From the Chesapeake to the Gulf of Mexico, the redfish tops the list of fish anglers want to catch. What could be better than cruising the shallows, oysters bars, and flats pulling spotted tails into the boat on live shrimp? Hitting the open water and hauling reds that weight 20, 25, or even 30 pounds in that’s what! If this in on your bucket list, let us help you check the block on a new adventure.
If you are a chaser of redfish, the question is not “Do I want to land monster bulls?” but “How?”. The biggest of the redfish are almost nothing like their younger kin you are accustomed to chasing. They act different, live in different places, and are caught different. You need to relearn how to target redfish if you plan on outsmarting these bulls. The good news is we can help.
Where to Find Bull Redfish
While most redfish anglers will target shoals, oyster bars, salt flat, and similar baitfish enriched shallow areas. Big bulls favor deeper water with the structure in many instances. Instead of the inland shallows go downstream to where the estuaries open in broader, deeper inlets or bays. Like many species, they find a hide, often one that protects them from stronger currents, and wait for schools of baitfish to approach. Ledges or drop off and even isolated pockets of deeper water are popular ambush points. Bridges, jetties, and passes frequently hold big bull redfish, especially during the spawning seasons.
When to Target Big Redfish
You can catch redfish throughout the Atlantic coast, Florida Panhandle, and the Gulf of Mexico. Locating them depends on where along with this expansive range, you will be fishing. Temperature is a crucial aspect, and, in most areas, big bull reds will move into inshore areas once the water reaches 60 degrees or more.
Chesapeake anglers will find May through September have large numbers of redfish moving in due to the fall spawn. As temperatures drop, these fish will move offshore, spending the winter months in deeper areas.
Florida & Gulf anglers will enjoy a similar spawning run but, thanks to increased water temperatures, you will continue to catch big fish well into the winter. This second opportunity often provides excellent surf fishing as well.
How to Catch Them
Knowing where and when to find bull redfish is just the beginning; after all, while it may be called “fishing,” the goal is “catching.” There is no one method for catching redfish, and there are plenty of ways to be successful. Some are, however, more successful than others.
Bull redfish spend the majority of their time on the bottom. Fishing for them when on the bottom generally requires a heavier action rod, a 6000 series reel spooled with 50-80-pound braid, and enough weight to get (and stay) on the bottom. Dropping a blue crab, bunker, or other fresh bait to the waiting bulls is the best way to hook a trophy. While this may bring some fish to the boat, there are better ways.
Instead of targeting bulls on the bottom, use their natural feeding habit against them. Look for large bait balls, giant schools of baitfish, and target the redfish as they come up to feed. Doing so will allow you to use lighter tackle and usually increase your success rate. This also allows anglers the opportunity to tackle the prized game fish on the fly, talk abut sporty and fun. Here are a couple of the more rigs to catch big bull redfish.
Popping corks are one of the more productive means of targeting redfish, and it works for bulls as well. Of course, you will need to upgrade your tackle a bit.
What you will need:
- 7’ – 8’ Medium Heavy Rod
- 3000 – 4500 series reel
- Favorite Popper Cork rig
- 4” -6” plastic swim or jerk bait- pearl, blue & white or even black & chartreuse are favorites
- Appropriately sized jig head
Cast the cork as far as possible and work it back to the boat with a quick, sharp tug followed by a pause. Continue this cadence until you get the strike. The sound of the cork commotion radiating through the water entices a wide range of fish and is something reds cannot ignore. You can increase your success by casting at or near bait schools as fish are more likely to be near the surface feeding. Live shrimp works 98% of the time.
Live Line Fresh Bait
Bull redfish are hunters, and they have their instinct to hunt and feed aggressively. Take advantage of this by offering them what they are searching for – fresh bait that is abundant.
What you will need:
- 7’ – 8’ Medium Heavy Rod
- 3000 to 6000 Series Reel
- 10 LB braided mainline
- 20 LB fluorocarbon leader, approx. 4 ft
- 5’0 circle hook
- Fresh mullet, bunker or similar local bait
Redfish and big bull redfish will often times eat an artificial lure when presented properly. Spoons, bucktail jigs and large topwater lures can trigger aggressive strikes that will have you smiling for weeks.
You can also be very successful with cut bait, remove the tail and cut fresh bait into 2-inch chunks, Hook through the meat, and out through the skin. Toss the bait out and let the wind or current take it with the drag loose so it can be taken without the fish immediately feeling resistance. Do not try to cast too far or too hard as it will increase the chances of the bait ripping free. Here is a video showing how to catch big redfish with fresh cut bait:
Good luck. Good fishing!