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April 17, 2012

Virginia Pups and Bulls

Virginia grows some of the world's largest red drum

The best strategy is to anchor the boat in a deep slough that runs alongside a shallow shoal. Cast baits to cover the water from deep to shallow. Continually monitor the conditions. Changing tides and sea states can quickly put a boat and crew in peril.

As spring turns to summer, the fish move to deeper water at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Anglers fishing Inner Middle Ground, Nautilus, Nine Foot and Latimer shoals at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay will run into trophy fish by anchoring along sloughs or the edge of a drop. Tidal currents in these areas can be powerful; often the best bite is around the tide change. At the mouth of the Bay and along the Virginia Beach oceanfront, lucky crews will encounter huge schools of reds swimming just under the surface or rooting around the shallows.

Bull reds will fight over a swimbait, bucktail, spoon or popper. Even when reds get 10 times bigger than their juvenile siblings, in every puppy drum, there is always some bull red, and in every bull, there’s still a little puppy.


What: Chasing bull reds and puppy drum around Virginia’s marshes, beaches and shoals.

When: Year-round, especially spring and fall.

Where: Virginia coast, Chesapeake Bay.

Who: You’ll catch drum afoot and afloat in deep and shallow water. These local captains can help you get started right.

Capt. Hunter Tucker

Capt. Ben Shepherd

Capt. Blake Hayden

Since this is mostly a release fishery, do the drum a favor by using heavy enough tackle. Reels should be able to produce steady drag and hold a couple of hundred yards of line. Rods must be stout enough to control a fish before it can get into trouble. To handle the pressure, use braided line and a generous mono leader.

Rods: For bulls, 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rods for casting artificials, 7-foot medium-heavy conventionals for soaking bait. For pups, 7-foot medium-light spinning rods.

Reels: For bulls, 20-series star-drag conventional reels for bait, 5000-series spinning reels for casting lures. For pups, 2500-series spinners.

Lines: For bulls, 50-pound braid. For pups, 10-pound braid.

Rigs: An 8/0 circle hook, 80-pound leader, 150-pound snap and barrel swivels, a 4- to 8-ounce pyramid sinker.
Lures: 3- to 6-inch swim shad, spoons and topwaters.

Pro Picks
Redfish pros list favorite red-drum lures.

Cory Routh; Pups: Gold Redfish spinnerbait and 3-inch pumpkinseed or chartreuse paddle-tail. Bulls: 5-inch paddle-tail in natural color and 1-ounce jig head.

Chad Hoover; Pups: Rapala X-Rap SubWalk. Bulls: Rapala X-Rap Walk or Yo-Zuri Hydro Popper.

Capt. Blake Hayden; Pups: 4-inch Bomber Saltwater Grade Mud Minnow on 14- to 1-ounce jig head. Bulls: 6-inch Berkley PowerBait swim shad.

Capt. Ed Lawrence; Pups: Popping cork with 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Shrimp in Molting or D.O.A. 408 Red/Gold Glitter paddle-tail on 14-ounce jig head. Without the cork, 4-inch D.O.A. 414 Silver Rush (known locally as Black Death) jerkbait on 14-ounce jig head.

Kevin Whitley
; Pups: 12-ounce jig and Berkley Gulp! Pogy. Bulls: 5-inch Berkley Gulp! Ripple Mullet, or 2-ounce jig head or bucktail and 6-inch Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet.