by Gritter Griffin
October 1997 – Longbar, Sarasota Bay, Florida
On that fateful day two men are fishing Sarasota Bay running their boat along the deep side of Longbar looking for snook. A cold front has just passed and a hard wind is kicking up whitecaps. As the men ease along the bar in their boat they can see snook lying in the deeper potholes up on the bar. The technique for stalking these fish is to stay on the deep side, sight the snook, stop the boat, and cast to the snook. They could see the bar. They could see the potholes. They could see the snook. Their challenge this day was stopping and stabilizing the boat.
With the bar on the leeward side of the boat, the wind was constantly pushing the boat onto the bar and spooking the snook before they could be caught. Even when they hooked one of the snook the rest were scattered by the boat drifting up on the bar and over their hiding places in the potholes. The men tried every trick they could think of but even with an anchor in the water the wind would gust and push and twist their boat around the anchor line inevitably spooking and scattering the snook.
One of the men in that boat on that day was John Oliverio.
His frustration mounted throughout the morning at seeing so many fish and being able to catch so few. As he struggled once again to keep the boat steady so a cast could be made he began thinking - What kind of device would hold the boat steady? What would it look like? How would it operate? Why wasn’t it already done?
It was right then that John Oliverio had a moment!
A singular thought process that would change his life and define shallow water fishing forever. It was a moment that, ultimately, was the birth of the Power Pole.
John Oliverio is not an engineer by any degree. He is not a hydraulics specialist. He is not a certified mechanic. He is not an electrician. He is not a computer geek. He is not a welder. He is not an electronics specialist. What John is, though, is a man with an insatiable curiosity about how things work and a desire to build things that make sense.
At the age of twenty he began his first job when he started his own business designing, building, and delivering custom hot tubs. This what he was doing for a living on that fateful day in 1997 and he was doing it well. But he just couldn’t shake the idea of a deployable anchor system.
John went home and immediately started thinking of ways to accomplish the task and began drawing and tinkering with various designs. His first thought was to use a multi-stage hydraulic cylinder like the hydraulic ram in a dump truck. He realized that, while it would work statically, it would not handle much in the way of the stress of a side-load.
Then he saw, on the back of an old boat, an outboard motor lift of the old scissor type. This formation made sense to him so he set about building a prototype. The very first design was built in his living room from a Lego kit. Then came challenge after challenge to create a product that would work, withstand the elements, and last. After he was satisfied that his model would likely work he gathered up some aluminum parts – mostly angle – along with some bolts, washers, pins, and a hydraulic pump. He then got some friends in the welding business to tack it together for him.
It worked! It actually worked.
But all was not blue sky and light breezes just yet. Much taming of the original beast was necessary before this gadget would be functional on a boat. The first few times John hit the down button on the hydraulic pump the spike punched holes in his driveway. After getting the creature under control and taming the hydraulics to a point that a controlled descent and ascent were possible it was ready for a sea trial. It was large and loud and clumsy and slow and needed significant refinement but it worked. John used this original for about a year on his own boat.
Subsequently, he asked Len Mriscia his longtime friend and driveway/garage companion during the many-faceted efforts to build and perfect the device if he would like to get involved in the financing of a company to build the anchors. They negotiated, a deal was struck, hands were shaken, a business plan was drawn up, and JL Marine Systems became a reality.
Over the next two years while perfecting the design of the Power Pole, John continued to deliver hot tubs to pay the bills. Then, in the fall of 2000 John introduced the Power Pole at a redfish tournament hosted by the IFA. A well-known, no nonsense, angler by the name of Greg Watts was intrigued by the device and, after seeing how it worked, bought the first Power Pole for the exorbitant sum of $247. Greg’s twin brother Bryan didn’t immediately see the need for such a device but after they fished a tournament in Titusville the following month Bryan became the second person to purchase a Power Pole. John knew then that he was onto something potentially big. The Watts boys were very well known and highly successful anglers on all the redfish tours and it wasn’t long at all before many others noted the advantages of the Power Pole and orders began to pick up significantly.
In 2001 John took to the road and traveled all over the Gulf Coast with the Watts brothers to every redfish event. He carried Power Poles and ice chests of Gatorade, water, and beer to lure the anglers to a stopping place so he could expound the virtues of the Power Pole. At the end of that year and after many, many, days away from home and family John had sold 200 units. Power Pole had become a force to be reckoned with.
After that year on the road, the growth and popularity of Power Pole expanded at an almost logarithmic rate far outstripping anything John had envisioned. But he never stopped working. He never stopped perfecting the Power Pole. He never stopped improving every aspect of the device. He developed an extremely robust R&D department and gave them the latitude and freedom to work without boundaries, to build, to try, to seek, to find – answers and results. The consequence of his easygoing style of leadership is a crew and a company that runs almost by itself. John empowers people to be their own motivation, to grow and develop themselves within a matrix that nurtures individuality and, yet, thrives on teamwork. This team has successfully continued the development and distribution of one of the most popular and useful marine accessories in the world. In fact, after I saw a Power Pole in action for the first time my comment was, “The Power Pole is the best fishing invention since the hook!” I still stand by that statement all these years later.
Shortly after Bryan Watts purchased his Power Pole John obtained a 3000 square foot building to become the home of Power Pole. He then brought Robert Shamblin on board to run operations. Although, in the beginning, John thought the 3000 foot building was too large for their needs by 2007 they were in need of more space and expanded to an 8000 square foot facility. Then, in the fall of 2012 Oliverio purchased a state of the art, 40,000 square foot facility that is the current home of Power Pole.
Q&A with John Oliverio
RC: What advice would you give someone to help them duplicate your success?
JO: People have ideas all the time. To make them a reality you just have to make it, use it, believe in it, search for and find resources, and always, always, be true to the people who have helped you get there.
RC: What was your inspiration to start a hot tub business?
JO: I saw a niche market that I thought I could fill and my dad, who was genius enough to realize that I was not student material, helped me get started in my own business.
RC: How would you describe John Oliverio?
JO: I am a very laid back person and I believe in managing people in a hands off way. I let people find their own level without interference from me. That’s why I have such a committed, driven team – because we are all in it together.
RC: You are considered quite the accomplished competitive angler in your own right. DO you still compete?
JO: I still enjoy the challenge but I am so very busy with new projects that I don’t really have the time to compete much these days.
RC: What is your life advice for the folks reading this article?
JO: The only thing you have in this world is your honor and your word – don’t ever lose either.
RC: What is your pet peeve?
JO: People saying they will do something and then not following through.
RC: Where do you see JL Marine and Power Pole in 10 years?
JO: My goal is to stay focused on the future and make JL Marine Systems the largest marine accessory manufacturer in the world.
RC: What would you say to your customers?
JO: That we appreciate their support and a promise that we will never lose sight of one of our founding principles – loyalty to our customers.
JL Marine Systems and Power Pole have risen from an idea in one man’s head to a world class operation with a worldwide distribution. It is truly a unique product that has changed the very methodology of tournament and recreational fishing. And that’s not all. There is more, much more, on the horizon from JL Marine and that entrepreneurial maestro - John Oliverio.
