, I always go back to the standard, durable, great action, Gotcha curly tail grub.
Often called soft plastic jerk baits or flukes (after the popular Zoom Super Fluke) these baits have become extremely popular on the saltwater marsh scene. Soft plastic jerks are one of my favorite baits to throw and believe me I have thrown as many as my wallet will let me. The Stinky Fingers Shad is a different animal. These baits are integrated with a sponge core that allows the Twitchin’ Shad to absorb the powerful scent oil that the bait is packed with. I am not sure if it is the overall weight, the horizontal glide, the material, the sponge core or the scent, but this bait catches fish. Generally these baits are rigged weedless on weighted or unweighted Extra Wide Gap worm hooks. A favorite bait on the many redfish tournament trails for fishing grass flats, these baits excel everywhere for all species. The natural fish profile of these baits has made them an excellent choice on a jighead as well, allowing the angler to cast further or fish deeper.
The standard 3 ¼” Chug Bug is the size I prefer but have seen the smaller 2 ½ and the larger 4 3/8 inch models catch plenty of fish. This lure is also a great lure for beginners. Simply make a long cast, give it enough pop to make the cupped face gurgle, splash, or “chug”. Pause and repeat. The cadence is not as important as the pause. Again, with a top water plug, don’t set the hook until you feel the fish on. After the bow-up, “reel til you feel”). If the fish misses, keep the retrieve the same, and many times the fish will return.
I did not mention color on purpose because everyone has their favorites, and the above lures come in array of colors…so go with what you know! If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.