Looking for double-digit redfish day? Whether you use flies, lures or bait, October is the month to score big.
As the trees begin to turn colors up north, a cherished color change erupts throughout the southern Atlantic and Gulf States. We’ve had several months of high water temps, daily rains and high humidity, making daytime fishing less than comfortable for anglers and fish alike. As September begins to wind down and temps slowly drop, we enter one of the most productive fishing periods of the year. Between September and November, small pods of redfish begin to congregate into large schools with an even bigger appetite. This can be one of the most productive times to catch double-digit numbers of reds on flies, lures, and bait. Let’s cover some techniques for all three approaches.
TOP LURE CHOICES
My favorite two ways to target these schooling fish are with spook-style topwater plugs and fluke-style soft baits. Between the two lures, you can cover the water top to bottom.
Early in the morning, I’ll start out walking the dog with a spook over shallow grass flats, paying attention for any fish pushing wakes along the grass. Classics like the Heddon Spook Jr. offer a reliable, subtle side-to-side darting action that is plain fun to fish. Watching a large redfish target, track, and attack a topwater plug may be one of the most-exciting ways to catch the species.
It’s hard to find a lure more versatile than soft baits for targeting redfish. They can be rigged in countless ways and specialized for just about any situation. I’ll normally use two simple rigging methods for fishing soft baits. My favorite soft bait for redfish is the Hogy 6-inch Skinny Series. This slim-profiled soft bait offers a great balance of erratic tail action with a large enough profile to get noticed in a variety of conditions. It can easily be rigged on jig heads and swim bait hooks as well.
Jigheads are ideal for many situations. They work best in open water, near rocks, oysters, and mangrove shorelines. A forward-weighted soft bait can offer increased casting distance and allows for a faster sink rate when targeting fish in deeper water. The exposed hook rarely misses a hook set, but they do not do very well in thick grass or weeds and will become fouled quickly.
Father-and-son anglers enjoy a daybreak redfish double-header in Matlacha, Florida.
Weedless-rigged swim bait hooks are best suited for when redfish are cruising or tailing along shallow grass flats. Weedless rigging will allow you to reliably present your soft bait in heavy cover without fouling the hook. These hooks allow a similar “walk the dog” action that kicks and darts just a few inches below the surface.
RUNNING THE TIDES
Most experienced redfish anglers prefer to scout and fish on a low tide. On calm days, fish will often be visible “tailing” in very shallow water. These fish are rooting along in the grass searching for shrimp, crabs, and small bait fish. They can be quite spooky, so a stealthy approach may be necessary to get into casting distance. My recommendation is to throw on a good pair of wading shoes, anchor the boat and jump onto the flat to stalk. These rooting fish generally respond best to small soft baits or flies laid close to their head. Often, these fish may be oblivious to your offering until they move along feeding. Use a light shaking of the rod tip to quiver your bait without moving it very far. This should get their attention and draw a strike. If they ignore a subtle presentation, try working the spook over their head and draw a reaction strike.
Wade-fishing on low tide allows anglers to sneak up on tailing redfish.
Pot holes and prop scars will serve as highways and holding areas along shallow flats during low tide. Early in the morning, fish may be lying motionless in the holes. I try to fire out a quick cast or two into every hole and scar with a small swim bait, quickly covering ground as I go. Turn and burn until you locate a concentration of fish.
It’s hard to beat the real thing when fishing gets tough. Live and fresh cut bait can produce impressive numbers of fish, even in less-than-ideal conditions. Fresh bait can be a great way to introduce inexperienced anglers to the sport. Fishing with bait can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. Here are a few of my favorite ways to fish live bait for fall reds.
Pilchards (Scaled Sardines)
I try to find pilchards in the three- to four-inch range for live chumming and pitching to schooling reds. I prefer to use them on high tide phases when fish will push deep into mangrove shorelines and may need a little encouragement to pop out and grab a bite.
Pinfish And Croaker
My favorite way to use these larger baits is chunking them into cut bait. Time and time again, I’ve seen very finicky fish have a hard time refusing a well-placed chunk of pinfish soaking along a large grass flat or mangrove shoreline. These baits will need to be fished with patience. Simply lob your bait into an area where reds have been schooling and let it soak. While not glamorous or really that difficult, this method can produce when all others won’t. Many anglers will deploy the maximum legal number of rods per angler and offer 360-degree coverage with chunk baits. I’ll rig these baits with small ¼-oz jig heads or circle hooks, and monitor the lines and rod tips for any activity. Once a bite is detected, feather out a short distance of line while the bait is eaten before setting the hook.