Commonalities ease the bass-to-redfish crossover

It’s no coincidence that bass tournaments held on tidal waters commonly produce reports of anglers setting the hook on what they think is the kicker of kickers, only to find it’s actually a redfish. Fact is, while these copper-scaled brutes definitely have their own ways, plenty of crossover exist ensure frequent encounters.

That’s a point worth noting, as jumping out of largemouth bass mode and into redfish mode actually isn’t much more than side hop.

To that point, several competitors in the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship presented by Skeeter boast freshwater and saltwater expertise, while others have focused on one or the other. There’s a good chance that by the event’s conclusion, the appeal of coastal saltwater fishing will have captured the interest of bass-centric anglers — in the tournament field and those tuning in to the FOX Sports1 coverage.

The Right Neighborhoods

Bass anglers encounter redfish more often than the inverse, because reds can live in saltwater, brackish zones and purely freshwater; whereas bass cringe if they sneak into transitional waters. In pure saltwater, bass won’t last long.

Bassmaster Elite Bernie Schultz, who makes his home in Gainesville, Fla. has also fished saltwater for most of his life. In his experience, a redfish is the closest marine equivalent to a largemouth bass.

“Both can be cover-oriented, but sometimes they’re free roaming in schools, based baitfish movement, or traveling from one destination to another,” Schultz said. “Most times both are are related to a structural feature. For bass, it could be river shoals; for redfish, it could be oyster bars or hard bottom areas. Sometimes, they’re on sand bottom, but they get in grass like bass do.”

As Schultz points out, tidal rivers like the St. Johns, the Mississippi Delta and the Sabine often find bass and reds literally side-by-side in the same habitat. Here, redfish are more likely to come and go, while bass often stake out a general area for seasonal use.

“Current positions redfish, just like bass respond to current by getting behind something or hugging the bottom to find a current break, either for relief or an ambush point,” Schultz said. “While bass may use a laydown, a rock outcropping or a boulders, redfish will use corals (limestone outcroppings) and oyster bars.”

In residential canals, ports and marinas, docks and piers offer another scenario where redfish behavior parallels a common bass behavior. Shade, Schultz said, is the key attraction, but moving tides typically find the reds feeding high in the water column, while they hug the bottom to nap away the slack periods.

“Any submerged cover, like a crab trap or a sunken grocery cart will attract redfish — same as a brush pile for bass,” Schultz said. “Redfish also like bridges and they’ll flip flop from one side to the other as the (tide direction) changes.

“Both redfish and bass will use shadow lines from docks and bridges, as well as trees — mangroves for redfish; overhanging willows for bass. They’re both predators, so they’ll use cover to their advantage.”