July 10, 2023
Most anglers are familiar with the Strike King Lure Company and its full repertoire of baits. Strike King has been a prominent lure manufacturer and well-known entity, especially in the bass world, for decades. It also produces loads of Mr. Crappie jigs and plastics.
While the company has carved out a solid space for itself in the freshwater realm, it hasn’t yet gained the same type of foothold in the saltwater market. Many of its existing freshwater lures will certainly catch saltwater fish (the Red Eyed Shad is one great example). However, apart from a couple baits, like the Redfish Magic Spinnerbait and Speckled Trout Magic Jig Head, dedicated lures devoted strictly to saltwater fishing have been largely absent.
This changed last year when Strike King introduced five “new” baits in a brand-new saltwater line. I place new in quotation marks because most of the baits (aside from one) weren’t technically new but essentially revamped for saltwater use. These included the Sexy Dawg Hard Knock Saltwater, Red Eyed Shad Saltwater, Rage Swimmer Saltwater, Rage Menace Saltwater and Flood Minnow.
Now, for this year, Strike King is investing in the inshore saltwater market even more with two new tackle accessories, one new bait and one expansion of an existing bait. The company is adding the Ploppin’ Cork, Poppin’ Cork, Tidal Shrimp and 3.25-inch Rage Swimmer Saltwater (the existing swimbait is 3.75 inches) to the lineup. This development brings an essential inshore presentation—a popping cork and artificial shrimp—into the fold and gives anglers another commonly used swimbait size to throw as well. With these new additions, let’s examine Strike King’s saltwater line in its entirety.
INTO THE SALT
Following these new introductions, the Strike King saltwater line starts looking a little more fleshed out. In terms of hard baits, there are the Sexy Dawg Hard Knock Saltwater and Red Eyed Shad Saltwater. You also have two spinners with the Redfish Magic Spinnerbait and the Speckled Trout Magic Jig Head, which is more of an underspin. Then there’s the more typical Flats Jig Head. And then you have two different styles of corks, and several soft plastic baits. We’ll look closer at each of these, starting with the most recent, and then I’ll discuss some of my firsthand experience with several of these products.
The new Ploppin’ Cork is an innovative, outside-the-box take on the more traditional popping cork. Instead of the usual pop or gurgle, the Ploppin’ Cork produces an action and sound like a plopping style topwater lure courtesy of its exclusive double-winged section. This unique cork/attractor uses high-quality wire and an extremely loud rattle system to draw fish from afar.
“I’ve been working to develop the Ploppin’ Cork for a long time, and it is easily the best on the market,” says Mike Frenette, Strike King pro saltwater angler and guide/owner of Redfish Lodge of Louisiana (laredfish.com). “I am so excited to share the results with our customers.”
Frenette also designed Strike King’s new Poppin’ Cork, which is itself distinct when compared to standard corks. Unlike most corks, Frenette’s version has six small holes drilled through it. These holes enable water and air to get trapped as they are passing through, and the result is an insane bubble trail behind the cork and a distinctive sound. The new cork also has a weight on the wire for balance and two large beads to produce a clacking sound that further attracts fish.
The new Tidal Shrimp, of course, is a perfect pairing for either of these corks, though it could certainly be used independently of them, too. Reimagined to increase durability and performance, the Tidal Shrimp utilizes a firmer material than standard soft plastics and has a mesh overlay on the tail. Saltwater fish—with their sharp teeth or rough mouths—are notoriously hard on soft plastics, so this is a wise choice. The Tidal Shrimp is available in eight colors and comes pre-rigged with a 1/4-ounce hook. The bait can be rigged with the line-tie coming out of the shrimp’s head for a more traditional presentation or with the eyelet of the jig head in the shrimp’s center for a more natural shrimp fleeing action.
The existing Rage Swimmer Saltwater family gets the new 3.25-inch swimbait this year, which gives anglers a better match to smaller-sized forage. And like its 3.75-inch predecessor, this size is also available in 12 different Strike King pro staff-approved colors. The saltwater Rage Swimmer is a potent, versatile option whether it’s rigged on a jig head and retrieved or bounced, or if it’s rigged weightless or as a trailer on another bait, like a Redfish Magic spinner.
The previously introduced Rage Menace Saltwater is likewise great as a trailer on a bladed swim jig or spinnerbait, or on a jig beneath a popping cork or on its own. The 3.5-inch grub’s twin tails vibrate and swim whether you burn it across the flats or bounce it along bottom. The Flood Minnow, meanwhile, is a 3.5-inch paddle tail that utilizes an extra-durable soft plastic capable of handling brutal strikes and being fished all day. It’s great for covering water on a steady retrieve or for pitching, skipping or jigging around structure. Both the Rage Menace and Flood Minnow are available in 12 saltwater colors.
While the Redfish Magic Spinnerbait comes with a pre-rigged durable Elaztech soft plastic bait, any of the last three saltwater soft plastics mentioned (Rage Swimmer, Rage Menace or Flood Minnow) are suitable trailers as well. The real “magic” with this bait is the combination of the plastic bait, the Flats Jig Head (also available on its own) and the gold No. 4 Colorado blade. The blade does much of the heavy lifting, particularly in stained or disturbed water, attracting fish with its vibration and flash. The Redfish Magic Spinnerbait is available in 1/8- or 1/4-ounce sizes, and its included Glass Minnow soft bait is available in nine colors. Also available in 1/8- or 1/4-ounce sizes, the Speckled Trout Magic Jig Head has the under-spin blade and the same soft plastic, available in seven colors.
