Redfish along the panhandle of Florida are abundant and can be easily caught with a variety of techniques and gear. Most of the time, redfish very aggressive and are opportunistic feeders. Targeting Redfish from a kayak is very exciting and once hooked up on a bull redfish, you are guaranteed a gulf coast sleigh ride! The smaller slot redfish can be found around docks, points, creek channels and on the grass flats. The bigger bull redfish will be found in deeper water, passes, jetties, and around the bridges. Both can be targeted on the same gear, but you will have a better success rate if you equip your gear for the certain size redfish you are trying to target.
The slot redfish that range between 18-27 inches and max out at around 9 lbs can be caught on a variety of different baits. I prefer using a 7’4” or 7’6” medium action rod when throwing top waters and hard baits. The long rod allows for extra long casts and an angler can cover more water when casting the hard baits. I pair the rod with 2500 series spinning reel spooled with 10-15 pound braid. I also use a uni to uni knot to connect a 3-4 foot leader of 15-20 pound fluorocarbon.
Top waters work great for the flats, points and next to docks, but when I need to pitch bait under a dock, I like to use shorter rod such as 7 foot or even a 6’8”. The shorter rods allow me to skip baits under the docks with ease. Twitch baits, spoons, and soft plastics are other great baits for redfish. I use these baits on days when the wind and waves make using a top water lure impossible. When redfish are hungry, they will eat almost anything that you put in front of them.
Sight casting is another exciting way to target them. Sometimes in the right conditions you can see them swimming along in clear water and other times you can see them pushing water as they swim close to the surface. When sight casting redfish, you will need to cast past the fish and reel your lure back into the direction the fish is heading because casting directly on the head of the fish will mostly likely spook them. Having a good pair of polarized fishing glasses and being able to stand up in your kayak makes a world of difference when sight casting.
One of my go to baits for redfish is a top water lure, where you twitch your rod to make the floating bait walk from side to side (most commonly known as a spook). These lures make a lot of noise and produce water movement that drives the redfish crazy. Top water lures also cast farther than most other lures out there and will allow you to cover so much more water. These long casts and long retrieves will give the loud lure a chance to attract fish that might not be close to you. Redfish are bottom feeders and their mouth is on the bottom of their head, so when the fish comes up to the surface to eat a lure they will explode on it!
The bull redfish are bigger, mature breeders that grow to weigh over 30 lbs are over the Florida slot limit. When targeting these bull redfish, upsizing your gear will help reel the fish in quickly to be released in good shape and continue to breed for years to come. I like to use a 6’8” to 7 foot medium heavy rod paired with a 4000-5000 sizes spinning reel and spooled with 30-50 pound braid with 30-40 pound fluorocarbon leader. Most of the bigger fish will be found deep or around structure and it is good to have some stronger line, heavier drag and a stiffer back bone rod to get them up and away from any structure. The shorter rods are good for jigging in deep water and can still cast the heavy lures used to target these beasts.
Some of my go to lures for big redfish in deep water are heavy weighted jigs rigged with big soft plastic lures and big lipless crankbaits. It is a good idea to buy high quality jigs and even upgrade hooks on your lures when fishing for these bigger fish. Fish exceeding 30 lbs will test the strength of your gear and have been known to bend out the hooks.
Both types of lures can be used to drop down to the bottom and then slowly jig up and drop back down. You can also just bounce the jigs on the bottom to get bull reds to eat. In certain situations the big fish will come up on top of the surface to feed and you can sight cast at them with non-weighted soft plastics or you can cast top water lures at them. Sight casting to these golden brutes is a challenging and skillful way to target them.
Always remember to support the belly of these fish when pulling them out of the water for a picture and try to release them back as quickly as possible to insure the red fish population stays abundant in Florida. Catching redfish from the kayak is not only a blast, but it is incredibly effective in large part because kayaks make very little noise. Use these tips to your advantage this season and have fun kayak fishing for redfish.