(Ed Note: So, is the Power Pole really “the best fishing invention since the hook”? I certainly think it is. And you should beware that if you ever put them on your boat you will be hooked for life which is not really a bad thing at all.)
I have the answer.
I have noted with interest many discussions on various forums that offer opinions on the definition of a “professional angler”. These opinions have ranged from those that believe a professional angler is one who fishes exclusively for a living to those that occasionally participate in a local tournament and win a hundred dollar prize (pro by default).
I think there is much more to the term “professional” than I have read in these forum discussions. I believe that a person who can legitimately carry the title of professional angler is one who is very skilled in the sport, adheres to a rigid and immutable set of personal, ethical, moral, and performance standards, and consistently competes on a strong competitive level.
1. a: characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
b: exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike behavior in the workplace
2. a: participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
b: having a particular profession as a permanent career
The definitions above came directly from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It appears that there are a number of ways to define the word “professional”. More importantly, and relating to the subject at hand, there are a number of aspects that can define a “professional angler”.
Definition 1a and 1b say that a professional is characterized by conforming to the standards of the profession and by exhibiting courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike behavior in the workplace.
So, it appears that the first aspect of defining a professional angler is to define the behavior of the individual.
Definition 2a and 2b give us two ways a person can be defined as a professional. One can participate for gain or livelihood in an endeavor usually engaged in by amateurs. This implies a separation of amateur and professional status with the professional level being delineated by consistently participating for gain or livelihood. Webster also offers the definition that one can embark in a given profession as a permanent career.
A picture begins to emerge of a professional angler.
A professional angler is an individual who consistently competes on an expert level of competition for gain or livelihood and strictly follows the rules of engagement. This includes rules of action as well as rules of ethical and honorable behavior. A truly professional angler is above reproach as he/she goes about the business of competing. The rules of engagement are sacred and are followed without question or quarter. To even consider the idea of cheating or gaining an unfair advantage is repugnant to a professional.
The professional angler may be participating for financial gain, notoriety, or perhaps a permanent career and livelihood; neither one excludes the other. In other words, the definition of a professional angler does include those that fish exclusively for a living but it does not exclude those that obtain intermittent financial gain by consistently competing at the same level and exhibiting the other characteristics of a professional in the field.
Further defining the situation is the professional field of competition. Professional baseball, hockey, football, and basketball have leagues and competition schedules that allow competition exclusive to the professionals of the respective sport.
Golf and fishing have tours with scheduled competition venues for the professionals only. This is where the individual professional competitors vie with one another for monetary prizes and to measure their standing among their peers. If an event contains contestants that do not meet the defining criteria of a professional angler than the field is “mixed” or “open” and it is not a truly professional event.
Therefore, professional anglers consistently compete in expert level events at a professional level for monetary gain, notoriety, and to gauge peer standing.
This would mean any event that consistently has expert level competition at multiple venues. Tours/events/trails may include full and/or part-time participation but all would be considered as competing at a professional level.
Now, back to the original question. - Does the “Professional” Redfish Angler Exist?
The answer is, yes, it does.
by Capt Chad Dufrene
Common Mistakes Made by Tournament Anglers and How to Avoid Them
Over the last 17 years of tournament fishing I have made, and seen, many mistakes that have kept myself and others from winning a major redfish tournament. Many of these mistakes were made early in my career and I have learned from them. Today, though, I still see and hear of people making the same mistakes I made. Some are young anglers just starting out but some of these folks are veterans. In this article I want to share with you a few of the most common mistakes tournament anglers make and how to avoid them. What follows is a list of critical mistakes that, if corrected, will help you finish closer to the top.
FAILURE TO PLAN
A certain percentage of anglers in every tournament field will probably never win a tournament. They are simply there to fish and have a good time. There is nothing wrong with that because these folks are usually swamped with a full-time job, kids, family and many other responsibilities that keep them from putting together a proper plan for success. But, in failing to put together a proper plan, they are essentially planning to fail. For instance, some of the things you need in planning are done long before you leave home.
You need to check all the trailer hubs for grease and check the tires for proper air pressure before you leave the house. Check all engine mounting bolts on the transom before and after every tournament. Make sure you have a spare prop and extra oil. Check all battery connections for tightness and corrosion. Make sure all livewell pumps are functioning and aerators are working. Check that the running lights on both boat and trailer are working properly. Neglecting any of these routine checks can cost you a day or several days of precious prefishing time.
FISHING OR SETTLING ON THE WRONG FISH
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard stories from anglers during prefishing about how they caught 50-100 redfish most every day. I have also noted that people get on stage after they weigh their fish and during their interview say how it was an epic day and they caught 40-70 fish. Most of the time these teams weigh in 14-15 lbs, finish deep in the field, and are happy with their performance.
The question I have in both of the above scenarios is “Why?”. Why catch 50-100 redfish during a prefishing day? Why catch 40-70 fish on tournament day? Is it because it was fun? You can go rip some lips anytime you want. This is a trap some people get caught up in that I call “CATCHING”. They love to fish and catch fish so much they cannot control themselves and they become their own worst enemy. Until you learn to control yourself and be more selective with your fish you will be hard pressed to win a tournament.
Some teams get in an area during prefishing and start seeing fish immediately in every direction they look. They get what I call googly-eyed-fish-drunk and start ripping lips. The problem is that most of the fish tend to be 4 to 7lbs. But there are so many fish in the area they won’t leave. They just keep catching and searching for better fish. Soon, they have wasted a whole day in the wrong area. But they had fun.
They start out day 2 of prefishing in a different area and find nothing through mid-morning and begin to panic. They make the mistake of going back to the same area as the day before. They keep searching for better fish only to find more of the same 4-7lb fish. Now they might have only one more day to scout before the tournament starts and are scrambling for information from other anglers and friends. In the end they wind up going on a wild goose chase on day 3 and find nothing tournament worthy. Now they are stuck with the area that has epic numbers of the wrong fish and finish near the middle of the field on gameday.
OVERFISHING YOUR FISH
I am often amazed at how many teams I run into at the dock during prefishing and hear them say “we caught 17+ lbs 3 times today”. Sometimes I get “we caught 50+ fish today and had over 18 lbs”. Again, I want to ask the question, “Why?”. What possible good can that do for you? Pump up your ego? I have asked why a couple of times and I got the same answer both times. They reply with, “There are 100’s of fish where we are fishing and you can’t hurt ‘em or mess them up”. Then on tournament day, at the weigh in, I hear some of the same teams saying, “Our fish would not eat, dammit! We had them locked down and to ourselves and they just would not eat”. They get caught up in the “Catching” trap and cannot control themselves. They become their own worst enemy and usually finish in the middle of the field.
FAILURE TO UTILIZE ELECTRONICS PROPERLY
Electronics are something that almost everyone has on their boat but most tournament anglers fail to use properly. Anglers primarily use their electronics to lay down trails and routes to get back and forth from the marina to their fishing grounds.
