Art of Catching Big Reds
Art of Catching Big Reds
By Jim Hammond
Get your croaker rigs out and get ready for some string stretching, drag pulling, tackle testing battles. These big redfish are found in deep drops in the river and near the jetties. Here are a few ways to find and catch these monster redfish.
Equipment you will need:
A boat that has a pretty good fish finder. I have a Sitex Pro Fish ll and it works great for seeing detail on the bottom. It is important that your fish finder will allow you to see the small fish that are holding right on the bottom. Most of the $99 units do not work well enough to see the detail that you will need to see these small fish.
RODS, REELS AND TERMINAL TACKLE:
It is best to have two sets of rods and reels, one for catching bait and another for the reds.
BAIT CATCHING TACKLE:
To catch the bait, I use a Shakespeare Light, bait cast rod, CA1170-1M 7' long and to that I attach a Shakespeare SKP 4000A bait cast reel. On this reel, I spool it with 50 pound test Power Pro. I then tie a loop knot at the bottom of the line, to slide my sinker through, then I come up about six inches and tie a dropper loop and do the same about six inches higher. In the dropper loops I tie on a Daichii # 4 Circle Wide hook. I then put on each hook a small piece of shrimp and send it to the bottom.
REDFISH CATCHING TACKLE:
I like to use a rod and reel outfit that will not be over powered with the 5 to 12 ounce sinkers that you need to hold bottom. I use a Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger Rod BWS 2200 7' long with a Shakespeare Tide Water TW 10LA reel. On the spool I put 100 pound test Power Pro. I like this outfit because you can get about 300 yards of Power Pro on the spool and sometimes these big reds run to the other side of the river and if you do not want to have to pull up your anchor every time, you need a lot of line. These rods have a limber enough tip to get a good rod doubling fight but have enough backbone to tough it out with almost anything that swims.
The rig consist of an egg or bank sinker large enough to hold bottom. This could range form 5 to 12 ounces, depending on how fast the current is running. Slide the sinker on the line then slide a plastic trout bead on the line. I then tie on a barrel swivel and from there, tie on a two to three foot long piece of 30 to 50 pound test mono as the leader. My hook for this style of fishing is the Daichii 5/0 Circle Wide hook.
The bait of choice is a small live croaker. When looking for these croakers, I use my fish finder to help me in my search. I first slow my boat to an idle or just above idle speed. I then turn on my Sitex Pro Fish ll and turn it to 4X magnification zoom.
The best place to look for these fish is along the edge of the channel. I like to look at the bottom, just as it starts to go up from the edge of the channel, toward shore. As you go from the channel toward shore the bottom will be almost flat, then it will come up. Along this wall is the most likely place to find the croakers and other small fish that the reds feed on.
Once you have found a likely place, your fish finder will display a solid line along the bottom (this will be the bottom). If there are any croakers or other small fish down there, they will appear as FUZZ, just off of the bottom.
Rig your rod and reel with a small piece of Fish Bites and send it to the bottom. If the croakers are down there, you will be catching them one after another. Once you have about 15 to 20 croakers in the live well, you are ready for the big reds. The size croaker that I prefer is about six inches long. If you can only catch larger croakers, you can fillet them out and use the fillet. The fillets work almost as well as a live croaker.
If you are unable to find croakers, I would try mullet, pogies, extra large shrimp, shrimp mammies or some sort of cut bait.
Finding the Reds:
Most of these big reds are here for two reasons, to breed and eat as much as they can during and after the spawn. The trick to finding them is to look for their favorite food source, "croakers". Once you have found that, you should find some of these big bruisers. The big reds should not be far from the croakers that you have caught for bait. The big reds are sometimes in a little deeper water near the croakers. Without a doubt, big redfish prefer a croaker over most all other offerings this time of the year.
I like to try the bends in the river as well as any real hard bottom that is holding bait. These big reds also hold along the edges of jetty rocks at most inlets.
Catching the reds:
If you have found a big school of croakers, the redfish shouldn't be far away. I like to get out the big rigs and hook a live croaker through the nose and send him down. I like to cast my baits out all around the boat, trying to cover as much ground as possible. After I have cast out my rig, I place it in the rod holder and wait for the rod to double over and line to start screaming from the spool. At this point it is not necessary to set the hook if you are using the Daichii Circle Wide, as the hook has already set itself. Now comes the fun part, trying to get Mr. Big Red to the boat.
This is a waiting game and the action is not always fast and furious, so I like to use the little bait catching rigs to continue to catch the small fish to relive the boredom of just waiting.
PRESERVING THE STOCKS:
These big reds are the future stocks so we want to put them back so we will have plenty of slot size reds to catch in years to come. After you have fought with one of these big reds for some time, they are usually pretty worn out. I sometimes spend 10 minutes trying to revive the fish to ensure his survival. This fish allowed you to share a great battle with him, now you need to spend a little time to make sure that he is revived.
Hold the fish over the side in the water until he starts to swim away. As you are holding him, you will feel him get more and more revived, until you can no longer hold on to him.
A lot of the time, if you do not spend a little time to revive these fish they will die and neither you nor I want that to happen.
For information on chartering Capt. Jim Hammond, you can contact me at (904) 757-7550 or email me at [email protected].
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Capt. Jim Hammond