Cranking and Chattering for Redfish

The conservation values of restoring the Louisiana coast are as critical now as they ever were

By Lew Carpenter, National Wildlife Federation

While last year was a great time to be outside and on the water, our opportunities to fish continue to expand. And, the conservation values of restoring the coast are as critical now as they ever were.

Fishing manufacturers know how important the resource is to their business, and that increased access and opportunity follow clean water, air and good habitat. Wes Higgins, president of Bill Lewis Outdoors, and the maker of Rat-L-Trap lures, has been a longtime conservation champion for Gulf restoration. His company makes one of the most effective lures of all time and passed along some great advice for chasing big bull reds in the marsh this fall.

“When fishing the Louisiana marsh, I look for baitfish activity, intersections and cuts in the marsh,” he said. “If the tide is up, I’m looking more for the bait—but I’m always looking for bait—whereas if the tide is down or falling I’m more focused on ambush points like cuts and intersections in the marsh.”

Higgins has observed that fish are more in the cane when the water is up, so he looks for bait that the fish are willing to follow out. When the tide is down or falling it pulls more redfish out of the cover and they position more on the intersections and cuts in ambush mode. “When I feel the fish are holding tight to the cover, I really like pitching a ChatterBait right up to the edge of the canes,” he said. “I’m looking for any indention or point in the canes (irregularities). I like the ChatterBait because it has a nice vertical fall right close to the cover and then with a pump or twitch of the rod I can get immediate vibration out of the bait, and that often triggers a reaction bite.”

When casting to the water away from the canes on lower tide, Higgins favors a Rat-L-Trap mainly in the gold color. “It’s perfect for imitating the shape and sound of the menhaden being chased by reds. The Rat-L-Trap is also perfect for working over the oyster beds when the reds are chasing bait around them as well. Don’t be afraid to upsize your Rat-L-Trap to ¾ oz or even 1 oz to size up to the menhaden in the area.”

He notes that even if the nose of the ‘Trap is digging into the oyster beds, just keep it coming. They seem to bite it even better when that happens. “Last year, we caught hundreds of bull reds nose-digging 1 oz. Gold Rat-L-Traps over oyster beds around Sandy Point at Venice, LA,” he said. “Down on Choupique Bayou in southwest Louisiana, I’ve also had much success catching big redfish by letting the big gold Traps flutter down in ship canals, and bringing them back with yo-yo retrieves. All in all, you can’t go wrong in the Louisiana marsh covering water, noticing your surroundings (tide, bait, cover), pitching ChatterBaits and slinging Rat-L-Traps.”