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Casting to a Tailing Redfish

Feeding redfish hold their tails high, a sure sign that they can be caught

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There are many anglers who claim to never have seen a tailing redfish. I think it turns out that these anglers may have actually seen some, but just didn’t know what they were seeing at the time.

Redfish can generally be found in a low water condition, either on an outgoing or an incoming tide, moving along the edge of oyster or bars. The crabs and other crustaceans that inhabit these areas are a favorite food source.

If you find fish along one particular area, make a note of it, because they can and will be found there on future trips.

Feeding Anatomy

The redfish has a mouth designed for bottom feeding. A large blunt nose protrudes out in front of its mouth. Its mouth is tucked under its chin in a semicircle. Watching a redfish feeding underwater, one can see how it uses its nose to push through mud, sometimes in an almost vertical position with its tail high in the water. In many cases a part of the tail is actually sticking up out of the water, hence the term “tailing”. It actually relates to feeding.

Direction

Casting to tailing redfish – there is usually more than just one – requires that you know the direction they are headed. Remember, these fish are feeding, and casting behind them will do more harm than good.

Watch the school for a minute or two. They can move either with or against the tide, so don’t let the current direction force an assumption. When you determine their direction, look for a nice spot to place a jig, bait, or lure.

Keep an eye out that they don’t double back on themselves. Sometimes they will work the edge of an oyster bar one direction, turn and move back the other direction. This is particularly true if they found some food along one stretch.

Lures and Baits

Remembering that these fish are feeding, you can toss almost any small bait to the right place and expect to be eaten. As the school moves, nudging the bottom, small baitfish and crabs run from them. They strike almost instinctively, and if they pick up something they don’t want. They simply spit it back out.

I like small plastic grubs on a one quarter ounce jig head. Pink, chartreuse and white are good colors. Some grubs are swim tails, others are not – it doesn’t seem to make a difference in this situation.

Spoons in gold or silver also work. Weedless Johnson spoons work well if you can present them correctly.

Small bucktail jigs in a variety of colors that imitate a shrimp or crab will work as well. Browns and oranges are colors to look for.

Leaders

I use six to eight pound test line, so a leader is almost a necessity because of the sharp gill plates on the fish and the oyster bars. I like to use fluorocarbon leader – because it is advertised to “disappear” under water. Not being a fish, I can’t say whether it can be seen or not, but it seems to work for me.

I often avoid a swivel and use a surgeon’s knot to tie the leader to the line. I do this on lures that will not spin – jigs and grubs. With spoons, I will always use a swivel to reduce the line twist imparted by the spinning motion of the spoon.

Presentation

Your lure will need to enter the water as quietly as humanly possible. Big, loud splashes can spook the entire school. So, practice a gentle entry on your casting techniques.

I cast about three feet ahead of the direction the school is moving and allow my lure to settle for just a bit. The school will be on your lure quickly, and at that point I work the lure slowly in front of them. I can promise you that if you have not spooked the school with your cast, you will pick up a strike on every cast. Remember – they are feeding, and your lure means food. These are not reaction strikes, they are feeding strikes.

Bottom Line

  1. Locate the fish along a oyster or mud bar, or along a grass line
  2. Determine the direction they are traveling.
  3. Get ahead of them and prepare to cast.
  4. Gently present the bait with a soft water entry about three feet ahead of the fish.
  5. Set the hook!
  6. Hold on!
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  6. Casting to a Tailing Redfish

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