By David A. Brown

With spring’s official commencement here, Florida’s Gulf Coast redfish action is only getting better. Warming temperatures, blossoming bait schools, more activity on the flats – all signs of glorious times for those fond of chasing the spot tail brutes.

With sub-terminal mouths and stout snouts, these fish are built for bottom work. Foraging through muddy, grassy bottom like bulldozers, they’ll often disclose their position by “tailing” – head down, back end breaking the surface.

Hardy and adaptable, reds will eat just about anything they can catch, but they’re particularly fond of the crabs, shrimp and invertebrates they find amid the seagrass beds. Baitfish such as pilchards, threadfin herring, finger mullet and pinfish are also dietary staples.

Abundant and widely dispersed along the Gulf Coast, redfish beckon anglers who pursue them in several ways.

By Boat: Wind drifting or push poling broad flats, particularly those adjacent to mangrove islands, shoreline points and channels are the ideal scenarios. Reds will tolerate a certain amount of trolling motor noise, but keep the power setting steady. Too many changes up or down will alert the fish to potential trouble.
red
Also, be careful with that push pole. Bumping it on the deck is a good way to spook a school of redfish, so savvy anglers will place a towel at the back deck where the pole’s bottom end lies to dampen inadvertent noise.

On Foot: Wading adds an intimate element to any fishing game and when you dial in a particular flat where reds will feed; stalking them in their element is a cool deal. You’ll need to carefully select your area so you don’t waste too much of your time trudging to the fish.

Ideal scenario: Set up on a spot they will approach on a rising tide, or retreat to on falling water, and let the fish come to you.

Shuffle your feet when crossing sandy areas to spook any stingrays before an uncomfortable encounter; but do your best to minimize the silt cloud when you reach casting distance from the reds. Pushing a cloud of mud toward the fish puts them on high alert.

Yak Attack: A great compromise between wading a boating, kayaks rigged with rod holders, tackle storage and mushroom anchors are quite possibly the ultimate inshore fishing vessel. Your range and speed are obviously much lower than an outboard-powered vessel, but they’ll move you faster than your feet and reach spots you’ll never take a flats skiff.

From hidden lagoons accessed by narrow mangrove covered corridors, to skinny creeks winding through salt marshes, the kayak offers the option of a dedicated mission or a blended trip where you strap a ‘yak to the deck of a flats or bay boat, run to the redfish zone, anchor the big boat and proceed by paddle.

BEST BAITS
Spoons: For the long-range castability often needed for searching broad ranges where redfish roam, it’s hard to beat a Bomber Saltwater Grade Who Dat Spoon. Reel it fast with your rod tip high to keep it up in the water column in shallow spots, or drop the rod tip and reel slowly for a flashy wobbling display in deeper stretches. Rattling and spinner models complement the standard Who Dat with attention-getting elements for overcast days or muddy water.
rebel minnow
Jigs: One of the most diverse lure categories, lead heads like the Bomber Shad Head allow great flexibility in tail shape, size and color with the benefit of quick changes. Best soft-plastics are the YUM Mud Minnow for shallow water and a Break’N Shad or Houdini Shad for deeper areas. On the shallow grass flats, keep the heads as light as possible and work them high in the water column, lest you snag grass on every toss. Over sandy potholes, let the bait go to the bottom and use short hops to kick up sand and imitate a scampering crab.

When reds are keyed up and feeding actively, they’ll chase anything that runs from them, so burning a Bomber Saltwater Grade Nylure Redfish Jig across the shallow flats is certain to bring these bronze beasts charging.

Popping Corks: When reds roam depths of 3-feet or more, suspending a natural or artificial bait beneath a Bomber Paradise Popper X-Treme proves highly effective at holding the offering in easy eyesight – and above bottom snags such as grass or oyster shells. The cuts and troughs, deep ends of oyster bars, mangrove edges on high tide – all are good targets for popping.

Topwaters: From Heddon Super Spooks and Spook Juniors, to the Bomber Saltwater Grade Badonk-A-Donk, boldly walking a topwater lure across the surface will bring out the beast in a redfish. They usually have a tougher time getting the bait than a trout or snook, but that’s no deterrent. In fact, the bumping and chasing inherently invites participation and when you get a dozen reds interested in the same topside meal, it’s a sight to behold.

When the mullet are especially frisky, with lots of splashing and leaping, try the Chug’N Spook. Reds are more tolerant of noisy baits when their hosts are creating a commotion and that chugging action is often just what you need to someone looking in the right direction.

Subsurface Plugs: Over skinny grass flats, you pretty much want to keep your baits higher in the water column, or go weedless. However, in those troughs, channels and deeper potholes where reds spend their low tide hours, a Badonk-A-Donk SS or Bomber Mullet gives them the enticing look of a vulnerable baitfish dropping all by its lonesome. Work the baits through the water column with a subtle yo-yoing action and expect a sudden impact.

A floating minnow like the classic Rebel Minnow or Bomber Long A allows for a super-slow swimming retrieve in shallow water. For more action, try the jointed version and retrieve it just fast enough to make it dive a few inches deep.