Topwater lures for Redfish is probably not most peoples’ first choice when fishing for them. But, they will hit topwaters aggressively producing some explosive strikes. So hold on to your rod and get ready for long, powerful, drag screaming runs. You can catch them many other ways, but Topwater Lures for Redfish is a blast you need to experience.
I don’t know what it is about topwater. Maybe it’s from fishing with a cane pole and a bobber as a kid and watching for that bobber to go under. Or, maybe from throwing frogs in the pond and watching the bass attack them as they tried to swim back to safety. What ever it is, I love catching fish with topwater lures.
Living along the Texas Gulf Coast, I spend most of my time fishing saltwater and redfish are one of the primary targets of my fishing activities. And, they are more than willing to smash a topwater lure. Let’s take a look at how to fish topwater lures for redfish, and the techniques and gear you will need to tangle with them.
Redfish, or Red Drum, can be caught with a wide variety of natural and artificial baits. Fishing for Redfish with topwater lures is an exciting and explosive method of catching these hard fighting and good eating fish. There are five basic types of topwater lures for Redfish. 1. Walkers, 2. Twitch Baits, 3. Buzz Baits, 4. Prop Baits and 5. Poppers. Any and all will catch redfish if you can “match the hatch” by using baits that closely resemble what the Redfish are currently feeding on. Topwater action is best in the early morning or late afternoons in the spring through fall seasons after the water has warmed in to the upper 60s to 70s F.
|WALKER||TWITCH BAIT||BUZZ BAIT||PROP BAIT||POPPER|
|Walk the Dog||Shallow Diver||Steady Retrieve||Surface Splash||Popping Noise|
What is a Redfish?
The red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), also known as redfish, channel bass, puppy drum, spottail bass, or simply red, is a game fish found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to northern Mexico. The life span of a red drum can exceed 40 years.
Red drum are a dark red color on the back, which fades into white on the belly. The red drum has a characteristic eye spot near the tail and is somewhat streamlined. Three-year-old red drum typically weigh 6-8 lb.
The largest red drum on record weighed just over 94 lb and was caught in 1984 on Hatteras Island. Male red drum make a knocking or drumming sound during spawning by vibrating their swim bladders.
Redfish or Red Drum can be found anywhere from the back lakes and marshes, open bay, running the surf and even offshore. They are fun to catch and known for long powerful drag screaming runs. They readily take live and dead natural baits as well as artificial lures.
Best Baits for Redfish
Redfish are opportunity feeders, their mouth position is designed for rooting crabs and shrimp out of the mud and grass along the bottom but they also prey on baitfish like mullet, pinfish, menhaden, mud minnows, croaker and whiting.
In the summer and fall, redfish feed primarily on crabs, shrimp, and mullet. In the spring and winter, their diet focuses more on menhaden, mullet, pinfish, Atlantic croaker, and mud minnows. Redfish are mainly bottom feeders, but when in pursuit of baitfish, they will feed throughout the water column and even on the surface.
Typically, your best baits for catching Redfish will be live or dead shrimp, crabs, mullet, menhaden, pinfish, or mud minnows. But, they can also be fooled with artificial lures that mimic these natural baits. Everything from spoons, soft plastics, jigs, and yes even topwaters.
Catching Redfish with Lures
Yes you can catch Redfish with lures. In fact, the old reliable gold spoon has probably caught more redfish than any other lure made. The flash and vibration put off by the spoon resembles a fleeing baitfish and draws some vicious strikes from Reds.
Soft plastics are the next best lures for catching Redfish. Shrimp imitations like the D.O.A. shrimp and Berkley Gulp are great choices. And, shad tails and jerk baits like Saltwater Assassins, C.A.L. shad, and those from Z-Man and Tsunami will put Reds in the boat.
Redfish can be caught with lures in back lakes and marshes in 6 inches of water and offshore over rocks and wrecks in 100ft of water.
So, your lures and techniques will vary accordingly. In shallow water, soft plastics, weedless spoons and topwater baits will be your best options.
In deeper waters, soft plastics on heavier jig heads, swim baits, deep diving crank baits and heavy buck tail jigs will get you down into the strike zone.
