The infamous Rat-l-trap… Most anglers are familiar with the ½ ounce version that has proven itself as a guaranteed fish catcher since the 1960s. What many people don’t know is that there is actually a “big brother” to the original Rat-l-trap: the Super Trap. This version weighs in at 1 ½ ounces and almost five inches long. It is used by some bass anglers for deep summertime fish, but a few trips to the passes of Grand Isle, Louisiana have made it clear that bull reds can’t resist them.
Kayak anglers have targeted bull reds in Grand Isle for years during the World Famous “Ride the Bull” tournament. Most participants choose the traditional cracked crab or cut mullet on the bottom and normally they have no issues bringing plenty of fish to the scales. While this is a pretty productive way of catching big reds, a few kayak anglers have found a little more “technical”, but still highly efficient way of targeting them.
Countless hours on the water have revealed a few places where schools of bull reds typically congregate at certain times of the year. In the past, large Berkley Gulp grubs and 1-2 ounce jig heads were the tools of choice for getting these fish to bite. After getting my hands on the Super Trap in the summer of 2019, I decided to see if they would work as well as the typical Gulp pattern. It didn’t take long to realize that this bait had no issues tricking bulls of up to 45” into biting.
The ability to cast, troll, and vertical jig Rat-l-traps make them one of the most versatile baits on the market. All of these techniques work well when targeting bull reds, but there are a few ways to maximize their potential in the deeper water surrounding Grand Isle.
When starting out in a new area, I prefer trolling a Super Trap behind the kayak while keeping a close eye on my fish finder. Any time I mark a school or get bit, I immediately drop a waypoint on my Lowrance unit. This gives me a reference point to return to after landing the fish as they typically stay near the same areas throughout the day (depending on the tide).
Once a school is located, the trap can be either casted and retrieved, or vertically jigged. Either method works well, but it is important to note how deep the fish are running. They are not always holding tight to the bottom as I have marked them as high as 5’ from the surface in 20’ of water.
The typical 7’ medium action inshore setups are capable of handling big bull reds, but when specifically targeting them with Super Traps, I prefer a heavier setup. A 7’ heavy (25-30lb line rating) spinning rod paired with a 5000 size reel and 50+ pound braid is my typical setup for this technique. You want to make sure your rod has enough backbone to handle large bulls in a reasonable amount of time while being sensitive enough to feel the bite. The passes are normally free of obstructions so you don’t have to worry about breaking fish off, but a heavier rod and line setup is recommended if you plan on fishing near the bridge. The Caminada Pass bridge is a great spot to vertical jig the traps, but it’s not always easy to land the fish once you hook up. They love to head towards the pilings during the fight, so a locked drag and a lot of luck is needed to land them there.
I also highly recommend using a 60-80lb fluorocarbon leader for a few reasons. First, it adds some abrasion resistance to your setup in the event that you are fishing near the bridge, or if the trap is completely swallowed. Second, when landing the bulls, the leader is much easier to grab and handle than braid. I don’t like to carry a large enough net on the kayak to land them, so normally I grab the leader, and use a boga grip to secure the fish.
Fish finders are not 100% necessary for targeting bull reds, but they do provide a massive amount of information if you are able to read them correctly. I utilize a Lowrance unit with side scan to locate schools of fish and manage my waypoints. While trolling through the pass, I am constantly marking fish and saving waypoints to return to. This gives me more data to refer back to in future trips and helps understand why the fish are set up based on the weather and tide. It is not uncommon to repeatedly visit the same waypoints throughout the year and continue to catch fish in those exact spots.
Side scan has been a huge benefit for this style of fishing because it allows me to survey more area under the water than with traditional down scan. I’ve had multiple cases where I was able to locate fish using side scan that I never would have seen on down scan.
In my opinion, using the Super Traps for bull reds is one of the most rewarding and fun ways of catching them. More often than not, they almost rip the rod out of your hand when they bite and when you find one, there's normally 10-15 more with it. Pick up a few before your next Grand Isle trip and hold on tight!