Artificials For Inshore Action

Get active! Power fishing artificials is a fun way to catch a wide variety of inshore species.

Capt. Bert Deener | March 1, 2007

I remember my first hot seatrout bite like it was yesterday. My father and I pulled my small jonboat within casting range of an oyster-shell point in a creek slicing through Saint Simons Island at the beginning of flood tide. As the water began easing its way up the point, seatrout swarmed from the deeper water up onto the point to feast on shrimp and small fish. We lobbed live shrimp after live shrimp rigged under what seemed to be an arm-sized float to the point, dragging back either a trout or an empty hook after a swing and a miss. Not expecting much of a bite, we had purchased only a quart of live shrimp. The numbers of crustaceans remaining in the livewell dwindled quickly, but the trout showed no signs of letting up. I wanted to cry as I skewered the last shrimp, cast it, and hoisted yet another trout over the side.

Panic ensued, and we frantically drove up into a nearby creek flinging a cast net in search of more mudbugs. With the tide entering the grass, it was difficult to catch additional baits, and it took us about an hour to catch enough to resume fishing. As you can guess, enough time had elapsed that the bite was over. The rest of the day we did not catch another fish, but I could not help but wonder what would have happened if we had purchased TWO quarts of shrimp.

Fast forward more than a decade, and I know the answer to that question. I would not need a second quart of shrimp, or a first quart for that matter. Armed with plastic shrimp or baitfish imitations in that same situation, I am convinced we could have caught at least twice as many fish as we did on live shrimp.

I have since applied what I gleaned from two decades of bass-tournament fishing to the saltwater stage with success. You cannot just grab a MirrOlure Top Dog, fling it in the middle of the Intracoastal Waterway, and expect to hook up. Bass anglers spend time analyzing various conditions, and saltwater requires the same attention to details. Once you learn how to select lures, you will add more than an hour per trip when you figure in time savings purchasing live bait, fighting to keep them alive all day, and constantly rebaiting when bait-stealers clean you out.

Just as in bass angling, you must view artificial lures as tools. There are applications where certain lures are the right tool for the job, whether it be zinging big topwaters to boulders at a jetty for trophy seatrout or daintily casting an unweighted plastic shad to a tailing redfish. I cannot cover every situation or lure in one article, but I will suggest a few of my go-to artificials that cover a variety of applications along our bountiful coast.

Cajun Thunder/Equalizer Rigs

This is the rig that convinced me of the effectiveness of artificial lures for inshore species, and I branched out to other artificials from there. I became  a believer after a trip to Crooked River when I caught (not kept) 65 trout while my fishing partner only caught 12 with live shrimp. The rig consists of a rattling float (either Equalizer, Cajun Thunder, or one of the other many imitations), a leader, and a jig head rigged with a plastic lure of some sort. On the Georgia coast I am almost always tar- get fishing. That is, I am casting to a small, specific spot where I believe a trout may be holding, whether it be a small creek mouth or an edge of an oyster bar. I most often employ the junior-sized Equalizer float with a jig head capable of standing the float. Since the jig head is the only source of weight (no brass beads below the float as with the Cajun Thunder), you can direct a cast very accurately with this set-up. I use an 18- to 30-inch leader of 17- or 20-lb. test fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is much clearer and more abrasion resistant than monofilament, so it is an ideal leader material.

After casting to a likely looking spot, I pause until the float sits up. After a few seconds, I give a couple brisk backhand twitches to simulate the sound of a fleeing shrimp being eaten. The lure rises behind the float when twitched and then swings downward during the pause. When the lure gets directly underneath, the float sits up, causing the lure to drop a couple inch- es and the float to produce a click. Most of my bites come just after the float stands up and clicks.

My go-to plastic lure with this rig is a Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad in electric chicken and candy corn for stained water or greenback shiner and clear gold flake on the occasions when the water clears. On days when your initial offering does not produce, switch colors and plastic styles until you dial in the right combination.

These rigs excel when fished around and over our coast’s numerous oyster mounds. My most effective depth has been three to six feet deep, although I have caught trout from water 25 feet deep with an 18-inch leader. Effective locations to fish this rig include current edges, mouths of small creeks, oyster mounds and marsh grass points. Seatrout and redfish hammer this rig, but do not be surprised to take flounder, bluefish, ladyfish or even sharks. You can catch anything feeding on baitfish with this rig.

Soft Plastics

I could write an entire article on the nuances of plastic lures, but suffice it to say you will be well armed with an assortment of Saltwater Assassin Sea Shads and five-inch shads. Skewered on a 1/8- to 3/8-oz. jig head depending upon the depth you are fishing, Sea Shads are effective by simply casting and reeling. Bouncing your offering along the bottom is usually more effective than a straight retrieve, especially for flounder. Work it across the deep end of a sandbar or small creek mouth and expect a flatfish to grab it. I have even caught big whiting by dragging a Sea Shad through deep holes. The same colors that work on the Equalizer rig will score when fished on a jig head without a float. Additionally, space guppy and pink diamond colors have been very effective on flounder.

When big redfish are cruising mud flats and you see them boiling or pushing water, there is nothing more effective than a soft jerkbait. My favorite is a Saltwater Assassin five-inch Shad rigged Texas-style with a 5/0 offset worm hook. This is the exact same rig I used on the reservoirs so many years to catch springtime bass. Try to judge where the fish will move to and cast to that spot. Then, when the fish gets there, you are in position without plunking the lure on its head and spooking it. Subtle twitches are all that are needed to convince a redfish it should eat your offering. Sight fishing for redfish is my primary application for this lure, but I have caught nice trout by blind-casting it to grass points. When the water is warm and fish are hitting topwaters, I always have a shad rigged and ready to cast to a fish that misses my topwater offering. Any bass anglers in the crowd picking up on the similarities? Electric chicken, limetreuse, and goldfish are colors you need in this plastic style.