Adding a small strip of fishbites to your jig can improve your catch rate when the bite slows.
Typically, the best time to catch Redfish with lures will be early morning and late evening when they venture into the shallows in search of a meal. Also, at night under the lights of docks, piers and offshore platforms, reds can be caught using artificials as they feed on the shrimp and bait fish attracted to the lights.
Under the lights, try to match the hatch with your lure selection. Whatever bait is gathering under the lights, try to find a lure that mimics it as closely as possible. And, sometimes that will include topwater lures. A big Redfish busting your topwater at night under the lights is a real adrenaline rush.
Using Topwater Lures for Redfish
A topwater lure is basically any lure that floats on the surface at rest and when worked stays either on the surface or within a few inches of the surface. Topwater lures come in a variety of types the 5 most common are:
- Twitch Baits
- Buzz Baits
- Prop Baits
Any and all of these will catch redfish in the right conditions. The most popular are the walkers like the Rapala Skitter walk, Zara Spook and Mirrolure’s Top Dog. They get their name from the “walk the dog” side to side action they produce when you twitch your rod tip as you work them. They stay on the surface and the Reds will ponce on them.
Twitch baits can be floating stick type baits that will dart a few inches below the surface when you “twitch” them and then float back to the surface. Some floating soft plastics can be rigged as twitch baits as well.
Prop baits are floating lures with a prop on either end, or both ends, of the bait and the props produce vibration, splash and noise to attract fish from long distance.
Buzz baits were all the rage for freshwater bass fishing and a few saltwater specific models, like the Strike King Spot Tail Special, have made their way into saltwater tackle boxes. Buzz baits run on the surface and have a large rotating blade that creates a tremendous amount of noise and vibration on the retrieve. They are worked on the surface, but will sink if you stop your retrieve.
Topwater poppers are those floating surface baits with a cupped face built into the front of the lure. When you twitch your rod, the bait pushes water ahead of it and makes a popping noise. This mimics the sound of feeding fish which attracts fish to your bait to see what all the commotion is about.
Tackle & Rigs for Fishing Topwater Lures
You can fish topwater lures with both bait casting and spinning tackle. Bait casting tackle seems to be the most popular for topwater fishing. But spinning tackle will work just fine and, In fact, may actually be better in windy conditions or when casting lighter lures.
When fishing with topwaters you will need a heavier action rod to get the proper action out of your baits. A good 7-foot medium heavy action rod with a fast 7:1 gear ratio reel will get the job done. You can find “popping rods” that are designed for fishing with stick baits, poppers and popping cork rigs.
Spool your reel with some 20 to 30 pound braid or 15 to 20 pound monofilament and, if fishing with braid, use a good 15 pound monofilament leader and attach it to your lure with a loop knot. The monofilament leader will have some stretch acting like a shock absorber when a fish blows up on your lure. This will help you hook more fish and have less chance of the hooks pulling out.
Braided line is very abrasion resistant and stronger for a given diameter than monofilament so you can hold more on your reel, or use a heavier test line, and cast farther. Monofilament will work fine for topwater fishing and it does offer some stretch when a fish hits.
I typically don’t recommend the use of swivels with topwaters as the added weight can change the lures action and it’s not needed for topwater fishing. You can add a split ring to your bait and often get more action from your lure, but a good loop knot will have the same effect.
Fluorocarbon line, while nearly invisible under water, is a sinking line and can make it more difficult to work topwater baits for maximum action. Much like the added weight of a snap swivel it causes the nose of the bait to dip and can change the lures presentation and effectiveness.
How to Fish Topwater Lures for Redfish
Of course in order to catch Redfish with topwater lures, you need to be where the redfish are and they need to be active. And, while you can sometimes entice a topwater bite in winter, your best topwater action usually starts when the water temperature get into the upper 60s to 70s. That means spring through the fall seasons.
The best time of day for fishing topwaters is usually early morning and late afternoon. With the low light conditions, Redfish will venture into the shallows looking for easy prey. As the sun gets higher in the sky, the Redfish will retreat to deeper water and be less likely to hit surface lures.