There are many other features that can be utilized with the newer model gps units. For instance, Humminbird makes a mapping card called the Louisiana Lakemaster Delta that is an aerial photo of the entire Louisiana coastal marsh similar to google earth. Anglers that have only the generic basemaps in their units are missing out on the advantages of this detailed mapping feature. Units equipped with aerial photography mapping can help anglers navigate quickly, safely, and more accurately through the marsh.
The Humminbird Helix unit provides anglers the ability to pan around the Lakemaster map and zoom in and out quickly. You can clearly see if there is a pond, creek, ditch, or potential fishing spot without pulling out the old fold up map in windy conditions.
The newer units even allow you to search google earth via a laptop or pc and then transfer data, routes, and waypoints straight to the units. All these features may be intimidating and the seeming complexity may keep anglers from employing the power of these electronics. But I always thought of the new technology this way - a man of average intelligence will be able to work it or it would not sell.
The key to learning these features is to go fishing more often and use the product.
NOT BEING TOTALLY COMMITTED TO WINNING
Being totally committed to winning means you have a plan for everything. I often see people leave the dock with reels spooled half full of braided line that looks too old and frayed to be fishing with in a money tournament. I see knots and leaders from the previous day or trip that have not been changed or retied. I have seen some anglers getting to the dock at 10 am to go out and some returning to the dock at 1pm to call it a day. I know several people who never, ever, check their measuring device against the measuring device used by the bump man. Don’t assume all Check it Sticks are the same!
I have seen teams scouting areas and know for a fact they did not look at the weather forecast. Because, in the end, that particular bank they are looking at will be blown up by the 20 +mph winds that will blow right into that bank on tournament day and the school of studs they were catching is gone. They think they have winning fish but what they fail to realize is - that spot is going to be a mudhole with whitecaps by tournament day. Some teams just don’t plan for the weather and adjust their prefishing to areas that are fishable on tournament day.
I have also seen some teams come off the water early and then stay out all night drinking. Then they roll into the dock at 6 am to go prefishing. How can they focus and put in a long day in that condition. That kind of stuff would not sit well with me if my partner pulled that stunt. You are either committed to winning or just being a donor to the pot – it’s your choice.
HOW TO AVOID THE MISTAKES OTHER ANGLERS MAKE
Now I will tell you how to avoid and correct the pitfalls and mistakes I have discussed above. Avoiding or correcting these mistakes will save you precious prefishing time, allow you to cover more water, put your team in the right place by tournament day, and help you finish higher in the field.
PUT TOGETHER A PLAN
A plan starts well before the tournament and continues throughout your prefishing and into tournament day. Study the tides and pay attention to what the fish are doing each day according to the tides. Look at the long range forecast and determine what kind of weather you might have on tournament day. This will give you an idea of the wind direction so you can use Google Earth and decide what areas will be protected and fishable with those winds. Also look for, and make a list of, other places to check in case the weather changes.
Have a checklist of what to do and check before you leave the house. Things like check tires and hubs, running lights on boat and trailer, livewells working, measuring board, spare prop and oil, rainsuit, lifejackets, etc. Make sure batteries are fully charged and all connections are tight and free of corrosion. A blown tire or hub on the highway, dead battery, or a bad connection can delay your trip and cost you a day of prefishing or fishing time on tournament day. Think of everything you need and everything that can go wrong or has gone wrong and make a list. Remember that you are dealing with a boat and a trailer and it can be a love/hate relationship.
HOW TO AVOID FISHING OR SETTLING ON THE WRONG FISH
This may be the hardest thing for most anglers to avoid. Many anglers come from areas where fish are ultra spooky and you need to be very quiet and make 50-60 yard cast to even have a chance at a bite. Then they arrive in Louisiana where they can pitch 10-30 feet to big golden marsh donkeys over and over. It can be so good that sometimes I think the fish actually think it’s Mardi Gras and are saying “throw me something Mr. Fisherman”. Fish are everywhere, and many anglers get what I like to call “catch drunk”. They lose focus on what they are there for and just start ripping lips. Remember, you are not just looking for redfish you are looking for winning fish. Every location a tournament is held has a certain weight that usually wins. For example, in South Carolina 4 ¾-5lb fish are winners, in North Carolina 7-7 ½lb fish are winners, in Florida 7-7 ½lb fish are winners, and in Louisiana 8 ¼-9lb are winners. These numbers are not exact, but they are something I usually use based on what location I fish.
How to avoid “catch drunk”? Here is how I approach my prefishing and decide where I will fish on tournament day. I usually fish a prospective area for a few minutes and if I don’t see fish or catch fish I move a couple of times in that area. I can usually tell within the first ½ hour if this is area has potential. I am very selective about which fish I catch. I pass on all fish under 24 inches and obvious over-slot fish. In Louisiana if I catch an upper slot fish and it measures between 26 and 27 inches and does not weigh at least 8lbs then I will fish a little longer to try to catch another upper slot fish. When I catch another upper slot fish in that area if it does not weigh 8lbs, I will leave for a new area. I don’t care if there are 100’s of fish in that area I refuse to stay if they are skinny.
Once I catch an upper slot fish in an area that is under 27 inches and over 8lbs I am done catching fish in that area. I will look at the fish in the area and try to determine if they are the same body style and see what coves, points, and grass lines the majority of the fish are holding on. Then I will start working out in a circular pattern from that area for one square mile and check every cove, pocket, flat and grass mat to see which ones are holding fish.
If I get away from the original area I might check another upper slot fish to see if it has some weight. But, under no circumstance will I catch more than 2-3 quality fish during prefishing.
When you do find the area you want to fish, try to determine what the fish are feeding on. The ideal forage would be menhaden or pogies, small crabs, shrimp or mullet, minnows or crawfish. One way to determine what they are feeding on is to catch and keep a couple smaller 20 to 23 inch fish and see what is inside their stomachs. Once you have determined what they are feeding on you can adjust the bait and color to mimic what is in the area.
HOW TO AVOID OVERFISHING YOUR FISH
This mistake is very easy to avoid, but it is the mistake that some anglers have the hardest time avoiding. Many anglers, once they find what they think are winning fish, tend to go back to these fish every day and catch a couple just to make sure they are there and heavy. These are the guys that catch 17+ lbs every day up until the tournament. By tournament day their fish have been caught and molested every day and the fish will not eat. The fix is easy - once you find winning fish, leave them alone! Give them a break and let them rest until you need them.
BE 100% COMMITTED TO WINNING
Any team can get lucky one time in their tournament career and win a tournament only to never crack the top 10 again. To consistently finish near the top you have to be 100% committed to winning. Being totally committed means you leave no stone unturned. You study maps and weather and tides and then create your tournament plan based on a combination of all that information.
Have a checklist and make sure you use it before you leave home. Prefish hard and spend many hours on the water each day. I rarely ever find winning fish after 3pm during a scouting day. This could be because the light is poor, winds may be up by then, or the tide is wrong etc. he extra hours late in the day when the light is low might allow you to find an area that looks absolutely right, but void of fish. I never dismiss these areas and usually start there first thing the next morning. Sometimes an area that was devoid of fish the day before is now teeming with the right fish. Maybe the tide was wrong and the fish are there on high water, or they are only there with a certain wind, or maybe this is their morning dining spot. The point is, if it looks right sometimes you just have to go with your gut and check it again on a different tide and wind.
