Turn an Average Day on the Flats into an Epic One!
The sight of a cruising redfish nosing down on a well-presented artificial bait is enough to get any angler’s heart pumping at a rapid pace, but stalking redfish in skinny waterfalls outside the comfort zone of many fishermen. Whether fishing the Laguna Madre, Biloxi Marsh, Everglades, or Carolina coast – or anywhere in between – following a few common guidelines will help turn an average day on the flats into an epic one.
First and foremost, silence is the key when hunting redfish, as these finicky predators spook very easily from the slightest sound or vibration. In windy conditions or in turbid waters, a trolling motor may allow you to get close enough to spot and cast to pods of reds, but savvy anglers rely on push poling to quietly ease across the shallows in search of signs of life. A stealthy approach is critical, particular when fish are pressured or in unusually calm weather, so keep splashing and moving around the boat to a minimum.
In terms of spotting fish, just a few inches of added elevation off the water can make a world of difference. Most flats boats offer raised poling and casting platforms, but anglers without such specialized craft can enhance their fish-spotting capabilities using a sturdy, roto-molded cooler or small stepladder to gain a better vantage point. Even in cloudy conditions, a pair of quality, polarized sunglasses are a must, and most inshore guides prefer those with amber lenses that match the tint of backcountry waters.
When scanning for signs of redfish, anglers must keep a sharp lookout for a variety of clues that could lead to paydirt. Redfish tails are the most obvious giveaways, of course, and indicate fish tipped nose down rooting for crustaceans or cruising slowly through very shallow water. In clear water, the dark outlines of fish can be spotted, sometimes easily against the contrast of a light-colored sand or mud bottom. While V-shaped head wakes, or sometimes a series of wakes in the case of schooling fish, are surefire signs of active fish, sometimes a small patch of slightly riffled, ‘nervous’ water can be a dead giveaway to the presence of laid up or milling fish. Skittering shrimp or baitfish also signify the presence of larger predators like redfish.
When casting to redfish, there is little room for error, as a cast too close to the fish will spook it and send it scurrying, but a cast too far away from the fish will seldom get noticed. The objective is to lead the fish, casting beyond the fish’s path and bringing the bait into its field of vision, all while being careful not to swim the bait towards the fish in an unnatural manner.
While redfish are opportunistic feeders that eat a variety of crabs, shrimps, worms and baitfish, choosing the right bait is not so simple. Redfish will take a variety of soft swimbaits, hard baits, spoons, and spinners at times, but rarely will they pass up a slow-moving shrimp meandering in their path, so a soft plastic shrimp imitation gets the nod as the most versatile lure for sight casting to redfish.
At the top of the list of shrimp, baits are the new EZ ShrimpZ from Z-Man Fishing Products. When rigged with the company’s EZ KeeperZ weighted hook, the pairing is aerodynamic and easy to cast accurately and lands softly in the water, so as not to spook the fish. In fact, its re-entry sounds similar to a shrimp skipping across the surface. When twitched slowly, the segmented tail comes to life, and when paused on the bottom, the buoyant ElaZtech body of the bait floats up and hovers just off the bottom, just like a real shrimp. Unlike most other artificial baits, this combination can be presented very slowly while still maintaining a natural look, allowing the bait more time in the fish’s field of vision than other baits that must be fished more quickly.
While sight-fishing redfish can be a tricky undertaking, employing stealthy approaches, precision casting, and ultra-realistic bait presentations will certainly tip the odds in your favor.
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Original Source: Sportsmans Lifestyle.com