Rods & Reels:
For inshore/coastal saltwater fishing in the Louisiana Marshes, I prefer to use casting reels mated to either 6'6" or 7' casting rods.
I prefer Shimano reels for their smooth casting, durability and customer service. I started with a Calcutta 250 five years ago, and have been very satisfied. More recently, Mr. 10% has introduced us to the advantages of Shimano Curado reels. Although designed for bass fishing, these ergonomic reels work great on specks and redfish. We now use CU-200, CU-100, and the new CU-200BSF which is very very nice. I haven't used the Curados long enough to vouch for thier reliability, and while I don't expect them to hold up as well as the Calcuttas, their reasonable price and light weight make them a Dularge.com best buy.
I like Castaway and Falcon casting rods with natural cork handles. Personally I like a light action for working jigs for trout, but I prefer a medium action on a shorter rod for the topwater lures. I find that the extra spring in the light action, multiplied over a long day on the water, makes working topwaters tiring. You will get about 5 extra yards of distance on the 7 foot rod.
Although I know it will cause a backlash from Mr. 10%, let me say that I still use a Zebco 888 mated to a stout 7 foot Ugly Stik rod by Shakespeare. I use this rig for casting a weighted popping cork, especially on windy days. I have yet to find any other rig that can cast a cork into the wind with distance and without backlashing. So when the tackle snobs are picking out birdsnests, just step up and wing that cork into the wind with your old Zeb.
Lures and Terminal Tackle
My favorite lure is the topwater plug, and my favorite topwater is the "Top Dog, Jr." by Mirrolure. It took me a long time to gain confidence in this lure, but once you have mastered the simple action of "walking the dog" you will begin to witness violent surface strikes from lurking speckled trout and redfish.
We find that the "She-Dog" version (a/k/a "the beeyotch") may be even better.
Cast the lure as far from the boat as you can and reel it in steadily as you twitch the end of your rod at the same time. The lure will dart from side to side, and make a "click-clack" rhythmically as it does so. When you see the fish strike your bait, do not try to set the hook. Often a speck will strike the plug to stun it. If you rear back, you will pull the lure out of the fish's visual range. Just let the lure sit still for a 3 count, and then gently twitch it to simulate a stunned baitfish. More often than not the speck will come back to finish the job, and get the business end of the treble hooks in the process.
For trout just below the surface, we also like to use slow-sinking or diving twitchbaits like the Catch 2000 by Mirrolure and the Jointed Thunderstick by Mann's Bait Co. I have not really given these baits a fair run against the Top Dog, but I have picked up a few fish on them when the trout are just slapping the topwaters without committing. My frustration with the Catch 2000 has earned it the nickname "Cast 2000" with my crew, although it did produce some nice fish on our 2002 Big Lake trip.
To fish below the surface or on the bottom, we universally agree that the Bayou Chub minnow by Reaction Lures is the best soft plastic baitfish locally available. After using the H&H cocahoe for many years, I switched to the Bayou Chub because of its crisper action and greater durability. They cost a little more, but I think they are worth it.
We rig our plastics on either regular unpainted jigheads, or on improved "Assassin" style jigheads, which have a stronger "wide gap" hook and reflective eyes. Because the improved jigheads are "hi dollar," I will typically only use them where I am comfortable that oyster reefs will not play a major role in the fishing. It is terrible to lose 5 bucks worth of jigheads in 5 minutes.
No tackle discussion would be complete without mentioning the venerable "sparkle beetle" under a popping cork. I wager that this rig has caught more speckled trout than any other artificial lure known to man. String a chartreuse beetle about 18 inches under a popping cork - cast out and pop vigorously every 15 seconds. Deadly on schoolie speckled trout. Another variation of this rig substitutes a DOA shrimp for the beetle, ("the speculizer" or one of the many knock-offs) but I have not noticed any difference in results.
Sometimes redfish cannot resist the temptation of a 3/8 ounce weedless gold spoon crawled out of the marsh grass near the bank. Some say that this lure imitates a crab. I don't know what it does but the redfish love it! Cast out and retreive slow and steady - set the hook hard!
Personally, I like to use Power Pro braided line, manufactured by Innovative Textiles - 20 lb test. This line does not have any stretch to it, which makes for additional sensitivity when working jigs and less "bounce" when twitching topwaters. I also like the durability of this line and how it holds up to nicks and scratches. A drawback is its tendency to catch itself and cause backlashes, and the lack of shock absorption when fighting fish. Mr. 10% swears by his Berkley Big Game in 12 lb test, stating that it gives him extra distance with less backlashes. He has recently come around to using braid for topwaters, but he prefers the 50lb variety.
A good trolling motor is a must. I have the Century rigged with a RT101 by Minn Kota. It is a 36 volt unit, and the extra power comes in handy - both when straining against wind and tide, and also for getting somewhere in a hurry. (The latter is a must when fishing with Mr. 10%). To offset the hassle of maintaining 3 batteries, I installed a Guest 2313 onboard charger. Just plug it in and it float charges all 3 batteries while you sleep. So I have that going for me, which is nice.
A very useful and expensive gadget is the Bogagrip. This item is used to grasp a fish by the lip so that it can be weighed and released unharmed. The scale is very accurate - so much so that you can have it certified for IGFA records if necessary. Pricey and hard to find, it makes a great gift.
We have a Century 1860 Bay boat and a Mitzi 15 flats boat made by Mitzi Skiffs of Jacksonville, FL. Both boats are excellent for the inshore fishing we do in Dularge, and I am very excited about poling the Mitzi 15 around in the ponds after tailing redfish. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive flats boat, I suggest you check this hull out. It is very well-built and great for up to 3 anglers. Once you spend an afternoon poling and sightfishing for redfish, you will never look at redfishing the same way again.