Fishing Articles and Tactics

Casting Accuracy - A Key Skill for Catching Redfish

Many young fishermen have started their careers fishing small lakes, ponds and rivers catching sunfish, perch and, on a good day, a nice largemouth bass. As these young anglers grow, they come to realize that catching the best fish, these bigger bass, is tied to their ability to cast.  Certainly, these fish are often caught in open water areas but, just as often, they are along the shoreline, close to weeds, brush or fallen tress. Placing a  cast within inches of the perfect spot can be the "make or break" in getting that big fish to strike.

Redfish fishing tacticsCasting accuracy can also be critically important in targeting redfish in the Tampa / Clearwater area. Redfish, from an availability and sporting perspective actually have a lot of similarities to a largemouth bass.  They are generally aggressive feeders and put up a healthy fight but what makes them most similar is their distribution.  These fish are available in a large number of southern states and, in the waters that they are found, they inhabit an extremely broad range of environments, much like a largemouth bass in a lake.  Tampa / Clearwater fishing charters targeting redfish may fish anywhere from near shore ocean structure, to beaches, to open flats, to islands, to back bayous and rivers, to mangrove shorelines. It is when fishing these inshore locations, mangrove shorelines in particular, where casting accuracy becomes critically important.

Making accurate casts is not simply about developing the physical skill and muscle memory to repeatedly put a bait in the right location.  It actually starts with tackle.  Obviously, no one would use a stout grouper rod with 40 lbs test to try and cast up into the bushes but even when using basically the right tackle, there are many small details that will aid in casting.  Start by rigging a seven and a half foot medium action spinning rod suited for 10 - 20 lbs line. Match it to a 4000 series reel such as a Shimano Stradic 4000.  Next, what line should be used? Consideration should be given to the type of structure around as well as size of fish likely to be encountered. Having considered these factors, determine the lightest line that will work as lighter line will have less resistance and make casting easier. Also, use braided line as the diameter per pound is thinner than monofilament.  It's easier to cast thread than rope...thinner is better. Many Tampa Fishing Guides will use 10 lbs braided line..knowing that this line strength will handle most of the fish encountered. If Mr. 35 inch shows up, it will require angler skill to land the fish, but it is still possible. Regarding the leader, four feet of 30 lbs test is a good choice as abrasion resistance is needed for the fish that may get up into the mangrove roots.

The next decision is terminal tackle. Know that the easiest baits to cast are those with the most weight towards the hook. This being the case, heavy baits such as cut chunks of fish are a great choice..understanding that live bait may, from time to time, need to be used if fish are eating them better. With that said, redfish aren't usually overly selective eaters. Hook size should be determined by bait size..a 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook is usually sufficient. Weighting is really a key ingredient to accurate casting.  If using a cut bait, a split shot should be placed close to the bait.  This is the easiest bait to cast and is the rigging used on most Tampa Fishing Charters for redfish. If using a live bait and using a weight is acceptable, place the bait a foot or two up the line to allow the bait to have some action. Remember though that the further away from the bait the weight is, the harder it is to make an accurate cast. If the best presentation at the time is to have the bait appear most natural, suspending it under a bobber may be required.  Do understand that this will be the hardest bait to cast accurately for distance however.Clearwater Redfish near mangroves

With proper tackle and rigging, the angler has now put himself in the best position to cast accurately. What remains then is the physical action of executing the cast. This is critically important in targeting "shoreline hugging" redfish as these fish often will only bite if baits are placed up into mangrove caves...overhung indentations along the shoreline that may reach back 3 - 4 feet. The question that should be asked before an angler cast into heavy structure is "How will I stop a bad cast?" Many novice anglers think that flipping the bail over will save won't... or pulling back on the rod, even though the bail is still open.  No again.  The trick is to cast and then immediately find the line with the left hand.  As the bait approaches the target area, the line can be "feathered" to slow it down, or simply pinched to stop it.  The best way to find the line immediately after the cast is released is to place the left hand immediately under the base of the rod and in front of the reel as the line will be right there. This technique allows Tampa Fishing Guides to cast with power towards the target, which improves accuracy, but also allows the bait to be stopped in time if the cast is not perfectly accurate.

Like so many other activities, there are many small skill sets that combine to make an individual much better at a given profession. The ability to cast accurately is a must have skill to consistently catch shoreline redfish in the Tampa Area.



It's All About Presentation

Spring Snapper Fishing in TampaThere are times when fish eat with reckless abandon.  The tide, the weather and the bait all come together in a perfect storm of fish feeding activity. Any bait cast out results in a hooked fish. For Tampa Fishing Guides who fish on a regular basis, it's a known fact that this is not the norm, but a beautiful exception. The other extreme exists as well...when all of an experienced anglers efforts result in very few fish.  Most days however, are somewhere in between...and this is where a good angler with good technique experiences greater success. 