The Sexy Dawg Hard Knock Saltwater takes bass pro angler Kevin Van Dam’s long-casting premium “walk-the-dog” style topwater lure and adapts it for the salt. Featuring the same great loud “knock” and easy walking action to attract fish, this 4.5-inch 5/8-ounce lure is made salt-ready with the addition of new heavy-duty components. These include Mustad’s saltwater-grade Triple-Grip treble hooks and similarly corrosion-resistant steel swivels, line eyes and terminal components. The Sexy Dawg Hard Knock Saltwater comes with realistic 3D eyes and is available in nine vibrant colors that mimic natural forage for saltwater predators. It’s a solid choice around weed lines, oyster beds or mangroves, or when fish are feeding near bait pods.
Strike King’s Red Eyed Shad Saltwater shares some of these same terminal upgrades. This includes the same saltwater-grade corrosion-resistant Mustad Triple-Grip treble hooks, swivels, line eyes and other terminal elements. This exceptional lipless crankbait is available in two sizes—1/2- and 3/4-ounce—and 16 different colors that imitate saltwater prey species. The 1/2-ounce size is perfect for use around shallow flats or exposed weed lines, or for bouncing off oyster beds and rocks, whereas the 3/4-ounce shines for covering water quickly around deeper ledges and ditches. Like the Sexy Dawg, this lure comes with realistic 3D eyes.
IMPRESSIONS ON THE WATER
I’ve been fortunate enough to test several of these baits out over the past few years. In both cases, I fished in and around Venice, Louisiana, often with the man behind many of these baits and their improvements himself, Mike Frenette. Or, if not him, then with one of his sons, Michael or Stephen.
Frenette and his family have a great operation down in Venice with their Redfish Lodge of Louisiana. The lodge, situated about as far south as you can drive in Louisiana, has a distinctly Cajun atmosphere, and Mike’s wife, Lori, enhances that vibe with mouth-watering Cajun cuisine. The lodge is also near some of the finest redfishing in the world, making it a great place to test saltwater baits.
In two trips to Venice, I’ve fished with five of Strike King’s baits: the Redfish Magic Spinnerbait, Rage Swimmer Saltwater, Rage Menace Saltwater, Flood Minnow and Red Eyed Shad. I used the first four of these on a trip about a month ago. About three years ago, I caught several big bull reds on the original Red Eyed Shad (not the new saltwater version).
The original Red Eyed Shad (freshwater version) held up phenomenally well to the big reds Captain Mike and I caught on that spring trip for big bull reds (which I wrote about in our magazine).We were burning those over deeper flats and catching big prowling redfish that would hit violently enough to nearly knock the rod out of your hands. With how well those lures performed then, I can only imagine how impressive they are now that they’ve been enhanced for saltwater use with heavy-duty corrosion-resistant hooks, swivels, line eyes and other terminal accessories.
The Redfish Magic Spinnerbaits and various soft plastics performed equally well in my more recent trip this summer. While the fishing was significantly tougher this trip (we battled some stiff winds each day, which stirred up the water and made sight-fishing difficult), we all still managed to catch some fish. What impressed me most on this trip was how durable the soft plastics seemed to be. With mean, aggressive saltwater fish, you’re often replacing plastic skirts after each fish or at least every couple, but the Flood Minnow, Rage Swimmer Saltwater and Rage Menace Saltwater all held up very well.
I especially liked the look of the Rage Menace, and Frenette explained to me how it could be rigged with the twin tails horizontal to mimic shrimp, or vertical to suggest a small baitfish. It just seems like a really versatile bait. He used a Texas rig with the bait to catch one redfish, while I used the same plastic as the trailer on a Redfish Magic Spinnerbait to catch another.
Most of the fish I caught—and that I saw caught—on this summer trip fell to Redfish Magic spinners. Other baits worked, but the extremely windy conditions resulted in some pretty stained water, and even in the clearer, protected areas we were able to reach, fish seemed to prefer the alluring call of the Redfish Magic spinner blade.
Unfortunately, the brand-new Ploppin’ Cork, Poppin’ Cork and Tidal Shrimp were not yet available for us to fish with last month. However, I did get a sneak peek at the two new corks. The Poppin’ Cork looks closer to the traditional cork you see on most inshore guide boats, but the six drilled holes, which create a unique bubble trail and sound, could be a difference maker. The Ploppin’ Cork, on the other hand, seems an entirely new design and concept. However, it’s one that Frenette expressed a lot of confidence in when he was telling me about it on his boat.
I wish we’d had a few of these on hand to test out last month, but I know that brand-new and prototype products are not always available ahead of time in that kind of quantity. The fact that Strike King is coming out with their own versions of this essential inshore presentation is encouraging, though, and I’m excited to see how they perform. The Ploppin’ Cork, especially, if it catches on and does well, could be a gamechanger.
In any case, saltwater anglers now have a variety of Strike King baits to turn to for all their inshore pursuits.
For more information on this new line of Strike King saltwater baits, visit strikeking.com.