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June 17, 2010

Top Redfish Techniques

Pro tips and tactics from the Alabama Gulf Coast to catch more redfish.

Gettin' Chummy
Not enough anglers going after giant redfish chum to draw them into casting range, says Capt. Matt Smith, of Orange Park, Florida. And when they're drawn to chum, they are eager to strike.

"Redfish are like people," he says. "Is it possible not to get hungry when you smell barbecuing steaks? Chum does the same thing to redfish."

Anchor up-current and allow chum to drift into holes, inlets or a pass between islands. An effective variation is to tether a chum bag to a small buoy, anchor it with a brick and then anchor your boat off to the side. This works particularly well for skittish reds in shallow water. "Many times, I've anchored and caught 30 or 40 redfish without moving my boat," says Smith. "Frequently, the last fish I catch are more aggressive than the early ones. I'm convinced that for every red caught, the shrimp or crab bait is knocked off a hook or a fish regurgitates, which acts as chum. I'll frequently toss over dead shrimp, pieces of crab and cut menhaden as chum when I'm anchored in a good place and start getting a few reds. I know that draws more and gets 'em feeding."

Joe Mahler /

Double Team 'Em
Whether fishing tournaments or guiding along their native south Texas coast, father-son anglers Jay Watkins and Jay Watkins Jr., of Rockport, work together for more red drum.

"We think it's important to start a day each using a completely different type lure, trying to figure out what fish want," says the senior Watkins. "One of us normally casts a surface plug like a MirrOlure Top Dog Jr. or a She Dog because it's the right size and action for getting the attention of shallow-water redfish. Few lures are better at getting noticed by redfish than a surface artificial, but often a red will just swirl on the lure or slap at it.

"That's when we can generate a strike with another quick cast by the second angler, usually with a jig or a spoon of the same color as the surface plug," he says.

When a red is hooked, a follow-up cast to the fighting red often results in a second hookup. "Many times when a red hits, we just make a follow-up cast," Watkins adds. "When you hook a redfish, it automatically excites any other reds nearby. Drop a second lure nearby, and there's a pretty good chance you'll have a doubleheader hooked."


Topwater Time

Topwater-plug tactics for heavyweight redfish have evolved over the last decade. They cover water quickly and produce dramatic, visible strikes. If a fish misses a lure, follow-up casts usually result in a hooked red, or perhaps a second cast with a spoon or jig will seal the deal.

"Almost any well-made surface lure can produce some big reds, but I like the Heddon Super Spook," says veteran coastal angler Kim Norton, with Pradco lures. Retrieved with walk-the-dog action, it imitates a fleeing mullet, which most redfish can't resist.
"The old rule about big fish, big lure is right for redfish," he says. "I'm not interested in catching small reds under 5 or 6 pounds, and a red bigger than that has no problem taking a 5-inch lure."

Norton uses a range of topwaters, such as the Bomber A-Salt, the Rebel Jumpin' Minnow and the Heddon Spit'n Image, in mullet colors like off-white, clear, silver and gold. He's adamant about a nonstop retrieve, which is not easy to maintain when reds are slashing at a lure. "If you stop reeling, a fish will stop chasing a plug, and usually you can't tempt him into striking again," Norton says. "To get that fish to hit your lure, you've got to maintain the same retrieve cadence that attracted the fish in the first place."