Make sure all your line is fresh and leaders, knots, and hooks are retied before each day on the water. Your line, leader, and hooks are the only thing that connect you to your fish and neglecting them will cost you.
Based on your prefishing, plan what areas you will go to and in what order. Plan how you will approach and fish them based on the weather, tide, and winds. Make sure you are on a level playing field when it comes to measuring fish. Talk to the bump man about how he will measure fish and ask him to check your measuring board against the tournament board. I have seen in some instances where the tournament director said they would measure fish one way and the bump man was not on the same page. How this can happen is mind boggling, but I have seen it. Fish measurement is probably the single most important thing you need to get clarified. It is critical to know that what you are doing in the boat is the same thing that will take place at the measuring tent on tournament day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the tournament director or bump man. You are their customer and paying a lot of money to compete and you need to know exactly how your fish will be measured.
There are many more mistakes that I could have written about in this article. But the mistakes, and the solutions, I have mentioned here are the most important (and most common) aspects that keep anglers from excelling in this sport.
Good Luck. See ya on the water.
by Gritter Griffin
“Interpreting and Using a Tide Table”
The first thing you need to know is that all tide tables for a given area use the average of the lowest of the low tides (the neap tides, remember) over a period of 19 years to determine a zero point. It is from this point that all the tidal rise and fall predictions are measured.
Another way to get this straight in your head is to go to your favorite shallow water fishing spot at the time of a low tide that is noted as “zero” on the tidal chart.
The depth of the water noted as “0” at the time of that low tide under ‘normal’ weather conditions (e.g. excluding any unusual conditions – heavy rain, strong wind, approaching hurricanes, etc) is what is known as the Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW). It is the average of nineteen years of tidal observations for the lowest low tide at “0” during each moon cycle.
Simply put, this is the depth of the water you can expect to find in that area at the lowest low tide when the chart reads “0”. If it is navigable at that time by pole or trolling motor, it will certainly be navigable during nearly any other phase of the tide when the water will be higher than it is now.
This is useful information because now you know that under reasonably normal conditions, if the tidal reading is “0” or above, you can navigate (i.e. fish) in this area of the water.
The exception to this “rule” is when the chart reads as a negative number (for example - 0.8). In this case the water level at that same spot will be 0.8 feet (0.8 ft x 12 in = 9.6 inches) lower than when it was at zero reading. If the area you have targeted is 2 feet deep at a zero reading on the chart, it will be 2 feet minus 9.6 inches (or 16.4 inches) at a -0.8 reading. So it can be helpful to know what the “zero reading” or MLLW is at a particular location.
Tide tables are presented in various forms and some of them appear to be very complex and undecipherable. The important thing to remember is that you are only looking for three specific pieces of information:
Tide tables are listed by name for specific areas of the water. These areas are usually well known and easily recognized areas that are heavily navigated. Each one of these areas has a named tidal station that continuously monitors the rise and fall of the water at that location. Locate the station closest to the area you will be fishing and use the data from that chart.
A graph is produced by these stations and records are kept of the data. It is this data that is used to make tidal predictions for a specific area. The historical highs and lows over nineteen years are averaged to produce the numbers you will find on a tide table.
This is a typical graph from the NOAA site and includes the month of January, 2007. The tidal station is the Empire Jetty at Empire, Louisiana.
Note the first highlighted line. Reading from left to right you can easily see that January 9th is a Tuesday, that the time of day is 07:34 LST (Local Standard Time), that the tide height will be 0.0 and that this is the L (low tide) for the day.
So, in this example if you were fishing an area somewhere in the vicinity of the Empire Jetty station with a reasonably flat bottom and you noted the water in your location to be 12 inches deep on January 9th at 07:34 AM (the “zero” point) you can easily calculate the water depth at any other day and time of the year.
The high tide for that same day occurs at 5:39 PM at is expected to be 0.2 feet (0.2 x 12 in = 2.4 inches) higher than the low. So the water in this exact same area at 5:39 PM will now be 14.4 inches deep.
Now let’s go on to January 17th. Note that the predicted low occurs at 5:12 AM and is noted to be -1.0. If you were to go back to the same area at this time the same water that was previously 12 inches deep on January 9th would now be wet mud. This is because the tide is now -1.0, or 1 foot lower, than the depth noted at the zero reading and there is no water there.
Conversely, if you return to this same spot on January 17th at 7:22 PM, the water will be 1.2 feet higher than it was the zero reading. Now you would find that the water which we previously noted to be 12 inches at a zero reading is now 14.4 inches (1.2 x 12 = 14.4 inches) higher and will now be 26.4 inches deep.
You can use the same method to calculate the depth of the water at any time of the month throughout the year. This is pretty helpful information especially when fishing areas of shallow water. You will know when you need to be out of an area in which the water may drop too low for navigation. You will also know before you even go out on the water if you will be able to fish in a certain area.
This tidal information is also very useful because the amount of water and the speed that it moves through an area can have a significant impact on fish and their feeding patterns.
When there is not very much difference in the height of the high and low tides for the day this tells you that there will not be very much water movement. In other words, the tidal movement will be slow without a very noticeable current.
On the other hand, when there is a significant height difference between the high tide and low tide, the amount of water that moves into and out of the same area will be tremendously increased. It is this increase in the amount of water that must move through the same area in the same amount of time that results in significantly increased velocity of flow, therefore tidal currents which spells “dinner” for fish.
A notebook is one of the most important items in your tackle box because, over time, it will make you a more successful angler than you would ever believe. Your observations of fish feeding behavior during these periods of time when there is almost no tidal flow versus other periods of time when there is a significant change in tidal currents (along with weather, time of year, etc) will be one of the most important aspects of your angling arsenal.
When you can target the time, the location, and the tide that the fish in a certain area are most likely to feed, you will have exponentially increased your chances of success.
We have all had one of those days on the water when we pulled up to a spot and just slayed ‘em. Every cast produced a keeper. The excitement and adrenalin from that experience stays with you forever. These are the stories and experiences that we relive and tell over and over around the ramps and at the dinner table. But how many times were you able to reproduce that day in the same area? How many of your fishing buddies were able to?
The notebook and the tidal information will allow you to do it over and over again.
Fish because you can!
by Gritter Griffin
High tide, low tide, neap tide, spring tide, flood tide, ebb tide…that’s a lot of tides!
It is often surprising how many people who regularly fish do not have a basic grasp of how tidal flow works. Even more surprising is that many do not have a real understanding of the effect that tidal movement has on the feeding patterns of fish.
Perhaps it really shouldn’t be that surprising, though, when you consider that nearly every source one can turn to in order to learn how tides work seems to resort to a complex diatribe involving words like syzygy, quadrature, perihelion, obliquity, ecliptic, paragee, evection, and etc.
I was raised in south Alabama and I expect most of those words, if mentioned in mixed company, would get you in social hot water pretty quickly.
