For the past 9 years, I’ve been fishing, observing and refining techniques to become a successful angler here in Southwest Florida. Between the seemingly endless mangrove shorelines, oyster bars and grass flats, there is always an opportunity for world class angling.

Ross Gallagher, Snook Strike on Caloosahatchee River
Ross Gallagher, Snook Strike on Caloosahatchee River

As an avid kayak angler, I have learned to utilize the best tools available to increase my success on the water. I am a relatively new Hobie owner, having used the Pro Angler 14 for the past 7 months. The speed and stability offered from the Pro Angler and MirageDrive® has allowed me to travel further, hands free and has tripled the amount of actual fishing time during the day.

When I began considering a new paddle craft, my immediate attention was drawn to Hobie and the MirageDrive system. It’s not uncommon to travel several miles over the course of a day searching for redfish. It seemed like I spent 70% of my day with a paddle in my hands and not a rod. Now, while using the MirageDrive, I’m free to fish most of my day. This helps me cover a lot more water and locate more fish while blind casting.

Redfish are one of our top three inshore species. I’ve always been able to catch redfish while on other kayaks, but they always seemed to fall short when skimming into very shallow water. Now, after several months of poling the Pro Angler 14 across shallow grass flats, I’ve found what I had been missing.

Fishing here can be a little tricky during a negative tide. Very low water and not much of it can make even the smallest boat anglers weary about heading in shallow. On these negative tides, I prefer to use my Hobie Pro Angler 14 to skim into small pot holes that hold schools of hungry redfish.

A tip that I’ve learned when approaching very shallow areas is to plan a route that utilizes deep enough water for the MirageDrive to float, this way you can quickly approach the fishing area without having to paddle or pole for extended distances.

One of the first accessories I picked up for the Pro Angler 14 was a push pole. The ability to easily stow the MirageDrive and pole the kayak through very shallow water is indispensable. One thing you won’t notice when you’re poling the Pro Angler is a loud hull slap. Hull slap is the sound of small waves breaking into your boat and in shallow water, this can alert weary redfish to your presence at considerable distances.

My favorite way to fish for these shallow water redfish is using lightly weighted Hogy® Soft Baits, like the 6-inch Skinny Series. They offer a great profile and color options to be productive in any situation. These baits will be rigged on a Hogy 4/0 Weighted Swim Bait Hook. Most of the time, 1/4oz is just enough to bounce the bait along the bottom without spooking fish. When retrieving the bait just move the bait enough to keep it out of the grass. I slow my retrieve down quite a bit to try and elicit strikes from fish in cool water. Keep your rod tip up and bounce the bait along the weed tips, if you let it sit for too long, it may become fouled in the grass and spook nearby fish. When fishing around potholes, I will let the bait sink and bounce across the sand. Once I’m back in the grass, I increase my speed to keep the bait up top.

I prefer to use a medium/heavy action 7’2” spinning setup for sight casting. It offers the flexibility to cast very light lures, but still has enough backbone to land large fish quickly.

Spooling your reel with the right line is just as important. Shallow water requires that you make very long casts. Often, you’ll need to accurately throw a bait 30 yards or more. To get the most distance, you’ll want to spool up with a high quality braided line. Choose a breaking strength of 15lb —- 20lb, the thin diameter of the line will greatly increase your casting distance and accuracy.

For your line to leader connections, a simple albright special knot or uni to uni knot will work fine for inshore redfish. When tying an artificial to your leader, I will always use a loop knot. This allows a free swinging presentation of the bait, without the added tackle of a snap swivel. That free swinging presentation will result in more hook ups during the day.

Fishing Negative Tides For Tailing Redfish
Capt. Ross Gallagher
Boat: 2013 Hobie Pro Angler 14
Location: Matlacha, FL
Tides: +/- 1 hour on each side of the (negative) low tide.