Top 3 Artificial Lures to Use During Cooler Months

key lime pie artificial lure

Several mild cold fronts have passed through the Suncoast over the past few weeks. These fronts are like a warning signal to both pelagic fish on the move and fish that remain in local waters throughout the year. It’s most evident with pelagics like Spanish and king mackerel that move southward with each new frontal passage. Schools of big kings hit the offshore artificial reefs, wrecks and rock piles where bait schools hang. These bait magnets are like the kitchen to these fish and the fish are bellying up to the table! Spanish mackerel do the same, but seem to prefer the near shore reefs and inshore waters where they can feed on scaled sardines, threadfin herring, and glass minnows that stage up near the mouths of rivers, creeks, and bays this time of year. The occasional kingfish will move in and out of lower Tampa Bay as well, but will do that more commonly when we get closer to Thanksgiving week.
On the inshore scene, each drop in atmospheric pressure caused by an approaching front triggers a bite. Small nuances like tidal surges, an increase in wind velocity and wind directional changes enhances the bite with snook, trout, redfish, flounder, bluefish, and just about every other species of fish in the bays.
One common denominator right now where we’ll find feeding fish is the proximity to the mullet run. Mullet in our bays are beginning to school up on the fronts in preparation for the offshore spawn. Look for big schools of mullet jumping and you’re likely to find other fish feeding in the area. Redfish are notorious for running with schooling mullet, just as big gator trout are. You’ll also find big snook on the flats during a blow.
Higher winds create a wind-driven currents that move baitfish in the bay and anywhere bait schools hang. This improves the bite for ambush feeders like snook and trout that stage up on windy points and channel edges. Troughs on the open flats that have ridges that rise upward toward the surface makes the water ‘hump’ up as the velocity increases with tidal surges and the water moves over the humps. This triggers action nearly every time on these humps.
Fronts will be passing continuously for the next five or so months. Some will be very mild, and some more harsh. Each frontal passage prepares fish for the winter ahead. The more severe the front, the bigger the change fish make in movement toward their ultimate winter destinations until they reach those areas. The main thrust of the movement is the food source. Baitfish move with plankton, a portion of their food source. Time of day plays a part in depth plankton holds. During warmer times of the day, plankton moves toward the surface, making surface lures and suspending baits more productive. Lures like the MirrOlure Top Dog, MirrOmullet XL, and MirrOdine cover the top couple of feet of water near the surface, where these fish are feeding. But once winter weather socks in, look for feeding fish to remain on or near the bottom.
Fish seem to have a preference to colors more-so now than during the summer months. Night glow is always a top color, but chartreuse and hot pink colors seem to get hit more often as water temperatures fall. A combination of these colors can be deadly. On a recent trip, I threw several types of soft plastic lures and these are my top three choices of artificial bait to use during the cooler months: The CAL Shad, CAL 5.5 Jerk Bait, and the MirrOlure Lil’ John were the lures that got hit.

Capt. Ray’s Top 3  Artificial Lures During Cooler Months

#3: Key Lime

In the DOA CAL line, Night Glow, (#305) and the color called Key Lime, (#417) were struck by redfish with such violence that the fish nearly jerked the rod from my hands on the strikes. The Key Lime color reminds me of Key Lime Pie, one of my favorite desserts.

#2: Sour Lemon and Money

The same thing happened with the MirrOlure Lil’ John when using the colors Sour Lemon and Money, both vibrantly bright yellow/greenish color.

#1: Hot Pink

Hot pink has always been an excellent producer for big winter trout. Lures like the TTR MirrOlure and the selection of Paul Brown lures are available in hot pink, and these are a winter must-have lure in my tackle box for trout during the cold weather.

While some opt to stay home when the winds pipe up and weather is on the way in, think about what the fish are doing. These are opportunities to fish when these fish are considering their very survival. And feeding prior to fronts is just what fish do. Fish during these times and you could be at the head of the line when fish are lining up to chow down.