When you go to pick a topwater lure, you will want to try to match the hatch. In other words, what baitfish are the Redfish feeding on, what size are they and what color best matches them. Then it becomes which topwater lure type best mimics the bait and feeding activities.
If you can match the size, color and profile of the baitfish, the type of topwater is less important. Whether you want to use a walker, popper, jerk bait or buzz bait, as long as you can match the hatch, you should be good.
You best color options for topwater baits will be white, bone and natural patterns in sunny day with clear water. Darker colors and noisier lures, like poppers and buzz baits, will work better in cloudy conditions and murkier waters. White topwaters are always a good choice as most baitfish have white bellies.
The type of topwater you choose to fish with is not as critical as trying to pick those that closely match what the Redfish are feeding on. If you are fishing a walking type topwater, like the Skitter walk, Spook, or Top Dog, you will use the walk the dog retrieve where you make short twitches with your rod to cause the bait to dart from side to side.
You will want to vary your retrieve by adding some pauses and then resume walking the dog. It may take time to figure out what retrieve the fish like so be creative and keep covering water. If the fish are actively feeding and aggressive, you will want to skip the pauses and maintain a steady retrieve. The Redfish will follow the sound and vibration, track it down and crush it.
If you are fishing stick baits or jerk baits, you will again use a twitch and reel retrieve varying you the speed and distance of your twitches until you find that sweet spot that draws strikes. Each twitch will cause the lure to dart a few inches under water and forward. Then it will begin to float back to the surface. Most strikes will come at the pause between twitches as the lure is floating up.
To fish with buzz baits you will need to maintain a steady retrieve that is fast enough to keep the bait on the surface as you retrieve. If you stop your retrieve, the blade stops turning and the lure sinks. It’s a very good bait for covering a lot of water fast and locating actively feeding fish.
Topwater poppers, like the name implies, make a popping and splashing sound by using short twitches of your rod on the retrieve. This sound mimics the sound of feeding and jumping fish. You can vary the speed of your retrieve and the size of your rod twitches to get more or less popping action. These baits move a lot of water, create noise and vibrations that will draw fish from long distances and trigger some impressive strikes.
7 of the Best Topwater Lures for Redfish
While there may only be 5 basic types of topwater lures for redfish, there seems to be an endless variety of colors, sizes, and brands to choose from. Everybody has their own personal favorites, and I am no exception. The following are 7 of the more popular and effective topwater lures for redfish. If you have some others, drop them in the comment section below, I am always looking for tips and techniques and we can all learn from each other.
Mirrolure Top Dog
Mirrolures by L&S Bait company have been catching fish along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts for decades. The MirroLure Top Dog is a walker type topwater bait that has built in rattles and comes in a rainbow of color combinations and various sizes. From the Top Dog, Top Dog Jr, She Dog, and She Pup.
The Top Dog emits low frequency sonic rattles and life-like action which trigger explosive strikes. Ideal for probing or locating fish on open flats. Sonic “fish calling” rattles can attract fish from great distances. Features Mirrolure ® “built-in” reflective flash and quality hardware. Favorite among many tournament anglers.
Rapala Saltwater Skitter Walk
Another walk the dog topwater lure, the original Rapala Skitter Walk is legendary for catching largemouth bass, Stripers and even a Northern Pike or too. It would seem only natural that they would catch Redfish in saltwater and they did. Unfortunately the saltwater wasn’t kind to the hardware on the original so the folks at Rapala added some corrosion resistant hardware and saltwater color patterns to create the Saltwater Skitter Walk.
Superior construction assures a perfect swimming bait right-out-of-the-box. Toss it out. Pump. Reel. Pump. Reel. You’re “Walking-the-Dog.” Weighted tail keeps bait in natural position even at rest. Large internal rattles create a rhythmic side-to-side motion-and-sound combination that imitates wounded or fleeing baitfish. All feature 3D holographic eyes and you can choose from appetizing painted or chrome color patterns. All are equipped with VMC® black nickel hooks.
