Bass Fishing for Redfish

Target redfish like you would largemouth bass to increase your haul in brackish waters.
redfish caught on spinnerbait
Gold spinners teamed with 1/4-ounce jigheads and soft-plastic paddletails are perfect for marsh areas with scattered aquatic vegetation. Todd Masson

On a rising tide, the remaining brown shrimp and growing white shrimp that fuel the Louisiana marsh ecosystem are scattered throughout the skinny-water marsh ponds, enjoying the hours of relative peace and quiet that accompany high water levels. To be sure, some get picked off by marauding hordes of redfish that scavenge around every grass bed, searching for any living morsel that might provide an appetizer before the entree really arrives.

This time of year, my strong bias is to fish the marshes of south Louisiana on a falling tide because that’s when Mother Nature starts her side-hustle shift as a Door Dash delivery driver.

That happens when the tide turns. As water levels begin to fall, tides stack the hapless shrimp on the conveyor belt of death, dragging them from back waters to the bigger lakes and bays. Redfish know this, of course, so they camp out at marsh drains, and let the food come to them. This puts the fish in an aggressive, feeding frame of mind, and makes them particularly susceptible to lures you’d find in the tackle box of a guy hoping to win the Bassmaster Classic.

One of my favorites is a Bill Lewis Echo 1.75 crankbait, a lure that’s obnoxiously loud and has more action than a salsa dancer. That’s what I had tied on during a trip in July that began just three hours before the sun would cross the western horizon. I intentionally started late, partially to avoid the suffocating heat but mostly because that’s when the tide was falling. While working the shoreline of a large marsh lake, I came upon a drain that was dumping gorgeous water from a pond choked with hydrilla and coontail. It certainly looked like a place that might hold a feeding redfish or two.

Crankbait for redfish
Crankbaits are super effective in areas that aren’t absolutely choked with grass. Todd Masson

Not all my casts are perfect, but this one was, landing just at the opening of the drain. I wouldn’t have to wait long to see if any feeding reds were there. I don’t think I got two full cranks on the reel before something clobbered the hard-plastic bait and I instinctively set the hook. The water erupted in a froth of copper-tinted foam as a 27-inch redfish became enraged at the baitfish that seemed to have otherworldly power. The fish thrashed its head back and forth, and in the process managed to dislodge the hooks from its gaping maw.

The lure flew through the air, reentering the water about 5 feet away. I was disappointed at having lost the fish but, as always, impressed by the power and tenacity of these trophic marsh dwellers. Then something crazy happened. Apparently super annoyed that its easy meal had gotten away without providing a little corner of contentment in its belly, the redfish charged at the bait and absolutely obliterated it while it was resting motionless on the surface. I again set the hook, and this time, the fish wouldn’t get so lucky. It would never again get to swim where it wanted without a yellow tag near its dorsal fin.

Would the ubiquitous soft-plastic paddletail have elicited the same reaction from this redfish? Who knows? But it’s not for novelty that my favorite redfish lures this time of year would work equally well on a cypress-peppered flat of an impoundment. Redfish just can’t seem to resist them.

redfish caught on weedless rubber worm
The author fishes a weedless ribbed worm in areas with dropoffs to fool redfish. Todd Masson

In addition to the crankbaits, I also regularly throw a gold-bladed spinnerbait teamed with a 14-ounce jighead and soft-plastic paddletail as well as a ribbed worm fished Texas-rigged below a 14-ounce tungsten bullet weight. The crankbait is my go-to in waters devoid of submerged aquatic vegetation or where there’s a hard edge to the grass that the fish use as a shoreline. When the grass is scattered, I’m more likely to reach for the spinnerbait, and in areas with drop-offs and ledges, the worm is hard to beat.

All are proving particularly effective this year. After a few meager seasons, the spawn of 2021 was especially robust, and those fish are all now in the 18- to 22-inch range. The marshes are absolutely crawling with redfish.