I started fishing for saltwater species in October of 2018, and I have had one goal the entire time: I want to catch a red drum! The “I think it’s a red” line is an inside joke among some of our founding members, because on one trip I was in an area known for red drum activity and had something very heavy run with my lure. In my intense excitement I just MIGHT have yelled, “I think its a red”!!! I don’t remember it going down quite that way, but my fishing buddies are fairly adamant that came out of my mouth verbatim.
A long and entertaining fight later and it turns out it was actually a bullnose ray. I was a little disappointed, but it was fun none-the-less. It has taken me the majority of the last year to really get comfortable with my local waterways and understand what the various species want. I started, probably like most people, casting and retrieving a simple paddle tail soft plastic behind a jig head. The problem was it took me a few tries to understand what the fish are really looking for. Simply casting it out and ripping it back in wasn’t the most effective retrieve for the most common fish I have found in Lake Rudee: speckled trout.
I can write a separate post about targeting speckled trout specifically but after a year of fishing saltwater inlets, a jig head and paddle tail is still my go-to lure if I am just looking to get a bite! This past trip I went out past the jetty into the Atlantic and ripped some metal spoons looking for, and finding, plenty of bluefish and spanish mackerel. Again, separate topic but once I came back within the confines of the inlet I switched rods to use my trusty paddle tail.
I started with a 1/4oz red jighead like this Strike King Saltwater Flats Jig Head Bait (Red, 0.25-Ounce). I have found that especially during the late spring through early fall when the water is warmer and the fish are more active the 1/4oz gets more strikes than other weights. Especially in shallower water anything bigger than 3/8 tends to fall too fast to generate interest.
On the jig head I have found the paddle tail type soft plastics work best for me. There are probably hundreds of color choices and variations, but for me the best producing has been simply all white. The Bass Assassin Saltwater Sea Shad-10 Per Bag (Alewife, 4-Inch) is what I have been using most.
When fishing with soft plastics keep a small tube of superglue in your tackle box with you. When putting my paddle tail lures onto my jig head, I put a small dab of super glue on the jig head to prevent slipping. If you fish soft plastics for a while, you know that eventually they start sliding down your hook on hard casts or missed hook-sets and they no longer function like they should on the retrieve!
I prefer the gel type super glue because it is easier to control the application and less chance I accidentally glue my fingers together or worse to my hook!
Added benefit of keeping some superglue with you, if you get bit by a bluefish or spanish mackerel while fishing with one of these chances are its gonna get torn! As long as you get all the pieces back with your fish, a dab of super glue and a few seconds to set and your paddle tail or other soft plastic is ready to go back to work without the need to replace it! Yea, they aren’t all THAT expensive but you get on a good bite and go through a bag of them that can run you $6-9/bag and it adds up after a while.
My first red drum was caught using this exact combination! The only missing part of the equation was knowing where to throw it. Thanks to two of our members, Steve and Lisa, I got the suggestion to try the grass line in Lake Wesley after dusk.
As I approached a grassy area just inside the inlet, I could hear tails swishing in the shallow water. Red drum hunt for baitfish in the shallows and typically keep their heads down which leads to their tails breaking the surface. I could actually see the water swirling as he was chasing the bait flowing into the inlet.
For lighter paddle tails I use a 6’9″ Medium Fast Temple Fork Outfitters GIS Inshore baitcasting rod with a KastKing Royale Legend Baitcasting Reels,Elite Series Fishing Reel in 6.6:1 ratio. I prefer baitcasters when fishing shallow or close to shore because I can be much more precise in my lure placement. I dropped my paddle tail right at the grass line and then retrieved it slowly back to my kayak.
Rather than a straight retrieve where I simply turn the handle and let the lure come back to me in a straight line, I would give the rod tip two or three pops and let the lure sink back to the bottom before retrieving the line a bit and starting the process all over.
It only took a few tries before the red drum grabbed my lure and made a run for it! I was fishing around some pilings and the grass so I was very aware of how my line angled away from my kayak. If he got me wrapped around a piling I could lose him.
I was drifting pretty close to the grass line and got pulled closer by my friend here, so it wasn’t a very long fight. As you can see from the picture, I successfully landed him!
Between all members of Ironclad Fishing on this trip we landed speckled trout, flounder, bluefish, spanish mackerel, croaker and red drum! It was an amazing evening both weather and fishing and can’t wait to go again.
Are you in the Southside Hampton Roads area and want to join us? Whether you want to try your first trip fishing from a kayak or have been doing it all your life all are welcome. Just sign up for our updates and we will let all know of our upcoming adventures!
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