The slow and steady plop-plop-plop sound emanating from my 50+ year-old black Arbogast Jitterbug was music to my ears as I stood in the semi-light, straining to see the lure returning to me.
I wondered, how many times had I thrown this old, beat up Jitterbug that was older than me, and how many big ol' largemouths and muskies had mistaken it for a struggling fish, baby muskrat or duck?
The soothing steady rhythm was suddenly interrupted by a loud splash, then another, and another. Many years behind the rod told me to keep reeling, don't ever stop. Suddenly, on the fourth try an 18-pound redfish had nabbed it and headed for downtown Matlacha. After heating up the drag several times I finally brought the oversize flats red to the boat for pictures and a quick release.
A client that morning loved to throw antique lures, so we dug in our old freshwater boxes and both brought a handful with us to the dock that day.
I'm a lure nut myself and fish lures 95 percent of the time. I also collect old lures as well, so that morning we agreed that nothing to be castled could be under 50 years old. Dying Flutters, ancient Zara Spooks, Wounded Spooks, Hula Poppers, even Hawaiian Wigglers, and several other old Heddon veteran plugs were brought out of retirement and sent out on yet another dangerous mission, this time in salt water.
The upcoming fall redfish season not only provides world class schooling redfish action, but also a great time to experiment with plugs and lures of many varieties. A flat full of schooled and actively feeding reds will devour anything that doesn't scare them, and do so with gusto.
The first time you see a half-dozen reds trying to outsprint each other to get to your lure it's a sight you won't soon forget. Competition in large feeding schools is fierce and the fish are more than willing biters.
A big red trying to grab a topwater plug, usually missing it several times due to the fact that its mouth is positioned basically at the top of its neck, is a fun sight to see. Just remember to keep reeling at the same pace. If he really wants it he will climb all over it several times before finding the pointy parts. A snook, on the other hand, likes an erratic panic stricken topwater presentation. Whatever species is attacking your topwater the rule is keep it moving, keep him interested.
Speaking of Hawaiian Wigglers, the spinnerbait, whether straight shaft or bass style, flat catches reds, and big ones. This past year I've fished a gold-bladed, 3/8-ounce Zorro spinnerbait with a gold-flecked white shirt with a DOA gold flake plastic minnow and caught several bigger reds. It seems like this is a big fish bait as the rat reds seemed to shy away from it while the over 30-inch reds really thumped it.
There are lots of spinnerbait choices with the gold blade a little forward of the skirt style working the best. Strike King has made their Redfish Magic Spinnerbait for some time now, but it's been slow to be accepted around these parts. If you are an old bass fisherman you know how a bass simply kills a spinnerbait. Well a 32-inch red will try to rip the rod from your hand when he hits your blade bait.
I've found a steady, medium retrieve works best. Alternating casts to shoreline structure as well as long searching casts on the open flat will produce reds. A blade bait cast near a feeding school will get eaten. Use your baitcasting gear as a full day on the water casting a spinner with a spinning rod is a good way to shorten its life.
Do not forget buzz baits for a real topwater thrill. Both snook and reds will hit them and it's almost always a vicious attack.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.