I have lived in the lower Mississippi River Delta for most of my adult life. Already a card-carrying fishing fool prior to that, I didn't take long to realize that my new home was smack-dab in the middle of some of the best redfishing on the planet. And it didn't take much longer for me to see that the best fishing was directly affected by the effluent of the big river's passes. That quickly led to the realization that the tactics I had relied on in the crystalline waters of the central Texas coast were next to worthless in the Delta. Grunge demanded radically different techniques, and those I subsequently developed have since proven their worth not only there but in other areas that are plagued with turbid, or simply muddy, water.
Pop a Shrimp
I'd imagine around half of the staggering number of reds I have caught were the result of a shrimp-tipped jig suspended beneath a popping cork. That rig may sound pretty basic, but the refinements I've developed make it even more effective.
Custom Cork Rig: Superglue the stem into a 3-inch weighted float. Then pass a length of 40-pound mono through the center of the stem, and install a red plastic bead and a No. 3 barrel swivel on each end of the mono, which should have 2 to 3 inches of travel through the stem. The purpose of this is to prevent line twist from the shrimp-tipped jig.
To the bottom swivel, tie a 2-foot length of 20-pound nylon monofilament leader. Fluorocarbon is a good alternative but not always necessary in murky water. Next comes the jig and another refinement I have developed.
A lot of folks pop straight-up jig and soft-plastic combos for reds, and I will allow that I have caught several hundred of them thus. However, almost all of those fish were taken from reasonably clear water, where a "sweetener" was not necessary. The point is, if you add a shrimp to a jig head that is already dressed with a soft-plastic grub, the hook will lose some of its purchase.
A better option is to use a hair jig, since the fibers that make up its tail compress when the shrimp is added to it, leaving the hook gape unaffected.
Pete's Own Hair Jig: It's not difficult to make your own hair jigs - here's how I make mine. Start with a quarter-ounce jig head - the round kind with a short, stout size 2/0 hook. Lash a pencil-thick 3-inch clump of DNA Fly Tying Materials Frosty Fish Fiber (or something similar) to the jig head between the round ball and the hook keeper. Voila - instant jig! And it works much better than either a bare jig head or a jig and soft-plastic combo.
The shrimp should be fairly small - the length of your little finger or thereabouts. Pop the head, insert the hook at that point, and thread the shrimp onto the hook so that the point is near the tail. Do not simply stick the hook through the shrimp from one side to the other.
Finally, work the rig with one or two fairly loud pops between pauses, which should be timed to keep it in the strike zone long enough for the fish to locate it. I should also mention that this technique accounted for both my largest inshore red (just under 16 pounds) and my best catch (73 fish) - both of which were caught in the grunge.
Joe Mahler / www.markerjockey.com