CORE CON­FI­DENCE

Sport Fishing - - GAME PLAN -

With a Bos­ton Whaler Out­rage, you get more than a fish­ing boat; you get a rugged fish­ing ma­chine loaded with cut­ting-edge, pur­pose-driven fea­tures. And thanks to Whaler’s vari­able-dead­rise deep-V hull de­sign and Uni­bond™ con­struc­tion, you get remarkable per­for­mance and a soft, safe, dry ride.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME

Bull reds in­habit wa­ters from Ch­e­sa­peake Bay through the Gulf of Mex­ico, mak­ing this il­lus­tri­ous species read­ily avail­able to huge num­bers of an­glers. Their per­va­sive­ness is out­stand­ing but re­quires an­glers to un­der­stand lo­cal pop­u­la­tion habits.

In the Ch­e­sa­peake, May through Septem­ber is the op­ti­mal time to tar­get big reds in nearshore wa­ters. Gi­ant reds school up in spring out­side Hat­teras and Ocra­coke in­lets be­fore mov­ing into Pam­lico Sound for the sum­mer spawn­ing sea­son. In fall, those same reds leave en masse and stay along the beaches un­til wa­ter tem­per­a­tures plum­met, push­ing them off­shore for win­ter. The Cape Look­out fall run lasts into De­cem­ber and some­times all through a mild win­ter.

In Flor­ida, north­east bull reds start spawn­ing in deeper sec­tions of the St. Johns River dur­ing the first big moon in Au­gust. In the Gulf, Tampa an­glers head to deeper wa­ters near Fort De­soto, off St. Pete, next to the Sky­way Bridge and near Eg­mont Key in fall and early spring. Flor­ida Pan­han­dle ac­tion starts right around Hal­loween and lasts all the way to Fe­bru­ary, with the most pro­duc­tive time in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber near the beaches. These large schools of red­fish can range from 500 to 5,000 in­di­vid­ual fish.

Your fish­ing lo­ca­tion will dic­tate the sea­son to fish, but once you’ve fig­ured out when, and a gen­eral where, the task turns to lo­cat­ing the red drum schools.

FIND THE HOT SPOT

Lo­cat­ing bull red­fish can be dif­fi­cult, so con­sider ev­ery tool in your arsenal.

“Some­times I’ll look for in­di­ca­tor species such as cownose rays to lead me to schools of red­fish,” says Capt. Tyler Nonn, of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, Vir­ginia. “Af­ter the fish move out of their earl­y­sea­son pat­terns, an­glers can bot­tom­fish out­side the in­lets, shoals and ledges in up to 50 feet of wa­ter.”

Con­cen­tra­tions of men­haden near drop-offs and ledges of a shoal are a good sign to look for on your bot­tom ma­chine, es­pe­cially at the mouth of the Ch­e­sa­peake. Later in the year, fish can be marked on bot­tom ma­chines un­der and around schools of small blue­fish or spin­ner sharks.

“Red drum have a very unique sig­na­ture, much like am­ber­jack,” says Capt. Brian Hors­ley, of Ore­gon In­let, North Carolina. “They will show on your bot­tom ma­chine as lay­ers, and some­times they’ll mark di­ag­o­nally. Deep reds are dif­fi­cult to tar­get; most an­glers ac­tu­ally find them while fish­ing for some­thing else.” $GXOW UHGƓVK RIWHQ FRQFHQWUDWH LQ RII FRORUHG ZDWHUV DW ED\ DQG LQOHW PRXWKV RU QHDU VKDOORZ ZUHFNV DQG VKRUH EUHDNV $IWHU GDUN VDYY\ DQJOHUV KHDG WR ZDWHUV DURXQG EULGJHV DV WKH DXWKRU GLG EHORZ IRU VXEVXUIDFH DFWLRQ LQ WKH VKDGRZ OLQHV

I had my first run-in with Panama City Beach bull reds a cou­ple of years ago dur­ing a Ho­bie kayaks me­dia event. Only a few of us had ever fished off the beaches in kayaks, and we were con­tent to tar­get red snap­per and groupers with metal flut­ter jigs. Af­ter gath­er­ing over good marks on the bot­tom ma­chine, we dropped down quickly to see what was there. To our sur­prise, all three of us soon landed 20-plus-pound red drum. That’s when I learned that if you can find the reds bunched up, they’ll eat just about any­thing.