Agreed, the movement of the planet’s oceans is an extremely complex study. But, discussions of this subject often degenerate into a one-upsmanship intellectual debate regarding a multitude of the laws of physics as well as hieroglyphic-looking mathematical formulas.
The good news is that you don’t need any of that mumbo jumbo to understand tidal flow and how it works. It is not necessary to understand the complexities behind “why” tides do what they do as long as you can get a grasp on “what” tides do and “when” they do it.
By the time you finish this short article you will have all the information you need to sound like a regular old salt when you are talking about the tides and tide charts. And, you will be able to make practical use of this information.
First, a few simple definitions:
High Tide: as high as the water is going to get before it starts to fall again.
Low Tide: as low as the water is going to get before it starts to rise again.
Neap Tide: the tide at the quarter moon phases.
Spring Tide: the tide at the new moon and the full moon. (It has absolutely nothing to do with the season of the year.)
Flood Tide: the incoming flow of water during the period from low tide to high tide. This term just means the water is “coming in” or “rising”.
Ebb Tide: the outgoing flow of water during the period from high tide to low tide. This term just means the water is “going out” or “falling”.
Remember, for our purposes here, we only want to know what happens and when it happens. We are not concerned with why it happens except for a couple of generalities.
Generally speaking, there are two tides per day. There is a high tide followed in six hours by a low tide which is then followed in six hours by another high tide and then another low, etc, etc. The times of each high and low occur at a progressively later time each day (about 50 minutes).
The amount of rise or fall in the tide is directly related to the moon phase which is where the moon is in relation to the earth and the sun. Only two situations are of any concern. All others are a variation of these two.
In the first situation the earth, moon, and sun are lined up in a row.
When the earth, moon, and sun are all lined up in a row (syzygy) there is an increased “pull” on the water along this line. This causes the “spring” tide which is the highest a tide will get. The spring tide occurs twice each month. Once on the full moon and again on the new moon.
In the second situation, the earth and sun stay in the line but the moon is ‘off to the side’ of the earth at 90 degrees.
When the earth and sun are still in the same line and the moon has moved to the side of the earth perpendicular to this line (quadrature) there is a lessened “pull” on the water along the same line. This causes the “neap” tide during which there is less water movement. There is still a high and a low tide but high tide does not reach the same levels of the spring tide and the low tide is the lowest it will be throughout the cycle. The neap tide occurs twice each month. Once on the first quarter and again on the last quarter of the moon.
Here’s another way to think of the monthly tide cycle that may help you get it straight.
If you could stand in the same spot in the water for 28 days and follow the rise and fall of the tides it would go something like this:
Let’s begin with a full moon and a spring tide. Remember, this tide occurs twice every month during the full moon and new moon phase. At the time of the high tide, the full moon is beautiful and the water is at your kneecaps. About six hours later, at low tide, you are standing on dry ground.
Don’t move. You’ve got to stay right there for 28 days and watch the rise and fall of the water. The next day at high tide the water line at your kneecaps will be slightly lower than it was yesterday and at low tide there will be a little less dry ground at your feet.
Each successive day at the time of the high tide the water will be slightly lower on your kneecaps than it was the preceding day and at low tide it will be slightly higher at your feet.
By the time you have stood there for 7 days and reached the first quarter of the moon you will find that the high tide mark is now below your knees and at low tide the water level is at your ankles. You have now reached the first neap tide of the month. This is when the high tide is not quite as high or the low tide quite as low as during the full and/or new moon phases. This is because the moon is now at a 90 degree angle to the line between the earth and sun and the tidal forces are not as strong as when the earth, moon, and sun are all lined up.
Over the next seven days (days 8 – 14) each daily high tide will now be a little higher and the low tide will be a little lower until the new moon. Now you have been standing there for 14 days. The high tide is back at your kneecaps and the low tide has you standing on dry ground just like it was during the full moon.
Over the next seven days (days 15 -21), between the new moon and the 3rd quarter, each high tide will again be a little bit less high and the low tide a little bit less of a low until you reach the second neap tide of the cycle (3rd quarter of the moon) and the water level is the same as it was on day 7 at the first neap tide.
Over the final seven days (22 – 28) you will again see the gradual rise in each tide until you are back at the full moon with the high tide at your knees and the low tide leaving you on dry ground.
You can now get out of the water and go home with a new appreciation of the tidal cycle (and really wrinkly feet).
This lunar cycle repeats itself over and over every 28 days.
Now that you have a grasp of some of the terminology and how the tide cycle follows the moon, it is time to look at a tide table and learn how to interpret and use the rise and fall of the tides for the area you will be fishing. That all comes up in Part 2.
by Gritter Griffin
The water is completely calm mirroring the grass of the shoreline. The soft light of early dawn gives the water a look of depth that belies the shallowness of the flats upon which the boat is floating. The only sound is the faint call of distant gulls and the hum of insects.
Just around that small point, a ripple on the surface, followed by a red-hued spotted tail identifying an early morning appetite in action. The cast lands perfectly just beyond and in front of the exposed tail. A short retrieve, a jerk or two, a huge swirl, a wrist-shocking jolt, and it’s on!
The best part is that this whole scenario gets repeated about thirty times in the next 90 minutes. And, it’s not over yet. The rest of the day is spent casting into a school of reds or ‘blind-casting’ along the base of grass/brush/oyster-lined shores where the reds wait in abundant ambush. The sheer numbers of fish caught and the incredible fighting prowess of these fish is awe-inspiring. It is something that redfishermen have known for a very long time. And, finally, it has become inspiring to those that bring sport fishing to the American public.
The following is an excerpt from a short article I wrote a couple of years ago noting that fishing has not only become America’s favorite pastime but makes up some of our favorite memories. What follows that excerpt is a bit of a reverie about how I became a “redfisherman” and where I think we, as redfish ambassadors, are now.
You doze in the warmth of April sunshine. A soft breeze carries the scents of late spring and the promise of summer to come. The sounds of insects and children and muted conversation buzz in the distance. It is late afternoon in the south and you are fishing! It really doesn’t get any better than this whether you catch any fish or not. Time spent on days like this is invested in memories that pay dividends for the rest of your life.
There are no special requirements for fishing. All you need is a little time, a pole, some bait and a creek, pond, lake or river. There may be no other “game” in which everybody, including kids, can “compete” on an equal level all the while enjoying true family time together. These are times that will be brought up at family gatherings for many, many years to come. “Remember when Jimmy caught that big ol’ catfish?”. “Remember when Angie fell in the pond but didn’t let go of the pole?”. “Remember when...”. Everybody at every family gathering has a fishing story.
Do you remember your first fish? Almost everyone does. Mine was with my grandfather at a small creek in Wicksburg, Alabama. I was five years old. A thin cane pole with a red and white cork attached to the line. A redworm on the hook and I was in the business of fishing.
The creek was slow-moving brown water holding all the mysteries of the world for me back then. Beaver tracks were in the mud beside me. A hornet’s nest was across the creek in a stubby tree. There was a stump sticking up right in the middle of the creek with a big green turtle sunning on top. My grandpa put the line right next to the stump, handed me the pole, and told me to watch the cork real close. I was supposed to snatch the pole hard if the cork disappeared. When the cork went under I snatched that fish out of the water so hard it went clear over my head and landed on the sandy bank behind me. It was just a medium sized bluegill but to me it was the world record of everything!
