Say it with me…Boohyah! Because that’s the sound of a topwater bait being crushed!! Fishing this time of year is my favorite! We have such a wide opportunity of fishing available to us, it’s almost hard to decide what to fish for. For instance you could run offshore for bottom fish like grouper and snapper while keeping your eyes peeled for bonito, cobia, king and Spanish mackerel on the run out. On the other hand tarpon are not uncommon around the passes and bridges or upper Charlotte harbor regions. But its snook I’m after, where can I find a snook? Well right now they are scattered all over the place. Under your dock, next to that oyster bar over there, in that creek channel, under that mangrove tree, everywhere! The trick is to look for food. If you find where they are eating you can narrow it down a bit. But remember, snook are like cats sometimes, and when they are ready, they will eat.
When targeting redfish, my personal favorite bait for flats and back country are topwater lures. The best conditions for throwing these lures are the first few hours after sun up and when overcast conditions prevail. I like to throw top water baits like Heddon’s 4.5 Spook XT, Spook One Knocker, and Spook Jr. There is no substitute for the excitement and adrenaline rush when a huge snook or redfish crush that bait. Retrieving the lure is going to take a little practice. First and foremost let’s talk about what type of rod you should use. Graphite rods are much lighter than glass and won’t fatigue your arm after 5 casts. I like a graphite 7' medium action rod with a fast tip. Work the lure in a “walk the dog” action and at a slow cadence. Most importantly, if a fish strikes at the lure, try your best not to jerk the rod to set the hook. This has hazards. If the fish misses that topwater, now you have 6 hooks approaching your head at a high rate of speed. Secondly, now you’ve just missed a second shot at that fish because it would have likely struck again if it didn’t feel the hooks. I’ve had redfish swat at a lure 5 or 6 times before finally getting hooked. As your fishing partner is laughing at you tangled up in your line, they’ve taken the opportunity to toss their bait on that fish you just missed.
As the sun creeps up into the sky, I’ll change over to scented soft plastic baits with an eighth ounce jig head. Work it in a twitch pause… twitch pause… type of pattern and you’ll see most of your strikes will occur on the drop. The key to this retrieve is to keep light tension on the line as the bait falls to the grass or sand and then a quick snap to make that bait “hop” out of the grass.
Offshore reports are still nothing less than excellent. We are seeing a lot of grouper and snapper on most of our known reefs as close in as 3 miles out! Gags and reds are being caught on trolling lipped plugs down to 30 feet and grouper will flat out rough up some live pinfish, squirrel fish, squid or any cut bait that you can get down to them. These guys are pretty territorial, so if you do manage to pull a good sized fish mark that spot and fish around it. If fishing hard bottom, more than likely that J.Y.D. has staked his claim and pushed out the smaller pups. Odds are you won’t pull another right there but they will be somewhat close by. If you’re looking for some fast paced action, well you’re gonna enjoy the bite that’s happening right now. First, head out offshore a few miles and look for the schools of bait that are just outside and easily accessible. Don’t worry you’ll know where they are because the birds are looking for them as well. I’ve been throwing small spoons, stick baits and silver minnows and just about anything that has a hook on it around those pods and all kinds of things are crushing in those schools. Bonito, Spanish mackerel, kings, sharks everything. You can’t miss them, just look for the birds and all the fish crashing bait.
That’s gonna do it for now. So put out the gone fishin’ sign, stock up on tackle, load up that livewell and head on out to your favorite fishing hole, or better yet get out and find some new ones and catch’em up. Just remember to leave a few to make replacements for tomorrow.
But if you’re feeling the need, give me a call, find us on Facebook, Instagram or my web page.
Tight lines &
y’all stay safe!!
Capt Jesse McDowall