Red­fish in the Pan­han­dle and Tampa ar­eas start to show in strong num­bers only when the wa­ter tem­per­a­tures hit the mid-60s, says Capt. John Rivers, who’s fished both ar­eas ex­ten­sively but now guides in Tampa.

“One easy way to find bull reds is to look for birds div­ing on the large schools of bait­fish that the red­fish have pushed to the sur­face,” says Rivers. “An­other way is to have a re­li­able bot­tom ma­chine with side imag­ing that can mark fish when there’s no sur­face ac­tiv­ity.”

In Jack­sonville, Capt. Kirk Waltz searches the mouth of the St. Johns River as far up­river as EverBank Field (home of the Jaguars) down­town.

“I be­gin my search by watch­ing the bot­tom recorder for dis­tinct breaks on the edges of deep wa­ter ad­ja­cent to the ship­ping chan­nel,” says Waltz. “These bot­tom-con­tour changes look al­most like off­shore ledges but can also be slop­ing drops from deep to shal­low wa­ter.”

Waltz be­lieves the reds use ledges to block cur­rent to con­serve en­ergy but also to pro­vide am­bush spots as bait washes over­head. Most of these spots are from 29 to 46 feet deep.

TAC­TICS AND TACKLE

The clos­est thing to a guar­an­teed bite, es­pe­cially af­ter lo­cat­ing fish, is to bait with fresh bunker or blue crab on the bot­tom. Ter­mi­nal tackle is a sim­ple three-way swivel sys­tem — the same rig many an­glers use to bot­tom­fish off­shore — us­ing 60- to 80-pound fluoro­car­bon, a 5/0 to 7/0 cir­cle hook and a loop to in­ter­change bank sinkers from 6 to 10 ounces.

DEEP REDS ARE DIF­FI­CULT TO TAR­GET; MOST AN­GLERS AC­TU­ALLY FIND THEM WHILE FISH­ING FOR SOME­THING ELSE.

“I like fresh blue crabs, mul­let, po­gies or la­dy­fish chunks,” says Waltz. “Chum­ming can be very ef­fec­tive. I like to find a spot and de­ploy four rods us­ing two dif­fer­ent baits to see what their pref­er­ence is. A good soak of 15 to 30 min­utes is pre­ferred to al­low the scent track to feed back in a light cur­rent.”

For lures, cap­tains Hors­ley and Rivers both pre­fer buck­tails rang­ing from 1 to 8 ounces. “When they are schooled up, they are not too smart and will eat just about any­thing in their face,” jokes Hors­ley.

Rivers dresses his buck­tails with plas­tics. “I’ll use a 1½-ounce Spro buck­tail jig in white, pink or char­treuse with a 4-inch soft-plas­tic tail,” he says. “Some guys use a plain 1-ounce jig rigged with a 7-inch curly tail.”

A 7-foot heavy-ac­tion rod paired with a 6,000-plus-class spin­ning reel, spooled with 50-plus-pound braid, is a great setup for any sit­u­a­tion in which an an­gler will en­counter bull red­fish. Nonn prefers Shi­mano reels with Pow­erPro braid, while Waltz uses Penn reels with Berkley braid.

“If the fish are finicky and won’t touch jigs or dead bait, cast out a live bait rigged on a 3/0 cir­cle hook and 40-pound flu­oro,” says Rivers. “The [min­i­mal­is­tic] rig catches fish when noth­ing else will around Tampa Bay.”

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