In a world packed with hooky bait options, look to these tried and true Texas coastal favorites
“What’s the best lure or bait to throw?”
I hear this question often. Most of the time, I’m extremely tempted to respond with, “The one that catches the most fish, of course!”
In all seriousness, though, that’s a really loaded question. Countless baits, rigs and types of hardware are on the market today. A lot of them will catch fish, under the right conditions.
That said, I believe that when an angler checks out at the cash register of a sporting goods store with a pile of tackle, or confirms an online purchase of a variety of baits from an internet supplier, those products already have caught what they were intended to catch. The tackle industry, like any other, thrives off revenue from product sales. In addition to fooling fish, lures at a store or distributor are designed and packaged to attract anglers.
With a seemingly endless supply of bait options, you might wonder how to narrow the field to which lures are right, without wasting a bunch of time and money. The answer is fairly simple — it’s all about confidence. Stick with the baits you’re confident will coax strikes from gamefish in a variety of scenarios, and forget about the rest.
Below are some of my favorites and they will help you catch more fish throughout the water column. These are some of the most tried and true Texas coastal gems. Some are fairly new, while others have stood the test of time. Even so, these aren’t your granddaddy’s throwback plugs. They will withstand the salty elements and keep you hooked up.
The gold spoon has evolved and come a long way over the years. From weedless models to those sporting vibrant colors in a variety of patterns, this lure probably has caught more fish than any other on this list.
The successful history of this bait likely lies in the fact that it’s virtually dummy proof — anybody can use it, regardless of skill and experience. Simply cast it out as far as possible and reel it back in. The lure will do all of the work for you. From the popular Johnson Sprite, to other models by various manufacturers, the gold spoon still catches fish and always will.
Popping Cork Rig
Whether it’s paired with a live shrimp or a soft plastic bait, a popping cork will get the job done. In windy conditions, the sound emitted by a popping cork can help fish find your offering, even when the water is dirty.
Popping corks will hold baits up off the bottom if snagging hazards are present, plus they’ll help keep the presentation in the strike zone longer.
One of my favorite corks is the Inticer by Texas-based MidCoast Products. This popping cork is loud and sturdy, not to mention it can be cast a country mile.
There’s something to be said about the fluid action of a round bait, and the Heddon Super Spook is a topwater plug that dances across the surface in tantalizing fashion. This magnum-sized lure has lost some love in recent years as many folks tend to be more prone to throwing its smaller cousin, the Super Spook Jr.
The fact is, this large bait still works, especially when rafts of mullet are swarming near the top of the water column. It has been around a while, but the Super Spook has received a few makeovers in recent years. Now available in a variety of proven color patterns, the saltwater version Super Spooks also are fitted with saltwater-grade hooks.
KWigglers Getaway Lodge Jalapeno Popper
KWigglers is a San Antonio-based company that makes some extremely versatile and durable soft plastics. One of its latest creations is the Getaway Lodge Jalapeño Popper, which is in a color scheme inspired by Getaway Lodge in Port Mansfield on the Lower Laguna Madre.
The Jalapeno Popper sports a lime-colored belly, with a pumpkin seed back and a white tail. This pattern looks great in a variety of water conditions and already has caught its fair share of gamefish.
Although designed on the lower Texas coast, it’s an excellent soft plastic option for any bay system.
MirrOlure 51MR Texas Chicken
The 51MR MirrOlure is a classic that keeps producing. One color pattern for this bait that always has tricked saltwater gamefish is a pink back, silver sides and a yellow belly. This color scheme has worked so well over the years it has been dubbed “The Texas Chicken.”
As a sinking twitch bait, the 51MR can be used to cover the entire water column. Retrieve it swiftly to keep it near the surface, or slow it down to allow it to sink toward the bottom. Twitch it, pause it, and get ready for a bone-crushing thump.
Most folks might associate Rat-L-Traps with freshwater fishing, but this bait definitely has a place in the saltwater world. It’s great for fooling redfish and speckled trout, especially in off-colored water. The vibrations and sounds it emits while being retrieved seem to call the fish in.
Rat-L-Traps are built for abuse, and they work best when bounced off rocks, rip rap, shell or other debris. My favorite model is the ¾-ounce saltwater version in pink and gold.