The Red Fin

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The Red Fin
As a Striper Lure
Recommended Gear
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The Cotton Cordell lure company (now owned by PRADCO) first manufactured the “Red Fin” lure over 50 years ago in Hot Springs, Arkansas as a walleye lure. The lure has proven itself so simple, and so successful, that it hasn’t really changed since.

The Red Fin is used primarily used for striper, and primarily when striper are feeding on top---which for most of the year is at night. Some might say it is the single most popular striper lure out there, and has been for as long as most people can remember.

Why it is Special

The lure is basically a floating jerkbait with an integrated molded diving lip. What makes it unique are:

  1. How well it floats. The lure is large and hollow, making it very buoyant; almost sitting on top of the water, rather than in it. This characteristic is important to create the “V” shaped wake during the retrieve that anglers swear is a key attractant to predators below.
  2. The action. The action of the Red Fin is subtle, but very important. Most top-water fishing with the Red Fin is done with a very slow retrieve. Too fast, and the lure wobbles and dives. Too slow and…well, you can’t really fish it too slow, but enough to give the classic “V” and a very slight wobble are typically the best for explosive surface strikes.

Size Matters

The Red Fin comes in three sizes: 4”, 5”, and 7”. On most lakes, the 7” is the only Red Fin worth putting in your inventory. Just about any lake that has blueback herring or gizzard shad will have prey large enough that the 7” Red Fin would be a good choice.

As a Striper Lure…

If you’re fishing in striper water, be sure to stock up on several of these at a time. Striper are the brutes of fresh water and will often head straight for brush or standing timber when hooked. The open trebles are easy for the fish to hook onto deep snags where the fish can leverage off of t free itself, leaving you fighting a tree, while the fish is long gone.

Big striper have hit the Red Fin so hard it cracked the lure open, or even broken it completely in half---not to take anything away from Cotton Cordell; a 30+ lb striper is a mean fish!

The Hooks

One of the biggest challenges for striper fishermen is getting a good hookup once you get the bite. It is extremely frustrating to finally get the bites and then miss the fish. Striper have very large lips, and driving a hook into the hard cartilage of their mouth takes good hooks and powerful hook-sets.

Fortunately, the stock hooks that come with the Red Fin are pretty good, but not great.  Many anglers opt to change them with aftermarket trebles.


If you are using the Red Fin as a top-water lure, be sure that you are using monofilament or braid, not fluorocarbon. When using the 7” Red Fin for striper, use at least 12 lb, but no more than 25 lb, with ~15 lb optimal.

Fluorocarbon sinks, leading to trouble keeping the lure on top during the retrieve.  Many anglers prefer braid because of its low stretch To help deliver the hooks home on the strike. The visibility of braid at night is less of an issue than during the day, and provides more abrasion protection should a hooked striper find some timber to get into. If using braid, you can step up the line strength to 30 lb or even 40 lb, giving a little more protection against breakage.


The Red Fin is a searching lure, so long casts are in order. This means a long casting rod, such as a 7’ or 7’6”, and if you’re using it for striper, use a medium-heavy or heavy weight rod. The St. Croix Legend Elite in 7' medium heavy is an excellent choice for this type of fishing.


You can cast a Red Fin with large spinning gear, but a baitcast reel will give you additional distance and is therefore preferred. Like all kinds of fishing, good drag is very important. Choose a baitcaster with smooth, powerful drag.

Want to know more about fishing at night for big striper? Click here!

See also our Jerkbait article.