Hard Jerkbaits

The variety of saltwater jerkbaits is staggering com- pared to just a few years ago. When I first discovered their effectiveness, I was purchasing most of my lures from the freshwater section of tackle shops. Now, virtually every major tackle manufacturer offers saltwater color schemes and hardware on their minnow jerkbaits. Four- to five- inch minnows work well, but I have had great success casting the smaller 3 1/2-inch models, such as the Bite-A- Bait Fighter. The more compact silhouette draws more strikes, but it still casts like a bullet on either spinning or bait- casting gear.

I use jerkbaits when the strike zone is deeper than a foot and fish will not come to the surface to eat a lure. Seatrout, redfish and jack crevalle are the primary species I target with jerk- baits. Two primary retrieves draw strikes. The first is a simple jerk-jerk- pause-jerk-jerk-pause. The lure darts erratically back and forth, and fish usually pounce during the pause. The other retrieve is a jerk-jerk-jerk-jerk-pause until the lure breaks the surface, and then repeat. Sometimes the fish will not react until the lure back breaks the water surface — then they annihilate it. Dancing a jerkbait between oyster shell pods or along a current break is my favorite application.

Again, you really do not need every color offered. A good mullet pat- tern is a necessity, since that is one of the primary forage species for our predatory fishes. When the water is stained, I like to go to a parrot or clown version.


Today, the possibilities are limit- less. I typically use either a MirrOlure Top Pup or the larger She Dog or a MirrOlure 5-M double-prop bait. I especially like topwaters when I see finger mullet schools working along the shoreline. Trout and redfish are the primary fish I catch on topwaters.

The most effective retrieve with the walking baits is to keep your rod tip low and use short twitches to make the lure sashay from side to side. Long casts are key so you can work this bait over oyster-shell mounds or in shallow bays with scattered oyster clumps. I choose these baits when the fish are scattered. Just like in bass fishing, low- light conditions are usually prime for topwaters. These baits can draw some crushing bites when worked around rock jetties, especially around high tide, when you can work the bait overtop of the rocks.

The prop bait is effective when fished with short rips to imitate a school of mullet being marauded. Calm days are the best time to pull out this bait, as you can rip it and just let it sit. Many times a trout will nail it after it sits five or 10 seconds.

The bait’s bottom color is the main concern with topwaters, as it is the part of the bait the fish see best. Orange bot- toms on cloudy days work well for me, while yellow or white are my favorites on bright days. Chrome or gold sides are a good bet because they give off a little flash as the bait flicks sideways while dancing from side to side.


These baits are relatively new to the saltwater scene. They can be incredibly effective on redfish and will also take trout, flounder, and other species. You can find in-line spinners and safety-pin style spinnerbaits. I usually opt for the latter style, which are best described as Beetle Spins on steroids. My favorite style is a Thunder Spin because it has a virtually indestructible wire form (a quality very important when you are into big red- fish) and a premium spring-lock jig head, which does a great job of holding the Sea Shad up on the hook.

Cast the spinnerbait out, let it sink until it’s almost on bottom, then reel slowly, ticking the bottom every fifth or sixth turn of the handle. I have yet to find a better search bait for redfish than a spinnerbait. I love throwing them among oyster-shell mounds, as they rarely hang if you keep them moving.

Thunder Spins come equipped with a Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad body. My best colors are electric chick- en and Calasieu brew in stained water and goldfish in clear water. The gold- blade models typically work best in stained water or overcast conditions, while the copper blades frequently elicit more strikes in clear water and sunny conditions.


You can cover most Georgia inshore fishing situations with two out- fits: a seven-foot medium action spinning outfit and a seven-foot medium or medium-heavy action baitcasting outfit. These will fling almost all artificial offerings and are capable of fighting big inshore gamefish. If you use the Cajun Thunder rig frequently, you may want to consider a 7 1/2-foot spinning rod. When casting a leader, the farther from your ears you can keep the jig head, the better.

A trick I have used over the years that allows me to quickly and easily change topwaters and jerkbaits is to tie a No. 2 or No. 3 Duolock snap to the end of my line. When changing lures, do not put a bait used in saltwater directly back into your box, as saltwater will eat not only the hooks on the lure you just threw, but every other hook in that compartment. Hang your used lures from a five-gallon bucket and then clean and dry all your used lures at the end of the day before returning them to your storage box. Even when used in saltwater, you can get years out of a lure by following this advice.

Braided line is my choice when using single-hook plastic lures, because I like the extra sensitivity. I tie in a two-foot leader of 17- or 20-lb. fluorocarbon to reduce visibility. For spinnerbaits and lures with treble hooks, I choose monofilament, 12-lb. test for spinning and 14-lb. test for baitcasting outfits. I like the long-casting quality of Sufix Siege monofilament. The stretch of monofilament helps keep treble hooks from pulling out when a big fish surges at the boat.

A strong trolling motor is a must for lure fishing. You have to cover a lot of water during the course of a day and cast to as many high-percentage spots as possible. I installed an 82-lb. thrust Motor Guide Great White on my Mako Bay Boat because I wanted the extra push to quickly retrieve a snagged lure against the current.

I realize that most live-bait anglers cannot fathom going seatrout fishing without a livewell full of shrimp as a security blanket. Hopefully, instead of panicking, now those anglers will have enough confidence to dig in the tackle box and pull out artificials the next time a hot bite depletes the baitwell.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.