Heddon Saltwater Super Spook
Another cross over, walk the dog, topwater lure from bass fishing was the Heddon Zara Spook and it’s larger cousin the Super Spook. Like the Rapala Skitter walk, they caught fish in saltwater but the saltwater made quick work of the hooks and hardware. Enter the Heddon Saltwater Super Spook with corrosion resistant hooks and new saltwater color patterns.
The Super Spook is the backbone of the legendary Zara Spook family of topwater lures, and this one’s got a saltwater flavor. This tough 5-inch Super Spook features a trio of super-sharp saltwater grade hooks and hardware.
Paul Brown Soft-Dog
A new offering from L&S Bait Company is the Paul Brown Sotf-Dog. Built from the designs of the legendary lure maker Paul Brown, this soft top water walk the dog lure can be rigged weedless and fished in and around cover that would snag ordinary topwaters. The soft plastic body also give it a more natural feel so fish bite and hold on longer for a better hook up ratio.
Paul Brown Lures presents their first top water surface walker, the Soft Dog™ walks-the-dog with ease. Soft-Dog™ is the ideal search bait. Easy long distance cast. It’s soft plastic design, creates a realistic baitfish feel that trophy gamefish find irresistible. Soft-Dog™ is the perfect mullet imitation for fishing the shallows!
Daiwa Mebachi Popper
The Daiwa Mebachi Popper, like the name implies, is a popping lure designed from the ground up as a saltwater popper for big fish. It is great lure to use in the surf for big Redfish and any Jack Crevalle, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel or sharks you may encounter as well.
The MEBACHI POPPER is a dynamic new lure that kicks up a ruckus and draws strikes from big gamefish like striped bass and bluefin tuna. When pulled, the fat headed lure has a Big Splash Action. Built to handle the largest gamefish, the quality manufactured lure is thru-wired and rigged with stout Owner Hyperwire split rings and VMC 8527 hooks. Crafted in a Floating model the popper can be utilized using different techniques and cadences. If taking big gamefish on topwater poppers is your technique then you owe yourself a look at the ME-BA-CHI.
Storm Rattlin Saltwater Chug Bug
The Storm Chug Bug, like the Skitter Walk and Super Spook, is another cross over bait from the freshwater bass fishing crowd. And, like the others, it caught lots of saltwater fish that is until the saltwater took its toll on the hooks and hardware. Now enter the Storm Rattlin Saltwater Chug Bug a saltwater popper for topwater fishing. They are smaller than the Daiwa Mebachi, so better for chasing redfish in the bays and marshes. But, they will catch fish in the surf too.
This is the big brother to the Rattlin’ Chug Bug® with a bigger profile for saltwater fishing, more saltwater specific color patterns, a teaser tail, and VMC® Perma steel hooks to get the fish to boat.
D.O.A. Lures PT-7
The D.O.A. Lures PT-7 is a new topwater soft plastic that, much like the Paul Brown Soft Dog, can be rigged weedless and fished right in the grass and cover where no other topwater dare go. Of course, like all D.O.A. Lures, the PT-7 has real baitfish molded into the plastic for added scent and attraction.
The PT-7’s aerodynamic body casts like a bullet and skips into tight places where others can’t. 3” length and 5/8 oz., this soft plastic minesweeper detonates explosive strikes like no other topwater on the market today. Snook, redfish, seatrout and largemouth bass find its “walk-the-dog” action simply irresistible. Pre-rigged with a single premium 7/0 EWG hook, it keeps big fish on where standard trebles fail.
Check out these Topwater Lures for Redfish, and many more, at tackledirect.com or on amazon.com below:
Redfish on Topwaters is a Blast, Literally!
Redfish are fun to catch and good eating too. But, on topwaters they are a blast, with explosive strikes and long drag screaming runs. Is it the only way, or even the best way, to catch them?
No, of course not, but it sure is a fun way to do it. Grab a few topwater plugs and give it a try. My guess is you’ll be hooked just like the first redfish that blows up on your topwater.
As always, stay safe, enjoy the journey and please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you asap. You can follow us on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.
A life long surf fisherman with 50+ years of experience, I am also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I will be sharing my passion for the outdoors with you so be prepared for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and more. Along with gear reviews and the latest trends and innovations in the outdoor industry.