I can still remember the red-gold, blue, and amber jewel-like colors gleaming in the light of the morning sun. I can still feel the gritty sand and the slimy goo clinging to the sides of the fish with it’s scaly-ridged skin rough to the touch. There was flopping and wiggling and a sharp sticking sensation of the fins in my hands as I got him off the hook “by myself”. We put it on the stringer to bring home. I also learned to bait my own hook that day.
We caught more fish that afternoon and had a fish fry at grandpa’s that very night with fish that “I caught”. In all my young life I had never been more proud than that night when I heard my grandpa regale everyone with stories of my fishing prowess. It is a fine memory worth holding on to.
Fishing has been enjoyed for centuries as a way of relaxing and relieving the stresses of everyday life. Initially employed as a means of feeding the family, fishing has become “America’s pastime”. More people go fishing each year than play golf, tennis, and baseball combined with more than 975 million dollars generated annually on fishing gear, lures, and paraphernalia.
Some people fish from the banks of the rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds. Some float lazily about in small boats of every description. Others speed along the waterways in stiletto-like boats looking for that new world record bass. Some are offshore buffs needing the fierce pull of the amberjack, cobia, grouper, marlin, or tuna to complete their fishing experience.
Others are addicted to catching redfish!
I made the “mistake” of going redfishing many years ago. It was all over with the first bite. A 34-inch bull that burned the drag right off my reel. Before I landed that fish, I was ‘holding drag’ with my hand like a fly fisherman. That red was hooked and so was I. And, I never dreamed where that first redfish hook-up would lead me.
Over the next several years, I spent time learning about the redfish, it’s lifestyle, and its habitat. I learned of the devastation of the redfish population by offshore netting operations that destroyed millions upon millions of these wonderful fish. I learned about the restoration efforts begun by fishermen along the coastal areas of America. I learned how politicians, uneducated in the ways of the outdoors, nearly ruined that effort. I learned about how we, as fishermen, are paying the price for that restoration. Most importantly, I learned that our efforts have been successful beyond expectation.
And now, befitting the return of a hero to the ranks, we honor the redfish by showcasing it as one of the most prized sport fish ever. And, competitive angling events were certain to follow. Begun by the Inshore Fishing Association (IFA), and followed up by many others, the idea of holding and showcasing redfish tournaments has come of age.
The rest of America’s anglers are just now finding out what those of us who love these brawling, spotted-tailed fish already know; there is more excitement, more thrills, and more pure pandemonium with competitive fishing for reds than with any other type fishing. There is a personality and a “filmability” to this kind of fishing that has never been seen before. Part of it is the very nature of the folks who fish nearly exclusively for redfish. We are an independent-minded, free-spirited bunch who generally don’t take much guff from anyone.
We have, for many years, been content to lie along the bottom tier of the fishing world, ignored by most and reviled by others of the “elite” fishing world of marlin and tuna, tarpon and trout, bass and boners.
But, we were proud to be ‘redfishermen’.
We have persevered through the hard times of the restoration of the decimated fisheries. We have formed a thickening of the skin that comes from years of being sneered at and told that we were fishing for “bottom-sucking trash fish”. Forever labeled as such by people who had never seen a big red blow a topwater two feet high, make a mad leap over a piling to get at a spinner, or run in voracious schools of thousands that literally make the water red for a hundred yards.
These “redfish guys” are a hard-scrabble bunch whose love of the redfish kept them plugging away in the basement of the fishing world. For years these tenacious souls were barely able to eke out a living and constantly struggled to attract an uninterested fishing industry. Far from becoming disenchanted, they persevered, competed with each other, and formed clannish rivalries to spice up the action. And today, it is these same unheralded redfishermen of yesteryear that are emerging as the unrivaled professionals of today’s Redfish Tournament events.
Now, we are suddenly thrust into the limelight. And a bright limelight it is. In the many years since the IFA first began The Redfish Tour, a new public awareness of just how exciting these competitive angling events are has been steadily growing.
Televised events showcased these renegade fishermen and their “rivalries with an attitude” along with unbelievably hot fishing action. It was a mix destined for success and ready-made for TV! Never before had the viewing audience been treated to as many hook-ups, as many boated fish, as much personality, and as much fishing excitement as they have since the redfishing events have hit the televised market. And, now that thousands upon thousands of anglers have learned just how exciting this sport is, more anglers than ever before have come out to the coastal fisheries to enjoy some of that action for themselves.
The mystery and beauty of the redfish, it’s extraordinary fighting strength, and the numbers of fish caught have combined with the “renegade” personality of the professional redfisherman to create a whole new genre of fishing action. Folks just aren’t accustomed to seeing 20-30 fish boated during a televised show and they love it! The excitement, and heartache, of those fish that are just over the limit being released coupled with the pressure of needing that upper limit slot fish for the big bucks is unavoidably addicting.
Competititve fishing for slot-sized fish is, without a doubt, the most pressure packed, fun-filled, and exciting thing to happen to tournament fishing in a very long time. And, we need to be aware of it right now. Those of us that have been fortunate enough to enjoy these early stages of development are truly the leaders of our new industry. Our decorum and our actions while in the public eye will forever guide the growth of this sport. We should be mindful of the young people we influence and the impressions we make when we visit a new community. We need to maintain the independence of spirit that got us here and that keeps the rivalries fresh and alive but we need to do those things in a professional way that will speak volumes about our character.
The manufacturing world has also taken notice of this fledgling industry and is casting a sharp and discerning eye on these tours (and us) for new opportunities to promote their products. Those of us that have been the bulwark for the development of this industry will be the ones that reap the rewards of its success in the years to come. It is time to persevere with class. It has been a long ride to get to where we are now. It will be an even longer one into the future. Let’s do it right.
Thank you all for the initial response to the new site! It is exciting to know that there are so many redfish enthusiasts out there who enjoy reading and learning more about our favorite fishy friend – Sciaenops oscellatus
Please share the site and the information on all social media and let’s make the Redfish Connection THE place to be for all things redfish.
Tournament season is upon us and it’s time to get your tournament hats on and prepare for the 2018 competition. At Redfish Connection you can enjoy the redfish tournament season whether you are a diehard participant or an armchair observer because we plan to have every result, from every tour and every event - on a daily basis - as soon as the weigh-ins are complete. So, come back regularly during tournament weekends to check on your favorite redfish angler and event.
The weather is set to make a turn for the better so get ready Redfish friends it is about to be – ON!
The Florida Pro Redfish Series is set to kick off the 2018 competition this weekend, on February 10, in their West Coast Division at Ruskin, FL. This will be followed by America’s Redfish Cup hosting their first event February 24 at Breton Sound Marina in Hopedale, LA. After these two openers the action will be fast and furious with several events every month for the remainder of the season so get in on the action by following all the excitement right here.
We will also continue with our Angler Spotlight series with Barnie White next in the que for that segment.
