Fall Redfish FrenzyBy Josh Lantz - October 14, 2021
We asked top redfish experts, Steve Lessard (Louisiana), Joseph Sanderson (Texas), Guillermo Gonzalez (Texas), and Justin Carter (South Carolina) some specific questions about where and how they are fishing reds right now and throughout the coming weeks. Their answers and insights are sure to prove helpful for any angler looking to experience more fun and more success in pursuit of fall and winter reds.
Q1 - What factors are influencing where and how you are fishing redfish now and through the coming weeks and months?
Q2 - What kinds of areas are you fishing?Steve - Weather and tide influence when and where I'll be fishing in a normal year, but the effects of the devastating hurricanes here in Louisiana have really changed the landscape. On a calm, slow-to-medium tide with light winds, I'll be in the passes moving around key spots like rock jetties, points and humps. I'm looking for bait on the surface and below, but sometimes I find the actual redfish school itself and man is that a sight on the fish finder.
Joseph - I am fishing from the middle of the Texas coast from Port O'Connor to Port Mansfield. I am targeting the same types of areas in all locations - shallow, grassy drains where the shrimp are most prevalent and concentrated.
Guillermo - I like to target fish in the tidal marshes of the upper Texas Coast. Marshes with wigeon grass, oyster reefs, or both tend to be the most productive.
Q3 - What gear are you using to earn success?Steve - Hurricane Ida really tore up our southeastern Louisiana marshes and that has impacted the fish and how I'm fishing them. A lot of times it's a very low-energy bite - almost like a cold, winter bite. Swimming jigs and grubs is working best in these conditions. This is full-contact sport out of my Hobie kayak, so I'm usually power fishing with ½-to-1-once Owner saltwater jigs and six-to-eight-inch grubs. My go-to setup Is a St. Croix Mojo Inshore or Triumph Inshore 7', heavy-power, fast action spinning rod (JIS70HF or TRIS70HF) with 50-pound braid.
Joseph - This is the best time of year to sight-cast to redfish, and I like a 7', medium power, fast action rod for this purpose. Specifically, St. Croix's Mojo Inshore (JIS70MF) with a 2500-3000 size spinning reel spooled with 20-30-pound braid is just the ticket. I'm fishing shallow in clear water, so I'm throwing super light baits that are subtle and land softly.
Justin - Most often I like to fish a soft plastic lure like a Z-Man DieZel Minnow on a 3/16-to-1/4-ounce TexasEye jig head or for colder conditions a TRD on a 1/6-to-1/8-ounce jig head. Whenever blue crabs are still around, they present an excellent bait option. I'm usually fishing a 7', 7'6," or 8' spinning rod. The longer rods add distance to your casting range, and that helps you stay farther away from the fish. I like medium-light rods, which help you to make soft presentations with your lure.
Q4 - What techniques or presentations are you using and why?Steve - Aside from swimming jigs and big grubs in the inlets, I use a second and even more exciting technique, which is calling them up on the surface with a small tuna popper or a four horseman-style popping cork. For these techniques, I like a long-casting 7'6" medium-heavy power Mojo Inshore (JIS76MHF), Triumph Inshore (TRIS76MF), or Legend Tournament Inshore (LTIC76MHF) rod with 30-pound braid. When I can find cleaner water and shrimp, I'm getting back to doing more topwater sight casting. In a normal fall without all of this hurricane devastation, this is another go-to presentation that's highly effective and tons of fun.
Joseph - Personally, I'm sight casting 100% of the time. I find that a 1/16-ounce jig head with a small, shrimp-colored plastic - or a shrimp pattern when I'm fly fishing - will get the job done with a good presentation on a non-nervous fish every time.
Justin - I use plastic baits that have a lot of action without having to move them quickly - again, something like a Z-Man DieZel Minnow, Streak, or PaddlerZ - and I always use the scented baits or at least add something like Pro-Cure because scent plays a big part in how redfish feed when it's cold. Realize that these mud flats the redfish are schooling up on to avoid the porpoises are largely devoid of active life, so anything that moves does so very slowly along the bottom. Fast-twitching a jerkbait or topwater lure may work in warmer weather or in deeper water, but it tends to spook fish on these shallow flats in the late fall and winter.
Q5 - How long will these bites last in these areas?Steve - In Louisiana, we'll typically have great red fishing all winter long. Northern anglers often lament cold fronts, but down here they can concentrate reds in the deeper holes that remain warmer than surrounding waters. And they always seem to be hungry when they are stacked together like that.
Guillermo - The clearer water typically lasts through the winter, but the hottest sight fishing lasts through the end of November in my experience.
Justin - Our bull reds are gone once the mullet run is over, but fishing for good numbers of smaller reds remains consistent throughout the winter. Just don't expect them to chase the artificials like they would in the other seasons. You need to present them at a much slower pace. As the weather gets colder, cut and dead baits work well for anglers wanting to set up ahead of fish. Some days, you can still find bull reds not too far offshore.
Q6 - Anything else you'd like to share about the fall redfish frenzy?Steve - A few things to add concern time of day. The best time for topwater is obviously anytime you find a fish blowing shrimp out the water, but morning is usually best. Sight fishing is best when the sun gets higher up overhead. Try to keep the sun to your back for the best spotting conditions. Fish deep and slow with plastics during the cold snaps.
Joseph - We see our average size of fish in the marsh really increase during this time of year. We are mainly targeting upper-slot (25"-28") fish with some oversized fish thrown in there. We tend to catch more big bulls in the passes during the summer, but the flats bite is incredible this time of year.
Justin - Kayaks are made for winter fishing here in South Carolina and many other areas because they allow anglers to slip into the shallow areas and pockets that redfish are using to avoid predation. I can get my kayak out onto a mud flat with no one else around and have an entire school of 100 fish to myself.
No matter where anglers are headed along the Red Coast between Virginia and Texas, the coming weeks and months will provide some of the best redfish opportunities of the year. Take our pros' advice and make the most of them by fishing the proper areas with the right gear and presentations at the right time.