When coastal water temps cool this fall, target shallow redfish with a “1-2 punch” of the Rapala® Skitter V top-water and Storm® 360GT soft baits.
All along the Atlantic coast red drum – AKA redfish, spawn in near-shore areas during late summer and fall, with activity peaking in late September to early October. Baitfish magnets such as grass flats, oyster bars and shoreline wood will attract schools of redfish. As water temperatures cool into the lower 70s, they will begin to feed aggressively.
“When the temperature starts to cool a bit and your baitfish really start to school up and migrate, that triggers the redfish to respond to the abundance of bait by eating as much as they possibly can,” says Capt. Gary Dubiel, an in-demand coastal fishing guide in North Carolina for the last 18 years. Dubiel ads “Somewhere between 72 to 73 degrees down into the mid-60s is usually your prime top-water period.”
An exclusive, innovative V-hull design radically alters the action of a Skitter V making it the easiest walk-the-dog bait on the market. Quick rod snaps create drastic direction changes, followed by soft, long glides on slack line, constantly enticing top-water strikes. Skitter V’s are loaded with a single-ball bearing that emits a unique, fish-attracting sound very similar to the Rapala Skitter Walk.
In clear to lightly stained water, Dubiel favors Skitter V’s in any color pattern with a white belly. “Where you’ve got tannic-stained water that’s almost black-like, an orange belly stands out really well,” he says.
Dubiel and his clients throw Storm Chug Bug top-water baits for early-fall redfish as well.
“I’m also a huge fan of the Chug Bug,” Dubiel says. “They work really well when the fish are a little bit shallower, in expansive flats, feeding on small baitfish, like mullet.”
Dubiel throws Skitter Vs and Chug Bugs with a 6 ½ to 7-foot medium-action spinning rod spooled with 20-pound-test Sufix® 832 Advanced Superline® tipped with a leader of 20- to 30-pound-test Sufix fluorocarbon.
Once Dubiel senses he’s picked off the most aggressive fish with top water action, he follows up with 360-GT Coastal soft baits. He favors Manta Tails and Mangrove Minnows. The former features a fluke-style tail, the latter a boot/paddle-style tail. Both are affective with a weighted swimbait hook or boxer-style jig head.
Storm® 360GT Manta Tail
Storm® 360GT Mangrove
On any given day, weather and water conditions may cause redfish to favor one offering over another, so carry multiple rods rigged with different options and hook/jig weights and styles. “They come in a whole bunch of sizes and shapes and colors, so they can match your conditions well,” Dubiel says.
Featuring a fluke-style tail, the Manta Tail allows anglers to impart a “twitch and pause” retrieve that “can be pretty deadly,” Dubiel says. The Mangrove Minnow has a built-in boot tail that elicits fish-attracting action and vibration on both the fall and retrieve, making it a versatile bait to cast and retrieve.
“One of the best things about the late-summer/early-fall redfish bite,” Dubiel says, “is it lasts all day in most conditions. In early fall, four-inch soft baits work best. As water temps cool in the late fall, however, the 3-inch versions can be a little more productive.”
Rapala has long been a leader in the coastal market. In the company’s storied history, a Rapala lure has accounted for almost 600 International Game Fish Association world records, many of them in saltwater, including an impressive 231-pound, 13-ounce southern bluefin tuna in 2014. Rapala is the first and only lure manufacturer to receive an IGFA Lifetime Achievement Award, and anglers have caught world-record catches with Rapala lures on every continent but Antarctica.