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Gearing Up for the Redfish Rodeo

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On: Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 11:08AM | By: Captain Ron Kowalyk

As an addendum to the latest southwest Florida fishing report, here are some helpful, I hope, suggestions for striking red gold. This time of year—late September, October, and especially November—can be the hottest redfish periods. As the bay waters cool and masses of bait fish and bigger shrimp come on the scene, mobs of hungry redfish gang up for a pre-spawn rodeo and will gang up in large schools on the flats, on the beaches, and into the wayback creeks. There are several opinions as to where redfish actually spawn but the pre-spawn feeding frenzy definitely occurs in the early and late fall, depending on water and weather conditions.

Redfish are on the George Forman diet: they see food and they eat it. Tasty morsels like cut mullet, great gobs of shrimp, fish baits alive or chunked—I like pinfish best and crabs are all top picks. Reds aren’t generally fussy feeders and, en masse, they are very competitive; you’ll witness head-banging battles over any number of baits and even artificials pitched into a marauding school of bull reds.

Cut chunk baits, medium size pinfish and crabs, in pieces or whole served up on a circle hook and egg sinker rig will help you get the long-range cast so helpful when approaching fast-moving and distracted reds.

Other options in the field of artificials includes the old standby gold spoons (silver will do), scented softplastics on a jighead. For an added thrill, topwater walk-the-doggie plugs and poppers can be beat. One of my favorites is a spinner bait dressed with scented soft plastic shimmy shad. Generally speaking, most reasonable artificials that will give you the range to connect will inspire a greedy strike from an amped-up redfish.

As for gear, a 7–8 ft. medium-action spinning outfit with a long-cast reel will get you into the fray; be sure you’ve got a smooth strong drag, you’ll need it. Spool up with braided line that gives you the max casting range, yet has the strength to wrestle your bully red outta the herd; 15–20 lb. is about right. Remember, you might get lucky having to release some over-slot fish; a quick tussle and careful release will save you and the gamer. You’ll want to consider the chaffing characteristics, low stretch and visibility of your leader material. 20–30 lb. fluorocarbon is about right; remember, the schooling reds aren’t too leader-shy when banging heads for a feed meal.

Perhaps most important is be stealthy, poling is preferred when possible but a quiet troller will do as well. If you motor in range of schoolers, try to determine where they’re headed and head ‘em off. Keep well off the herd. Some crews live chum the “fleet” with shiners; this can draw the critters to you and perhaps keep ‘em busy before they ramble on!

Capt. Ron Kowalyk: 239-267-931,


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