Pop That Cork
The venerable popping cork has been around about as long as anglers and redfish. Cutting-edge anglers may view a popping cork as a trademark of an amateur, but Port O'Connor, Texas, guide Petra Schultz says slower presentations catch more reds.
"Often when redfish refuse lures, it's because they are fished way too fast," says Schultz. "Popping corks are really effective in dark water or in deeper water, where reds are hard to see. Popping-cork fishing is easy and attracts a lot of reds because it perfectly simulates feeding fish, and that draws hungry predators. When they show near a gurgling popping cork, they see or scent the bait or soft-plastic lure and strike. It's simple and very effective."
Schultz prefers live shrimp or croakers fished below a rattling popping cork. A 3-inch D.O.A. soft-plastic shrimp in avocado or a 3-inch Berkley Gulp! shrimp are effective substitutes for live bait. Make a cast, then chug hard several times and pause for five to 10 seconds; chug more, pause, reel and cast to follow the Schultz prescription. Her terminal rigs are simple: 18 inches of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader below a float positioned above the barrel swivel connecting line to leader. For live bait and Gulp! lures, a Mustad 3/0 hook is standard, 5/0 when baits are extra large.
Guide Greg Hildreth spends a lot of time chasing redfish in the Golden Isles of coastal Georgia, one of the best places in America to catch them.
"We like to sight-fish for reds in shallow water," says the Brunswick-based guide. "We use light tackle, fish from a very small boat and pole it quietly into casting position when we see fish." Hildreth believes silently poling to sighted reds is better than using an electric trolling motor. "We make very long casts to unspooked, happy redfish," he explains. "Sometimes we have to be patient and wait for just the right moment to cast in very shallow water. You've got to make your shots count and not be too quick to cast."
Scaled-down tackle is important. Hildreth prefers small crab flies because they land without much commotion. When you're lure fishing, 8- to 10-pound braid on high-end spinning tackle for long-range presentations is most effective. A 15-pound fluoro leader helps dupe clear-water fish.
"Small lures are important because they don't spook reds," Hildreth says. "Soft-plastic jerkbaits just a few inches long cast well, land softly and come alive with minimal twitching, and make shallow reds strike. Rig them weedless in white, ivory, silver, chartreuse and gold."