“There has to be a way to land more of these tackle busting Redfish”. That is the question every angler has asked after battling the powerful redfish. When it comes to redfish success heavier tackle is not always the answer.
The red drum goes by many names like the redfish, bull red, puppy drum and the rat red. This diversity of names is a reflection on the size and power of this fish therefore your tackle must be up to the task. It’s most effective to divide your tackle into two groups. Coastal stuff for Bull reds and inshore stuff for slot reds, another common term made popular with recent size limits. Slot reds are juveniles, usually less than three years old and are the most sought after by the angling world.
To talk about tackle you need to keep in mind the variety of lure vs. terrain in your favorite inshore waters. My favorite presentation for slot reds is a light jig or weighted weedless hook in 1/8 once or less. Stained water gets a four inch curly tail gulp and clean water gets a swim tail plastic. The light lure can be tossed up on grass or in six inches of water with minimal snagging. This sight fishing technique has all the elements a sportsman wants from the stalk to the perfect cast, then the strike. If you fish the coastal marshes long enough you will agree that distance and wind seem to always stand between you and that tailing fish. The best choice for long casting is a medium action 7’6’ spinning rod, with a 3000 size spinning reel loaded with twenty pound braid and a six foot piece of twenty pound fluorocarbon leader. Two common knots used for this setup are the Alberto knot for leader to braid, then the loop knot for lure connection. Second in my list of favorites is the top water. Some of the best include the skitter walk, top pup, she dog, just a lot of good walk the dog style topwaters. For less fatigue toss these guys on a medium action 7’ bait cast rod, with a high quality low profile reel like the shimano chronarch. Spool them with the same twenty pound braid but use “non flouro leader” in twenty pound but will adjust the leader up or down depending on the terrain. Fluorocarbon sinks and causes the front of the lure to plow when working is slow or the long pause. Again use a loop knot but if you’re casting all day for a few bites the loop can wear and break so check and retie. Last, but used the most often, is a spinnerbait. They come in two popular styles like the old faithful “beetle spin style” where a jig and plastic are clipped onto a spinner. Modify this setup by using a larger blade and lighter jig over shallow stuff and heavier jig and smaller blade in deeper water. Next is the inline spinner but no modification needed with the Seein Spots lure. Use the larger version called the magnum for windy days and the smaller standard size for calm days. Both work great right out of the pack and are my go to bait around grass and heavy cover. Use a medium heavy 7’ baitcast rod, with an ambassador revo inshore spooled with thirty pound braid and a six foot thirty pound flouro leader. This is my deadly threesome, but why all the knots and leaders? Well, because braid gives you maximum casting distance with no stretch. No stretch braid is an important point to make so here is my analysis on braid and kayak fishing. We are somewhat restricted in our movement in a kayak so pull your rod three feet back will result in your lure moving three feet so the old “front deck TV hook set” with stretchy mono isn’t practical or as effective. The leader might get you a few more bites but will not wrap in the hooks like a straight braid connection. The leader also helps us kayak angler handle the fish without worrying about braid slicing the hands. What about the spoon or popping cork which are hanging on the pegs of every retailer? Well, yes they can be substitutes for the spinnerbait and topwater, as with all fishing, it’s a personal preference. This top down approach of covers all water columns and is effective for weekend worriers to the top tear tournament angler.
Bull red is the term used by most anglers when talking about thirty inch or larger fish, but before battling the beast there are a few things to consider. Structure, rock jetties and piers are bull red magnets especially in the fall. Giant rafts of bull reds can be seen blasting mullet out from the surf and in the passes “the hard shelled blue crab” is no match for their crushers. Both speed and power make the bull red an absolute blast to battle. Short heavy jigging rods loaded with sixty five pound braid and sixty pound leader are ideal for turning heads around structure. A shorter rod will give you more power and control and is perfect if fishing in close quarters. Casting large lures from three quarter to several ounces match up perfectly with medium heavy and heavy spinning tackle. Spinning reels from 4000 spooled with fifty pound braid and 6000 spooled with sixty five will give you versatility to throw everything from ¾ ounce rattle traps and top waters made for tuna to the heaviest jigs. Gearing down to inshore tackle is fun but should only be done in wide open spaces for obvious reasons. Fishing for bull reds is pretty straight forward, their eagerness to eat anything that smells good makes them easy targets with some live crabs or fresh cut mullet. Lure enthusiast need not discount this fish as just a bottom feeding vacuum. Lures like oversized lipless crank baits and mullet imitating topwater like the top dawg or super spooks draw violent strikes. In fact almost anything will work in clean water but in stained water large scented grubs matched up on a heavy jig are best. Bull red fishing can be relaxing as you soak bait while waiting for the tide to change, or it can be the most exciting action most anglers overlook.
Putting it all together will become second nature after a successful trip. The top down approach works for marsh and coastal redfish ranging from a few pounds to fifty pound giants. Few things around the world match up as well as the kayak angler and the powerful redfish so gear up for the stealthy long cast or the jetty giants will set you up for success.