New writers/contributors are coming on board every week or so and we welcome participation by our readers. SO, if you have the urge to write about a special experience, want to share some nugget of redfish knowledge, or just send a cool pic, send it along to me at:
Until next time ……
by Gritter Griffin
The title of this article may seem a little strange at first but when I tell you that I am talking about locating and catching reds in the really cold weather months it may make more sense to you.
Redfish, like every other warm weather critter on the planet, have an inherent tendency to slow everything down in colder temperatures. Their metabolism slows, their pursuit of food slows, their digestion slows, their movements slow. They seek deeper waters which are relatively warmer. Here, where everything has slowed down for them, they seek slower moving, smaller, food choices.
This information can be used to great advantage during the colder months because where you find one redfish you will likely find dozens or even hundreds. They tend to congregate in areas where there is protection from the elements, a constant food supply, and a warmer environment.
This phenomenon has been noted for many years in the Louisiana coastal areas where, during a really cold snap, you will see dozens of people lined up along the shores of the more inland, protected bayous. They can be seen hauling out red after red after red from the deeper pockets in the bayou where these fish have retreated for shelter from the cold and to take advantage of the more abundant food choices in the warmer mud of the deeper bayou bottom.
But, these inland bayous are not the only places you can find reds stacked up. Check out the bayous you normally run through to get to your favorite fishing zones. Use your depth finder to locate the deep holes and pockets that occur at bends and intersections of the bayous. These deep holes will almost never be recognized or utilized by the vast majority of anglers but can frequently be a bonanza for the astute winter angler. Aside from holding large quantities of reds, these deeper pockets and holes will also contain debris that has lodged there over the years so be prepared to lose some terminal tackle – the results are well worth it.
Other areas to inspect along your usual running paths are long stretches of bayou with steep sides and deep water along the edge which remains relatively protected from the worst of the winter chill. These areas usually serve as travel zones for the reds during the warmer months but are used as a protected home when it gets really cold. Redfish can lie in the waters along that steep drop and easily snap up food debris and smaller prey as they drift by on the tides both incoming and outgoing.
Other areas that you can find concentrations of reds are large docks where big boats and tugs push off at high rpm. Their prop wash causes a significant depression in the bottom structure in front of the docking area and will often be loaded with reds during those really cold winter days.
Your choice of bait isn’t as broad as it is in the warmer months since the reds don’t need as many calories during this time of slowed metabolism. They will still feed but usually do not forage as far nor use as much energy to chase a potential meal. Fast moving baits like spinners, swimbaits, and crankbaits will be ignored in favor of smaller, much more slowly moving, presentations. These cold fish have no desire to chase anything and are looking for an easy meal that won’t use too much energy to catch or to digest. So, your presentation needs to match this need.
I like to use 1/8 oz to ¼ oz jigs with small curly tail grubs that can be slowly bounced along the bottom or “jump-dragged” through the mud and debris in the deep holes. Sometmes, in the right conditions, I will tie on a 1/16 oz jig with a very small grub or shrimp and throw the lure up-current allowing it to simply drift along the edge of the hole or dropoff. This presentation realistically presents the lure to the fish as though it were a small meal drifting along on the current. Scented plastic, especially the smaller “critter” shaped lures, work very well in these circumstances.
If you aren’t a “purist” the best option at this time of the year is to use the real deal. Small pieces of shrimp or cut bait allowed to drift along the deeper reaches of these areas is irresistible to these wintering reds.
One more thing to remember is that you, too, need to move more slowly. Patience is the key to finding and enjoying those winter hotspots.
As usual, when you understand what the reds are doing and why they are doing it catching them becomes a whole lot easier. So, add this thought process and search technique to your winter arsenal. Your success will be your reward.
by Capt. Mike Frenette
For the most part hunting seasons are either over or winding down but does that mean that your weekends should be spent on the couch? Absolutely not! Winter is the perfect time of the year to run your boat, play with your tackle, try different lures, and, oh yeah, stretch your line on some tackle-busting 30-40 pound world class redfish.
Years ago, Bull Reds were frowned upon as “trash fish” as they are not the ones you want to keep to eat. Times are changing. There are many Louisiana sportsmen and women who do not judge the success of their trip by how many fish they bring back. Remember “back in the day” when a trip was judged by how many ice chests were filled? It was quantity that decided whether or not a fishing trip was successful.
Louisiana’s finest outdoors resource is our wetlands. It is this very resource that is at risk due to tremendous losses caused by hurricanes ravaging our coastline, sinking of land from miles and miles of canals dug by petroleum companies, and estuaries being heavily impacted by the largest man-made disaster known to Louisiana history - the BP oil spill! All these events have conspired to create a big question mark as to what lays ahead in the future for our fisheries.
That being said, Louisiana anglers remain extremely lucky when it comes to catching saltwater species such as redfish. In Louisiana anglers can expect to catch redfish twelve months of the year. Most other states do not come even close to the quality of redfishing that anglers who visit or reside in Louisiana enjoy. For the most part, redfish, especially the “Giants”, are considered seasonal. But in late winter there is one area of Louisiana that is considered “the” spot for large Bull Reds. That’s the Mississippi River Delta and most especially the region from Empire down south to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
February and the next couple months are usually considered ‘stay at home’ months because we relate this time period to windy, cold and rainy days. And that can be the truth but squeezed in between the “uglies” you can experience days with first class conditions which present great opportunities for reds, especially the Giants.
Where to Go
Unlimited. That’s about the best description that I can give you. There are many options as far as picking a spot or an area to fish. Take a look at any chart, map, or Google Earth. It really doesn’t matter as you will see what I’m talking about. The delta region, especially the areas in Plaquemines Parish from Empire south to the mouth of the river, and encompassing both sides of the river you will find numerous cuts, passes, ditches, areas that spin off the river and head to bays or “edges” of the gulf. Where these “cuts” enter the bays or edges of the gulf the water is always moving and, as a rule, the higher the river, the more current you will find in the area of these cuts. Normally at this time of the year the river should be in the early stages of rising, so be looking for good currents in any of the cuts.
Because of the water movement at this time of the year these areas carry large numbers of small baitfish that the larger baitfish feed on and yes, you guessed it, the big reds are searching out these larger bait fish. As the ol’ saying goes “Find the bait fish and you will find the reds”. And, as far as I’ m concerned, the Bull Reds are the top predators of the delta.
The shorelines left and right of these cuts in waters six feet or shallower is what you will target. Usually, the closer you are to the cut the deeper the waters will be and as you move away from the cut the shallower it becomes.
What to Use
Certainly you can pick a spot and cast some dead shrimp or cut mullet next to the shore line and, yes, you will probably catch a couple of giants. But that’s just not my style.
I prefer artificial baits for many reasons but the most important one is that you can cover so much more area than you ever will when fishing with natural bait. This is the time of the year that you will find the giant reds working very slowly along the bottom in search for crabs, mullet, pogeys, or anything else they can get their mouth on. They are not picky eaters during the colder months. You can almost bet they will eat anything in their way especially if it’s moving slowly. These fish literally hug the bottom during the colder months. So you shouldn’t be surprised when you catch your beast and find traces of mud on its stomach.
