Since redfish are readily found feeding in shallow water in October and since early autumn winds are typically light, fly rodders are often as effective or more so than conventional tackle anglers this time of year. So, when attempting trick reds with faux baits during October, the first decision to be made is whether to wield a fly rod or a conventional stick.
Calm October afternoons allow even fly rodders with marginal casting skills to effectively sight-fish for redfish on the flats. Another bonus for fly fishermen hitting the flats during the Halloween season is the ability to use lighter rods. Again, due to the light winds, even 6 wt rods can deliver the necessary payload to sighted redfish. And, since the water is typically fairly clear in October, anglers are able to employ somewhat smaller flies. Here are a few of the best patterns to cast at October redfish.
Poppers – Small hard-bodied poppers such as the East Cut Redfish Popper are perfect this time of year. Anglers looking for slightly larger surface offerings should consider foam-based patterns such as Danno’s Popping Shrimp or the Gartside Gurgler.
Shrimp patterns – Redfish are constantly munching on small shrimp during October. Patterns such as the East Cut Grass Shrimp, Cactus Shrimp and others land soft, sink slow and draw plenty of strikes.
Baitfish patterns – Size 6 Clouser Minnows are tough to beat in October. Because it is usually so calm, bead-eye models are preferable to heavily weighted lead-eye versions.
Spoon flies – Although some fly fishing purists don’t consider these flies at all, spoon flies are among the most productive offerings for redfish in skinny water. There are a wide variety of spoon fly patterns. Those with an epoxy coating tend to be more durable and produce a better ‘wobble.’
Of course, not every angler throwing artificial lures during October will have it attached to a fly rod. Conventional tackle anglers will score plenty of spot tails this month as well. However, since the most effective artificial lures will be ‘junior’ sizes, spinning rods are usually more ‘user-friendly’ for October flats fishing.
Topwaters – Yes, redfish will eat topwater plugs. Sometimes they aren’t quite as graceful as speckled trout when striking surface baits, but when they are determined enough, they find a way to get it in their mouth. When throwing topwaters this time of year, smaller baits are best. Super Spook Jrs, Top Pops and Skitterwalks are some of the best. These smaller profile surface baits not only land softly, but they are also easier for redfish to grab.
Spoons – Weedless spoons, that is. These venerable flats fishing lures still produce plenty of redfish year around, but they really shine in autumn. The most popular model, hands down, is a gold Johnson Silver Minnow.
Tubes – Not often thought of as saltwater lures, soft-plastic tubes are extremely effective on shallow water redfish. When rigged on a weedless jig head, they can be drug through dense grass without fouling.
Artificial shrimp – Fake shrimp such as the DOA Shrimp can all be effectively free-lined over shallow flats. These baits also land soft enough to be effective sight-casting lures.
Jigs – Both soft-plastic and bucktail jigs are effective redfish lures during October. However, both models need to be on the light side – 1/16- or 1/8-ounce are best. Soft-plastic bodies should also be downsized from spring and summer offerings. Bodies between 2 1/2- and 3 1/2-inches are the most appropriate for shallow water fall fishing.
Crankbaits – Perhaps the most overlooked of all redfish lures, crankbaits are extremely effective in the fall. Saltwater specific baits such as the Heddon Swim’n Image are designed to be fished in shallow water – less than 3 feet – and are fitted with corrosion-resistant hooks. However, virtually any shallow running crankbait can be used on the flats by swapping hardware.
There is virtually no natural bait that redfish won’t quickly gobble up. And, since they are both predators and scavengers, redfish will attack live baits and scoop up dead baits as well.
Shrimp – Shrimp are the most versatile and productive of all natural baits along the Texas coast. During fall, live shrimp can be freelined on the flats to tempt redfish. Dead shrimp, on the other hand, should be fished on bottom utilizing the lightest weight possible to get the bait to remain stationary.
Pinfish – Most often thought of as a trout bait, pinfish are also good live baits for redfish. They can be freelined around potholes or fished on the bottom. When bottom fishing, a Carolina-rig setup is the most effective.
Mullet – Finger mullet are fished in a variety of manners for redfish during the fall months. Live mullet can be effectively freelined over the flats. Dead mullet can be fished on the bottom with a Carolina rig or worked like a lure over shallow grass flats. In order to ‘skip’ mullet in this manner, hook them through the lips with a single hook. Cast the bait, then work it back with a side-to-side rod twitching action – as you would when ‘walking the dog’ with a topwater plug. At times redfish will strike these retrieved baits in a violent fashion. Make sure you feel the fish before setting the hook.
Crab – Crabs are both durable and effective. In fact, crabs can actually be kept alive on the hook in a livewell for long periods of time. A common method of employing a live crab is to hook the crab in the side of the shell and return it to the livewell until a fish is sighted. Once a fish is within casting distance, the crab is removed from the livewell and cast in front of the targeted fish. They can also be quite effective when freelined through sandy potholes in grass flats.
Cut bait – It is well known that redfish feed as much by scent as they do by sight. Cut bait takes advantage of the olfactory senses of spot tails. A strongly-scented chunk of bait can draw fish from great distances. Cut bait is most effective when allowed to remain stationary on the bottom, letting fish follow the scent trail to the hook. Strong smelling fish such as skipjack (ladyfish) and ballyhoo are among the best candidates to be used as cut bait.
At times, it is more effective to use both a trick and a treat in combination as opposed to using either on its own. Here are a couple of creative – and productive – ways to combine lures and natural baits to tempt redfish.
Jig/shrimp – Soft-plastic and bucktail jigs can be tipped by placing a small chunk of shrimp over the hook point. However, an even more effective method is to use only a jig head in conjunction with a live shrimp. In order to create this rig, cut the ‘fan’ off the tail portion of the shrimp. Thread the shrimp onto the jig head ‘backwards’ – that is with the tail closest to the jig head. The hook point will protrude from the top of the shrimp’s tail. Removing the fan makes the bait more streamlined and allows it to be cast and retrieved without ‘spinning’ due to water or air hitting the fantail. To fish this combo, simply cast and retrieve as you would a standard artificial jig. If a fish is following, but not taking, drop the bait to the bottom and allow the shrimp to crawl around a bit. Usually that is enough to convince wary fish.
Spoon/mullet strip – Another rig that combines two of the most effective redfish offerings into one extremely effective bait. In order to create a spoon/mullet strip combo, fillet a 5- to 6-inch mullet. Attach on fillet – wide side over hook point – to the spoon. When the spoon is retrieved, the mullet strip will add some flash, as well as scent and motion.
Whether you prefer to trick them, treat them, or give them both, make sure you spend some time chasing redfish this month. When it comes to shallow water fishing, it’s hard to imagine a better treat for anglers than the redfish action offered in October.
Halloween is undoubtedly the signature event of October. And, as virtually everyone knows, ‘trick-or-treat’ is the battle cry for millions of costumed revelers on Oct. 31. However, as fall begins in earnest, ‘trick-or-treat’ is a fair credo for flats anglers as well. For, the tenth month is a time when redfish are tempted both by tricks – artificial lures – and treats – natural baits. Combining the two can also be effective. Here are just a few of the top tricks and treats for taking spot tails during the Halloween season.
October Offers Outstanding Redfish Action Along the Texas Coast