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Redfish Offer Heavy Action When Bass Aren't Biting
courtesy of The Fishing Wire by Berkley
When the 2013 Bassmaster® Elite season opens next March on the Sabine River near Orange, Texas, Greg Vinson knows he's going to enjoy the tournament even if the bass aren't biting. That's because the Yamaha Pro knows another species, the redfish, probably will be hitting his bass lures.
"If I'm not fishing for largemouths, I'd rather be chasing redfish," laughed Vinson, "and after my November trip to the Sabine River and Sabine Lake area, I know why that area is nationally known for its wonderful redfish action. I drove down from my home in Alabama to scout the tournament waters because I'd never been there before, and I just had to take a day off specifically to chase redfish. I not only caught redfish but also speckled trout and flounder, so it was really hard to go back to bass fishing."
Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus), also known as red drum, spottail bass, and channel bass, rank as one of the most popular shallow water gamefish species in the United States because of their strong fighting ability. Easily identified by their reddish-bronze coloration and one or more distinct black spots near the tail, redfish are found along the Atlantic coast as far north as Massachusetts, and in the Gulf from Florida to Texas and northern Mexico. More than 40 years ago, in 1971, the redfish was designated as the official State Salt Water Fish of North Carolina, where redfish weighing more than 90 pounds have been caught.
The fish particularly thrive in the miles of brackish water creeks, bays, and lakes along the Texas and Louisiana coasts where fresh and saltwater mix. There, crabs, mullet, and other forage are readily available, and as a result, redfish are often found swimming side by side with largemouth bass.
"When I stood up on my casting deck and made a cast there on the river and in the different canals leading out of Sabine Lake, I was never sure what I was going to catch," continued the Yamaha Pro, "but when a redfish hit, I knew it instantly. When I set the hook, the fish pull back harder than any largemouth I've ever caught. They don't jump or even splash on the surface, they just pull, and even the three and four pound redfish are strong fighters.
"One of the factors that makes redfish so popular is the fact you can use regular bass tackle to catch them. On the Sabine River I had the same heavy action casting rod I use for pitching jigs, 50-pound braided line, and a plain ¼-ounce jighead with a five-inch plastic grub. All I did was cast to the shallow water and hop the grub along the bottom, and the redfish did the rest."
The Sabine River reds weren't Vinson's first experience with the hard fighting gamefish. During practice for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic® in the Louisiana Delta near Venice he was also catching three and four pound largemouths and seven and eight pound redfish side by side. He's also fished for them in South Carolina and Alabama.
Although redfish weighing more than 20 pounds are caught in the Sabine River system, most weigh less than 10. State regulations in Texas limit anglers to three redfish per day between 20 and 28 inches in length, with one fish over 28 inches allowed.
"It didn't matter to me that I could only keep three redfish while I was there," concluded the Yamaha Pro, "because I certainly could catch more and release them, which I did. I was just happy to know that when the largemouths weren't really biting very well, I could make a quick run down the river a few miles and almost be guaranteed to catch redfish.
"For any fisherman, just getting hooked to a fish that fights as hard as redfish do is a huge confidence builder, as well as being a lot of fun. The problem I think we're all going to face next March is not spending all our official tournament practice time fishing for them."