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May 02, 2014

Top 5 Strategies for Catching Redfish

Versatile red drum allow fishermen to have it their way.

Bar Hopping Casting Along the Beaches

Good luck finding a spot more consistent for bull reds than Dixey Bar, a man-made mound that lines the ship channel entering Alabama’s Mobile Bay. Located off the point where Fort Morgan stands, the lengthy bar and nearby Dauphin Island beaches are a mecca for oversize red drum.

“The bar’s as shallow as a couple of feet, and sometimes you can see the reds schooling on top,” says Capt. Kevin Olmstead, of Point Clear Fishing Adventures in Mobile Bay. “That makes for truly exciting fishing. I usually fish the drop from 7 to 16 feet with 20- to 30-pound gear during an outgoing tide.”

Fall and early winter, when bunches of bait are flushed out of the bay, is a prime time to fish, even though all year can be ­productive. Light north winds seem to bring the fish to the top to feed, says Capt. Barnie White, a charter captain and tournament fisherman from Brewton, Alabama, and member of the White Fishing Team.

“These fish will push a ‘mullet ball’ to the surface, and when they get into that mode, double and triple hookups are not uncommon,” says White. “Watching those big fish blow up on a Badonk-A-Donk [a surface lure by Bomber] is a blast. The big reds on the beaches usually target mullet, so a popping cork with a soft plastic offers another option.”

Reds range in depths up to 30 feet deep — watch for birds and for blowups at the surface. The bulls also cruise in the surf, right along the breaks. The translucent blue tail always gives them away. Fishing from a boat with a strong trolling motor is effective.

“Most of the time they are in small packs of three to five fish,” says White. “They’re not spooky but are moving fast, and it takes a good eye and quick reactions to stay ahead of the fish for a cast.”

Silent Stalkers Sight-Fishing the Grass Flats

Tails, you win, when fishing at Flamingo in Florida’s Everglades National Park.

“Reds tail in singles and schools,” says Capt. Jason Sullivan, of Rising Tide Charters, who fishes park waters regularly. “They will push big head wakes too. I have seen them in schools of 10 to 150, both tailing and cruising.”

Local knowledge is necessary to navigate the shallow flats, pole-and-troll zones, and shoal areas that make up northern Florida Bay. “If you spend enough time poling the flats and paying attention to the tides, you can definitely catch redfish on your own,” he says. “Where I fish on the flats, it takes a very shallow-draft skiff.”

The best areas are based directly on the tide. Some spots are better on the falling tide, and some are better during incoming. “I really want clean water when I’m looking for reds,” he says. “The right depth is when my skiff drags a little when I am poling.”

Sight-fishing for reds on the flats is the technique du jour in the Glades, but blind-casting in potholes or around islands is successful too. Tackle up with a 7-foot, medium-light rod and a 3,000-size reel spooled with 10-pound braid. For pothole fishing, Sullivan throws a Rapala SkitterWalk or a ¼-ounce spoon. The top lure for sight-fishing is a soft bait rigged weedless on a worm hook.

When reds are tailing, throw it past the fish and reel it to their nose. If the fish are cruising, cast in front of them along their forward path.

“It’s hard to beat poling up to a fish, making a ­presentation, and watching the bite,” admits Sullivan. “The other day my angler cast at a fish, and the red sucked down the Gulp! shrimp like a trout sipping a dry fly.”