Bait presentation, or how a fish sees a given bait in the water, is a critical piece in the puzzle of getting a fish to eat. There are several factors which affect how a bait looks.  In order for a bait to swim freely, it must not be weighted in a manner that causes it to swim unnaturally.  Hook size, line/leader used and weighting all affect this.  Using a small whitebait with a number 2/0 or 3/0 hook may drag the bait downward, making it appear unnatural....where using a 1/0 would not. A moderately interested snook may quickly decide not to eat this bait. Certainly using any kind of weight in this situation would only make matters worse.  Even the pound test and length of the leader are important.  A small bait on a heavy leader will not be able to swim correctly.  A bait on too short a leader will not work as line shy fish may see the braided line moving just a short distance away. These small details can make a big difference in an angler's level of success.

Understand too that a natural presentation may include baits that are right on the bottom so, in some cases, weighting a bait may help simulate a more "natural" presentation. For example, mangrove snapper, a fish commonly targeted when fishing in the Tampa / Clearwater area, are generally very cautious feeders. As a result, they are typically most cooperative when a bait does one of two things. A dead or cut bait either sits on the bottom for a while, so they can inspect it and make sure it doesn't "move" in an unnatural way or it drifts down to the bottom at the exact rate of speed the same bait would drop if there were no hook in it.  To achieve the first presentation, a weight would be used to hold the bait in a natural position.  In the second case, a very small hook and a long, light leader would be used to most accurately simulate a bait with no hook. In this situation a tactic would be employed that is critically important to catching many species of fish. The technique is similar to what would be called mending in fresh water.

Summer Beach Snook FishingAnglers fishing for trout in fresh water rivers are very familiar with this term.  The key to getting a trout to eat a dry fly is to cast the line forward and at such an angle that the fly will drift for a maximum length of time, through the desired area, without the rest of the line dragging the fly.  The anglers may make small rolling adjustments, rolling the line upriver (or mending the line), to aid in the process of the fly showing no drag.   Any trout that is eyeballing this fly, will immediately drop off the second this fly starts dragging, as that is not how an insect on the surface would behave. 

So, going back to the second presentation discussed above for snapper, when a live, crippled or cut chunk of bait is dropped for a mangrove snapper, line must be removed from the reel in a way that does, in no way, effect the rate of decent of the bait. This bait should fall exactly as this same piece of bait would fall with no hook in it...with no stops or hesitation. When the angler can duplicate the natural decent rate, many more fish will be caught.

When live baiting for species such as snook, the desire is to have the bait swim as if it were unencumbered by a hook.  The first order of business is using the proper tackle as discussed earlier...the right hook, line/leader (lbs. test and length) and weighting. Feeding out line plays a critical role here as well. First, a properly rigged, large whitebait is cast into the area believed to be holding snook. Immediately after casting, all slack from the cast is removed from the line so that the angler has good awareness as to the bait's location. The bail is then opened. Snook will often pursue a bait, toy with it and not eat it, or strike and miss it. In all of these scenarios, the snook will expect the bait to behave in a certain way. The expectation is that the bait will run for it's life, thus the open bail allows the angler to give the the bait the necessary slack when it wants to move. If this is not done, when the bait goes to run it will be "close lined" or stopped unnaturally, and the pursuing snook will likely turn off of the bait, knowing that something is wrong.  So having the ability to manage line in a way that makes the bait behave most realistically will always produce more strikes.

In most cases, when a novice angler is fishing next to an experienced one, the difference in fish count is due to the tackle used and the presentation skills of both anglers. Paying attention to these small details can yield big results.



Shallow Water Grouper Fishing

Tampa Fishing Guide Displays Beautiful Nearshore GrouperIn a typical year, the first cold fronts of significance arrive in October.  After several of these have pushed local water temperatures down below seventy degrees, Tampa fishing guides start thinking shallow water grouper.  During late fall, large schools of threadfin herring will gather relatively close to the beaches. Initially, this activity draws in the Spanish mackerel, kingfish, bonita, blacktip and spinner sharks.  As the water continues to cool, keeper sized gag grouper may become part of the mix, showing up just a few miles off the sand. There may be another phenomenon that is even more important in bringing these grouper closer to shore

Read more: Shallow Water Grouper Fishing

Finding the Precious Whitebait

Tampa Bay Charter Chum MixtureCustomers have an expectation that each and every Tampa fishing charter will start with a bait well full of pilchards, also known more generically as "whitebait". These baits are present locally from around March through November, depending on the year.  Therefore, Tampa fishing guides must have the ability to secure this bait every day during the warmer months. Although this bait can be seen and netted around certain structures such as bridge pilings and channel markers, and sometimes right out on an open flat, chumming is usually required to bring this bait within netting distance.

Pilchards (latin name - harengula jaguana) frequent shallow grass flats...depths of three to four feet... where there tends to be good water flow so grass flats that are adjacent to passes or

Read more: Finding the Precious Whitebait

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