Connecting the deep dots for redfish

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Here's how to catch redfish you can't see.

Sight fishing is probably the most common strategy for redfish pursuits; just look for fish, their shapes or shadows, their wakes or “nervous water,” and cast accordingly. However, when weather, tides and/or habitat eliminate the visual element, anglers who understand the tactics of deep water recon can keep the lines tight even when they can’t see their quarry.

For clarity, we’re talking about tournament-size “slot” fish — those fitting into a state’s minimum and maximum size limits. Mature redfish of 20 pounds or better roam near shore reefs and gather near coastal passes each fall for spawning. For simplicity, we’ll stick to reds that make inshore and coastal waters their home.

Deep water redfishing — generally, deeper than 10 feet — relies more on deductive reasoning than direct observation. What’s the water doing? What does local structure offer redfish? Where’s the food? Saltwater neophytes can eventually figure it out, but anyone with fundamental bass skills will more quickly decipher the riddle.

In the coastal marshes of northeast Florida, Terry Lacoss, former bass tournament angler turned saltwater guide, often employs his freshwater background to find structures that attract redfish. When high tides conceal inshore spots, or when the skinny water bite is tough, he’ll use his electronics to locate submerged oyster reefs that never see the sun. Lacoss has marked many such spots on his GPS, and anglers willing to flip on the sonar and go hunting will find their share of similar honey holes.

On Florida’s west coast, Capt. Ray Van Horn, another bass alumnus now guiding along the coast, said: “Bass and redfish have many similarities, so guys who have a bass background have an advantage in terms of perspective.”

For example: Van Horn and his tournament partner C.A. Richardson of St. Petersburg, Fla., once marked a bunch of redfish suspending in bait schools in the middle of a saltwater lake off Galveston, Texas. Running a couple of deep diving crankbaits through the hot zone yielded several hookups and exemplified a different layer of redfishing often overlooked by those who only work the shorelines.

“When you understand the deep game, there are literally no limitations, and that’s an invaluable perspective that most shallow water fishermen don’t have,” Van Horn said.