Spoon-feeding spring redfish

Spring redfish are on the lookout for the baitfish and shrimp that are arriving in inshore waters, and they’ll be feeding aggressively, which makes a spoon a great lure to throw.
Spring redfish are on the lookout for the baitfish and shrimp that are arriving in inshore waters, and they’ll be feeding aggressively, which makes a spoon a great lure to throw.

The venerable Johnson Silver Minnow is hard to beat for April inshore action

According to Aaron Beatson, a fishing guide from Kill Devil Hills, N.C., he doesn’t leave the dock in the spring without a handful of one type of simple lure. The Johnson Silver Minnow gold spoon is his go-to redfish tricker. He said it’s an easy lure for anyone to use, and it’s just deadly on red drum of all sizes early in the spring.

“It’s a cast-and-retrieve type of lure. You don’t have to do anything special for it to work,” said Beatson, who runs Carolina Sunrise Inshore Fishing Specialist Charters. “A twitch here and there doesn’t hurt, but you basically just need to crank it in and let the lure do the work for you.

“Everything, including operating the boat, is simple when fishing this lure. You just find a piece of real estate, like a large flat that has sandy or grassy bottom, preferably in water that’s 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep. Then you position the boat so that the wind will push you across the entire area. Now turn the motor off, and start casting.”

On especially windy days, Beatson ties a 5-gallon bucket to the bow of his boat and another to the stern. They act as drift socks, slowing his 20-foot skiff’s sideways drift to a reasonable speed. And when the wind isn’t kicking, he allows the wind to carry his boat.

“Ideally, you want four anglers on the boat,” he said. “Two of them will stand on the front — or whatever part of the boat is positioned forward. They’ll cast spoons with the wind as far as they can, into the area that the boat hasn’t passed over yet. Then they crank it back in. They can burn it in, or they can reel it steady.

Go with the right gear

“I like 2500 to 3000 (class) spinning reels and flimsy rods. You can cast these lures a mile with that setup. And I use 10- to 20-pound braided line and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader that’s about 2 feet long.”

Johnson Silver Minnow
Johnson Silver Minnow

And while he keeps things simple, Beatson said he does add one thing to the lure that many anglers don’t think about doing.

“I add a small red or orange bead directly in front of where the knot connects to the lure. It does two things. It acts as an attractant with its bright color, and it also keeps the knot from picking up grass. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference in a day of fishing,” he said.

While the two anglers up front are casting spoons, Beatson said a third casts a popping cork with a 3-inch Gulp swimming mullet under it.

“That popping cork really attracts the red drum and brings them in,” he said. “The popping sound gets them in a feeding mood.”

The fourth angler is casting either a spoon or a popping cork rig.

“Some days, it takes two popping corks working together to really give off the impression that a bunch of shrimp are in the area and flicking their tails,” Beatson said. “Those guys with the popping corks will catch some drum, but some will also come around to investigate the noise, and end up hitting those spoons. It can really start a feeding frenzy.”

Anglers should also always be on the lookout for disturbances or swirls in the water’s surface. Those are telltale signs of feeding redfish, and they’ll often hit a well-placed spoon. Those swirls, Beatson said, are always worth casting to.

“Sometimes they’ll hit it immediately, and you better be ready for it,” he said.

Beef up for big reds

While he enjoys fishing this way with the lighter tackle mentioned above, Aaron Beatson said on some days, you have to beef up your gear. It all depends on what size fish are present.

When big reds are present, put away your lighter tackle. Long fights on lighter tackle can put too much stress on fish whose release is required.
When big reds are present, put away your lighter tackle. Long fights on lighter tackle can put too much stress on fish whose release is required.

“All sizes of red drum will hit these spoons, and you can catch some really big ones. Fifty-pound drum will hit it, and they’ll wear your gear out, spool you, break rods, and even if you are able to land them, it will wear them out past the point that you should.

“These fish are old trophies, and you don’t want to cause them any harm. So you really need to beef up if you’re getting hit by these old drum. On some trips, I’ve switched to straight cobia gear with these lures when the big drum are hitting.”

Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1271 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.