MOORE OUTDOORS: Looking for redfish in river, channel? Try crankbaits

Published 4:52 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Crankbaits are my favorite lure for catching redfish when the fish get a little finicky.

Yes crankbaits.

These highly versatile lures can allow anglers seeking redfish a level of precision crucial to catching spooky fish and offer an amazing ability cover large tracts of water in a short order. Those traits have earned crankbaits a permanent place in my saltwater tackle box as a frequent tool in the pursuit of redfish.

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A great option for big reds on crankbaits are 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 is menhaden but often it can be mullet. Both will draw in these big reds, which tend to suspend below the bait.

Deep diving crankbaits are the key here as these reds will suspend as deep as 20 feet of water. Anglers can cast smaller crankbaits or use trolling plugs ran through the baitfish schools at a medium pace.

If you do not want to troll for these fish, drifting is a viable option. Drop some marker buoys around the baitfish schools and then drift over them while throwing the diving crankbaits. Be very mindful of the depth you are getting struck and mark. Most of the times these reds will be in a very specific area and may not deviate even a few feet.

Our local river systems are also great for catching reds on crankbaits.

These reds tend to roam in small “wolf packs” and feed along riprap, docks and drop-offs. These reds will not always feed aggressively on the surface which is why it is important to wear polarized shades and watch for reds pushing wakes or simply sitting around key pieces of cover.

For sub-surface feeding schools, I use the Super Pogy High Pitch. It mimics the red’s primary prey species and can be fished by ripping through the water or letting it sink and over structure and reeling it quickly to the surface.

In these river zones, there is frequently coastal marsh pouring into the rivers and intersected by large man-made canals. Reds use these canals as travel corridors and find feeding easy as tides dump from the marsh to the bays.

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 3-6 feet deep and 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.

These are great places to fish square-billed crankbaits which are perfect for shallow water and can cover lots of water which is key in these kinds of ecosystems. Simply throw them out and reel them in as fast as possible. Most are designed to “walk” most efficiently at a high rate of speed.

Anglers should keep in mind that reds have what can best be described as a “cone of vision”; a term that was first coined by late outdoor writer/redfish guru Ed Holder. Reds can see about 180 degrees and the most likely strikes will be found in front of the red and perhaps just off to the side. If you have a visual on the reds, remember precision casting is important because they will rarely turn around to strike at something they only hear.

Throw just ahead of them or right behind and reel past for best results.

Anglers can fish crankbaits on virtually any kind of medium-heavy rod, even on spinning gear although that is not recommended.

The true secret however I learned by fishing with 4-time Bassmaster Classic champion and my all-time fishing hero Rick Clunn.

“Super sensitive rods will actually work against you when fishing with crankbaits. A fish will actually ‘push’ the lure as they pursue 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 S-Glass Series of rods that use old fiberglass technology with modern flare. These are the rods I use for my crankbait action and have had serious success everywhere from the Missisippi River near Venice, La. 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.

They allow a level of precision fishing, not possible with any other kind of lure and that makes a bull redfish sized difference.

To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at