Reacting to Their Reactions

Reacting to Their Reactions

When it comes to spending time in the marsh, if I could somehow put all those hours together they would likely be too many to count.  The majority of the time, those hours were spent trying to catch redfish. Every now and again though, I would put my rod down and just observe redfish with hopes to try and put a pattern together. If there is one thing that I have learned it would be that redfish are hunters and can be quite predictable at times. However, there are also times when aspects of catching these fish becomes really tough, and that’s when paying attention to how they are reacting to our efforts can make for a successful day.

I believe it is fair to say that when it comes to catching redfish there really is no right or wrong way to accomplish it. When I say that, what I mean is that in general you can catch them on practically anything. You can catch them on live bait, dead bait, topwaters, Spro frogs, crankbaits; you name it.  I have even caught redfish in the Neches River throwing a Whacky Worm while fishing for bass. Needless to say, redfish are “generally” not picky eaters. However, I have witnessed certain days when the fish are actively feeding but they will not commit to the lure you’re throwing. By paying attention to them and their actions, making a few small changes in your presentation can make all the difference in the world.

A few years ago I paddled out to a large flat that was scattered with patches of grass and typically almost always held a few fish. On this day specifically, I was greeted with a number of redfish that were steadily blowing up bait on the surface. I just knew that I was going to have a fun day as I began to throw a She Dog across the pond. I began walking the dog and it didn’t take long for a redfish to come cruising up to it, nudge it with its nose, and then quickly turn away. Not thinking much about it, I continued on  in hope to locate another fish. Sure enough, within only a few casts I had another redfish nose up to my She Dog and quickly turn away.

At that point I begin to wonder what might be going on and decided to alter my retrieve; speeding up, slowing down, adding pauses, and so forth. Several fish later, with the exact same results, is when the thought occurred that perhaps while the loud knocking of the She Dog was gaining their initial attention, it might be a bit too much for them to fully commit to taking it. So I tried something that I have never done before, I changed my presentation to just slowly reeling the lure straight in. No walking the dog, no pops, just straight reeling with no noise. The very next fish’s attention I got did not hesitate a bit when it came to eating my She Dog. I sat there for another hour landing over a dozen solid redfish with nothing but a slow-rolled straight-line presentation. That small change that day made a world of difference.

Last winter, my buddy Chad and I headed out on a cold morning. I think it was the first good cold front of the year and the morning air temperature was near freezing. We knew the water level was going to drop significantly with the north wind and hoped it would make for a decent day of fishing. We get onto our first pond and were seeing fish in every direction. Chad had a shallow diving wakebait tied on and I had a swimbait. We began casting to redfish and we could see them turning and chasing both lures, but consistently refusing to take them. You could even slow it down and it was as if they were losing sight of it. Now, I cannot prove this from a biological standpoint but it almost seemed there was something wrong with their vision. Every fish was acting the same way; it was like they wanted to eat but every swipe they made at our lures was a clean miss.  

After discussing how and what we might try differently, we switched to gold spoons and that made all the difference. When they began following, we found that if you slowed almost to a stop when they came into what looked like striking distance and began jigging the rod to make the spoon sort of flutter in place…WHAM! It was definitely one of the most peculiar behaviors I have ever witnessed from redfish.

Here on my most recent trip, I headed out to check on a place that I haven’t been to since last summer. Fortunately there were a few fish there, but then came the part of catching them. I started off throwing a Keitech swimbait which is one of my longtime go-to lures. I spotted a fish, made a great cast, and she just kept right on swimming. No worries, I’ll move on and find another. Or so I thought.

After about a half dozen fish giving me the same cold shoulder, I knew I had to offer something different. I stuck the Power Pole and began studying the water, looking and hoping to learn what they might be eating. I never saw a single crab and there were only a very few mullet scattered around the pond. What I did see in abundance, however, was wads of very tiny shad. Knowing from past experience that redfish can be hard to catch when they get fixated on baby shad, I decided my best chance to mimic them would be something rather small and highly reflective. At that point the best I could come up was a gold spoon. The next fish I was able to spot did not hesitate, not even a little bit. In fact, all my fish that day came on that same gold spoon.

Like it or not, there are times when the fish that’s famous for accepting just about anything you offer becomes almost impossible to catch. You can throw everything in your arsenal at them and continue to come up empty handed. However, there are also times of when making even a very small change in presentation can make a world of difference. We just have slow down some times and consider their reactions, and then react to them. And that my friends is what keeps drawing us back.