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Top Waters For Redfish

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On: Tue, Feb 1, 2011 at 1:32PM | By: Capt Gregg McKee

One thing that most anglers agree on when it comes to chasing big redfish on the flats of Southwest Florida is that top water lures are king. Nothing draws such explosive strikes from oversized reds like slow-moving surface baits. Out of all the different tackle manufacturers there two different models, one old and one new, that are consistently tops in popularity and effectiveness. 

The first is a proven classic that most anglers have had in their tackle box for years: the Zara Spook. This plastic lure was first introduced by the Heddon company for freshwater bass fishing in 1939 and has been in production ever since. The versions that most anglers choose when targeting redfish are the Saltwater Spook and Saltwater Spook Junior. These lures are famous for their side-to-side zigzagging motion that is known as “walking the dog.” This action is one of the best imitations of a crippled bait fish produced by any artificial, and redfish of all sizes can’t resist it.

The other top water lure that has taken Southwest Florida by storm is the new Badonk-a-Donk series by Bomber. Despite the silly name, this is a very well designed artificial that, like its Zara Spook rival, does an excellent job of mimicking a wounded mullet. Two different models of the Badonk-a-Donk that use internal ball bearings to produce a high or low pitch rattle in the water are available. On calm days, which are fortunately common in areas like Pine Island Sound or Matlacha Pass, the low pitch version is the best choice for getting the attention of hungry redfish. When the wind kicks up, go for the high pitch model.

Working these lures properly is the real key to making them irresistible. A surprisingly slow and steady retrieve is important because it gives bottom-eeding reds the time to home in on something swimming above them. Most anglers move their top waters way too fast when fishing for reds. With their downturned mouths, redfish have to contort themselves almost upside down to hit a top water lure. It’s one of the most entertaining and exciting things to witness on the flats, but it also takes a good amount of discipline to not try to strike the fish too soon. Reds often push these top waters under the surface with the bow wake created by their huge heads. It can look and feel like they’ve grabbed the lure, but jerking the rod at the first splash will often just yank the hooks right away from the fish’s lips. Keep the lure twitching at the same steady pace and a big red will usually continue the attack until it finally inhales one of the trebles. Then it’s time to haul back and set the hook.

In addition to being deadly on redfish, top water lures work on just about every game fish that inhabit the flats of Southwest Florida. The Zara Spook and the Badonk-a-Donk, a proven classic and a high-tech newcomer, should be part of every shallow water angler’s tackle box. If you’ve already got one of each, go out and buy two more.


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