Big, bruiser redfish pull like a freight train and seem to never give up. Whether you call them spottail bass, channel bass, redfish, or the accepted common name, red drum, these fish fight! They are a lot of fun to catch by soaking cut bait on the bottom near inlets and using stout casting tackle. But, to me the ultimate is to target the brutes in the tight quarters of an inland river with light tackle. In backwaters, you typically will not catch a 40-pounder, which is possible on the beaches, but a 10-pounder feels like a behemoth when hooked with a medium-action spinning outfit.
Fall and early winter are my favorite times to target redfish, as they have fattened up on finger mullet, crabs, and other marine morsels all summer, but food is becoming scarce. This situation seems to ramp up their feeding aggression. Add to it that they often pour out of small tidal creeks in schools, and you have the stuff that dreams are made of. With a little preparation, you can find and catch fall redfish.
The first thing I do when fishing a new location is get a good map that shows the small tidal creeks. I look for areas of marsh where many creeks feed into a larger river. These “funnels” concentrate fish into a specific area where you can hunt them. Mud flats adjacent to these creeks are areas worth checking. My most effective approach is to fish these areas during an outgoing tide when bait and redfish are moving out of these small feeder creeks and feeding across the adjacent flats. Once you learn an area, you will know exactly when the redfish pull off a flat or creek, and you can be there waiting for them. Often you see them marauding mullet or other baitfish, and you will see their backs pushing a wake of water. With a tiny poling skiff you can go up on the flats and get after them, but with my Mako bay boat, I wait for them in the slightly deeper water and cast across the flat.
There are three lures account for most of my redfish during fall: soft plastic jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits. The first is a Saltwater Assassin 5-inch Blurp Shad in the electric chicken color. Texas-rigged on a 5/0 worm hook and fished unweighted, this is an extremely subtle presentation and is perfect to cast in front of fish you see pushing across a mud flat. I use short, twitches of the rod tip to make the lure dance back and forth. The Blurp scent in these lures makes fish hold on longer. While electric chicken is my go-to color, limetreuse and goldfish 5-inch Shads have also duped redfish under extremely muddy and clear situations, respectively. To deliver these unweighted plastics, I believe the perfect combination is a Pflueger Trion 7-foot medium-action graphite rod paired with a Pflueger Medalist 3500 reel. I use braided line so that I can drive the hook home through the plastic after a redfish inhales my offering. The high modulus graphite rod along with the no-stretch properties of braided line allow the sensitivity to feel even the lightest hits.
On windy days when you cannot see fish pushing across a flat, you must “blind cast” for them, or cast in prime areas hoping the fish are there. My two primary lures when I cannot see redfish are spinnerbaits and shallow-diving crankbaits. My spinnerbait of choice for this application is a Thunder Spin made by Precision Tackle. The lure is much like a Beetle Spin on steroids. There are many spinnerbaits on the market, but the Thunder Spin is built with thick gauge wire that a redfish simply will not mangle. The business end is a Saltwater Assassin Spring Lock jighead and Sea Shad. My most effective colors have been electric chicken and Calcasieu brew. For this offering, I prefer baitcasting equipment because the lure is a little heavier than my other offerings. A 7-foot medium-action Ugly Stik Lite Inshore rod paired with a Pflueger Contender reel delivers this lure well. Vicious Ultimate 14-lb. test monofilament is better than braid for this application because the lack of stretch in braided line often causes you to pull the spinnerbait away from the fish before they eat it. The lower modulus graphite rod and stretch in the monofilament delay strike detection enough to usually result in a solid hookup.
The other search bait I use is a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus crankbait. This rattling crankbait is very loud and really lets fish know it is there. Fan casting it across a mud flat has accounted for many a redfish on a day when the other lures do not draw a strike, especially on a windy day or when the water is heavily stained. As the old adage goes, “If it isn’t chartreuse, it isn’t any use.” Other colors will work on occasion, but for me chartreuse draws the most strikes. I deliver these crankbaits with the same Pflueger outfits as the 5-inch Shads, but spooling with Vicious Ultimate 12-lb. test monofilament provides a little stretch. Again, you do not want to set the hook too quickly when the fish hits, and monofilament helps avoid this. Next time you are after redfish, reach for light tackle and have a ball.
Savannah, Georgia area – Captain Eric Adamski (912) 596-5436
Brunswick, Georgia area – Captain Greg Hildreth (912) 261-1763
St. Marys, Georgia area – Captain Bert Deener (912) 287-1604