Soft plastics and crank baits are my “go to” baits that I really like to use during the winter and you can bet my Plano Stow Away Utility Boxes will be stuffed with them. There are several reason for this but primarily because both can be worked slowly in relatively shallow water.
As stated earlier, you are most likely to be fishing in six feet of water or less and using crank baits that are designed for deep water such as Strike King’s 6 XDs and 10 XDs. So a slow presentation is necessary and, used this way, these lures are are deadly. For the soft plastics consider Strike Kings Glass Minnow on a 3/8 oz. jig head. Certainly these are not the only baits that will work but over the years, and during this time of the year, they have proven to be very successful.
Working the shore line left or right from the cuts with your trolling motor really gives you an advantage as during this time of the year the giant reds, and even the smaller ones for that matter, are not ganged up in huge schools as you might find in the early fall. Instead, finding small packs roaming the bank is the norm. Using a trolling motor at very slow speeds allows a stealthy stalk along the shoreline.
The first 100 yards in either direction from the cut are considered the “target zones”. When working left or right from the cuts position your boat so that you are going with the wind as this will make it easier for presentation of your baits.
Pay close attention to the surface of the water at this time of the year. There might be just the slightest hint that action is close by. A small swirl, a tiny flip from a bait fish or, if you’re lucky, a “push” from the potential target. At this time of the year heavy activity of baitfish is not likely so be alert as any of these clues will alert you to the possible presence of the giants. When you see the first sign of any activity power pole down and work every inch along the bank. Even if you do not see signs of baitfish deploy your power pole about every 100 feet so that you can work the area nice and slow.
It would not surprise me if by now you’re wondering why I suggested using deep diving crank baits in water of six feet or less. As stated previously this is usually the time of the year when the river waters are usually on the rise and usually the water temperature is cooler. So it is not unusual to have surface temperatures in the low 50’s or even cooler. And, as also stated earlier, the giant Reds are moving much slower than they would during the warmer months therefore being able to work your baits slowly is a priority.
Working deep diving crank baits slowly in shallow water is very effective as the crank bait churns up the bottom leaving a “mud trail”. It truly is amazing how slow you can work these baits wobbling and chugging the bottom at the same time. All this commotion sends off tremendous vibrations that the reds pick up on and come to investigate.
When it comes to the soft plastics and jig head, again, SLOW is the key here. Work the shoreline. Cast close to the shore and let the bait fall to the bottom, slowly drag the bait on the bottom for about three feet, tighten up with your reel then raise your rod tip up just slightly so that the bait comes off the bottom just for a second. Drop your rod tip and continue this process all the way back to the boat. You can also intermittently stop as you are retrieving along the bottom creating what’s called a “wounded technique”. This technique with the plastic baits stirs the bottom as well but in a moderate sense compared to crank baits. That is why the original H&H Cocahoe minnow and the Rage shrimp work well as both have great action when barely moving thus creating strikes during cool and cold weather conditions. Remember, it’s all about slow!
Rods such as medium to medium/heavy action seem to be popular when anglers are pursuing the giants. Since, when targeting larger reds you might need a little extra muscle on the strike a little stiffer rod may help you in turning the beast and keeping it from heading into or rubbing along the canes. If you feel comfortable using light action rods have at it because as far as I’m concerned when it comes to fishing, the lighter the equipment the more fun to be had. A seven foot rod is perfect for a couple of reasons. This size rod allows you to make long casts, still maintain accuracy, and it is not too unwieldy when fighting the big reds.
Reels are really just a matter of preference. Spinning reels and bait casters will always will be debatable and each type has its own camp of believers. Does it really matter? No. I’m a bait caster type of guy but the guy next to me might prefer spin casting. When you’re casting down the bank, basically in open water, both styles work just fine.
Over the years using braided style lines have become extremely popular and when chasing the giants it becomes quite apparent that braided line in 20 or 30 pound test will truly give an angler “the edge”. During the colder months “the bite” might be very subtle and braided line is so sensitive that you will feel the slightest nudge on your bait. When casting soft plastics I usually attach an 18-24 inch leader of 20-45 pound fluorocarbon line to the braid to take the “stiffness” out of the braid. This makes the soft plastic bait look more realistic. When it comes to the crank baits keep it simple. Tie the lure directly to the braid. If you haven’t tried Vicious Braid or Vicious Fluorocarbon give it a try, it might soon become your favorite.
Time of Day
There is no reason to head out on cold days at the crack of dawn. During the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest is usually when the bite is on especially if the tide is an incoming. As the tide comes in the giant reds will begin working the shoreline as they usually stage from the deeper waters to the shallow waters with in coming tides.
If at all possible, look for muddy bottoms versus sandy bottoms as mud bottoms gather and retain heat from the sun better than sandy bottoms.
Always check for abrasions after each battle, as it is very easy for the line to become nicked due to the bony make up and sharp gill plates of the redfish.
Having a good strong net such as a big Frabill is an important factor. Don’t chase the fish with your net. Simply wait for the right time to net your fish. Allow the giant red to get close to the boat and position yourself and the net so that the red is approaching with its head first. Get the head of the red in the net first. Turn the handle of the net perpendicular to the water and then lift the red in the boat. It’s ok if the tail is hanging out of the net, he’s not going anywhere.
Make sure you have pliers and proper hook removal tools as the mouth of these big reds are extremely bony. Having proper tools will prevent damage to the red when the hook is being removed.
Take a couple of pictures and then release the big guy as these giants are not only old but they are our breeding stock. Studies have shown that redfish usually do not reproduce until their 7th year and that a 35-40 pound giant can be 20-25 years of age, if not older.
And don’t just toss the red back in. Most of the time these giants have exerted themselves during the fight and a little thanks and assistance might be required. Cradle the red, gently lower it into the water, and then hold the fish by its tail. Sometimes they will swim right off but others might take a few minutes to rest. When they are ready they will simply swim out of your hand.
And remember, having a successful trip isn’t always about “limiting out”
Capt. Mike Frenette
Redfish Lodge of Louisiana
I’m sure many of you who scour the lakes, ponds, bayous, bays, and waterways of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts for reds have, at least once, thought about the prospect of fishing for reds on the big time stage.
Let me just say this about that.
That’s right, don’t even think about it unless you are a little crazed or perhaps enjoy physical and mental torture such as you have never experienced before. I have followed the redfish tours (ALL of ‘em) for over seventeen years now and I confess that I often consider the fact that my mental faculties must be off to some degree. But, you must first realize that I am also a former linebacker who thought it was great fun to get hit head on by a 250 pound fullback running at full steam. After all the ringing stopped in my head I would always find something rather humorous about the whole situation.
Anyway, I tell you that little story so maybe you can understand that those of us out here chasing after reds in a tournament format are, well, not normal. I suspect we all have a little of that “bent” character in our makeup.
Here are 20 things to think of if you do decide to give it a go:
Good! You’ll do. Come on in. The water is just fine. And we are all really normal people out here – no, really, we are…..Mwahahahahahahaha