Ten tidal tips for redfish

Ask any angler who has dabbled in both inshore saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing about the biggest difference in the two types of angling, and the answer is likely to be tides. Along with the numerous variables impoundment-bound fishermen must keep up with, inshore redfish anglers get the distinction of adding tidal influences to the mix. It would be nice if tide charts came with a few fast rules about how tides affect fish, but like so many other variables in fishing, anglers are left to decipher these things on their own. Tides themselves have no standards, so assigning one-size-fits-all rules to fishing tides is difficult. Some areas of the Gulf Coast only get a few inches of tidal change per day, while places on the East Coast get 5 to 6 feet. Then consider the intensity at which tides are always changing. In order to make some sense out of the ebb and flow of the tide business, FLW Outdoors went to a few redfish pros to get their expert opinions on tides. Ben Alderman of Pleasant Hill, S.C., is a pro on the Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and a veteran guide along South Carolina's coast. Greg and Bryan Watts, collectively known as the Watts Brothers, are Floridians who have won the points race on three major redfish tours by plucking reds from different tidal basins across the Gulf Coast. How much tide? According to these pros, the first step in deciphering tides is knowing how much tidal change the area you're planning to fish actually receives. Tidal change can easily be derived by looking at a tide chart and figuring the change in feet from the high to the low. "The biggest distinction in tides for most tournament redfishermen is between the East Coast or Atlantic tides and Gulf Coast tides," noted Bryan Watts. "Big 4- to 6-foot tides are the norm along the East Coast - Fernandina Beach, Fla., Jacksonville, Fla., and up through North Carolina. Over here on Florida's West Coast, we're dealing with mostly 2- to 4-foot tides." "That's really what it boils down to," Alderman added. "How much tide do you get? That, more than anything, is going to determine just how much the tide affects redfish in your area. Where I live, tides are a huge component of redfishing everyday. However, over in Lake Charles, La., where they may get just an 8-inch change per day, it's not as big of a factor. The tricky places are like Florida's West Coast, where tides can vary from a minimum of a foot to as much as 4 feet, depending on seasons, moon phases and winds." Once you determine the amount of tide you're dealing with, here are nine other tidal tips to keep in mind: Don't over-analyze tides This tidal tidbit is a gem right out of the Watts brothers' fundamental rules for redfishing. "A mistake we made early on in our career was giving tides more credit than they deserve," Greg Watts revealed. "Tides are not the single driving force for redfish, especially when it comes to their appetites. Of all the saltwater fish we fish for, redfish are the least affected by tides when compared to other species, like snook and trout." As proven by backwater ponds in Louisiana, redfish can easily live in relatively tide-free environments. "We're not saying reds are totally immune to tides," Bryan said, "but tides certainly are not the goblin in every closet. I'll put it this way: When we leave the state of Florida to go west and compete in Louisiana or Texas, tides are not our primary concern." The greater the tidal change, the more the fish will move A redfish that lives in a tidal creek in Jacksonville, with an average tide flush of 5 feet every six hours, is going to move much more than a redfish in a slack Louisiana marsh pond. "I think our fish get a lot more exercise than those Louisiana fish," Alderman laughed. "For the most part, our fish live in tidal creeks and bays, as opposed to marsh ponds or grass flats, and they are forced to make daily migrations back and forth with our big tides. Our fish are constantly on the move, and as a fisherman, you've got to stay on the move to keep up with them." Tidal Creeks on the East Coast typically experience significant tidal fluctuations.The greater the tidal change, the more predictable fish become The good news in Alderman's case is that the back and forth tidal migrations of redfish are very predictable. "These reds travel the same exact routes to and from their low- and high-water haunts with such punctuality, it's amazing," Alderman said. "I know exactly what time a group of reds is going to pass a certain point on the outgoing tide and exactly what time they'll come back on the high tide." Many of Alderman's fishing spots in South Carolina are essentially cut-off places where he intercepts reds coming and going with the tides. "I'll stake down on a point and wait for an outgoing pack of fish to come by the boat," he said. "I'll catch a few from the school, but instead of trying to stay with the school, I'll set up on another spot across the bay to intersect a different school, and so it goes all the way down the bay until the tide reverses, and then I do just the opposite when they come back." The Watts brothers have observed this same phenomenon in Jacksonville, and they too are amazed at how the fish are regimented by the big tides. "You can set your watch by them," Bryan said. "If they come by a spot at 1 p.m. today, they'll be there again at 1:50 p.m. the next day, and 2:40 p.m. the next day." (Note: one consistency with tides is that the same tide stage will be 50 minutes later the following day. If high tide is at 10 a.m. today, it will be 10:50 a.m. the next day.) Areas with small tidal changes are much more susceptible to `wind tides' "That's why we can usually throw the tide chart out the window when we're on the way to Louisiana or Texas," Greg Watts said. "Most of the time, wind affects those smaller Gulf tides on the flats and in the ponds more than the tides themselves." Alderman agrees wholeheartedly. "Coming from South Carolina, I can tell you Gulf Coast tide charts are basically worthless," Alderman joked. "That's been the hardest thing for me to get used to on the Gulf Coast. Those tides are so mild that the tiniest change in wind velocity or direction can completely negate them. South Carolina tides are strong enough to overtake most wind conditions. I'm not saying the wind doesn't affect our tides, but you can bet there will always be plenty of water movement. On several occasions, I've seen Gulf Coast tides go completely stagnant for hours on end. Boat access is of primary concern in areas with little tidal change As the Watts brothers have mentioned, tides are of little concern to them in many venues outside of West Florida, where tidal changes are minimal. Actually, that's not entirely true. "Yes, we're interested in the tides, but it's not so much to do with redfish behavior as it is boat access," Bryan confirmed. "There are so many places along the Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana coasts where just 3 or 4 inches of water can mean the difference between getting into a place or not." "In places with big tides, we are more concerned about the tidal effect on the fish," Greg said. "In places with small tides, we are more concerned with the tidal effect on our boat." Extreme high tides bring fish to new ground "For some reason, when an area has an abnormally high tide, redfish love to get up in the newly flooded places and eat anything that moves - usually fiddlers and snails," Greg Watts said. For that reason, the Watts brothers will check tide charts for the possibility of extreme highs during tournaments. "That's the same way it is here," Alderman said of his coastline in South Carolina. "When we get higher-than-normal tides due to new or full moons, reds will go on a feeding spree up in the newly flooded grass. We actually call those `tailing tides' because so many reds get up on the new bank and tail." High tides scatter fish; low tides concentrate fish The farther the tide falls, the more fish congregate as they are ushered out of the tidal creeks and flats with falling water. When they return with rising water, big groups are fractured into smaller and smaller pods as they disperse into high-tide locations. Think points on falling tides and pockets on rising tides This is a pattern noted by Alderman after a decade of fishing rising and falling water. "The groups of fish use points as they migrate out of creeks on a falling tide," Alderman said. "When they are returning with the incoming tide, they hold up in pockets and indentations along the marsh grass line - anywhere that provides the quickest access into the grass is where they will pause until the water gets high enough to get in the grass." The best tide? The million dollar question in redfishing has always been: which is better, high or low tide? Many redfish pros tend to favor low tides with two exceptions: the extreme highs, which put reds in a tailing frenzy and situations where high tides are needed to access a shallow area. Redfish don't necessarily feed better on outgoing tides. Lower water simply positions them better for anglers to catch them. Other FLW Redfish Series pros like Geoff Page of Venice, Fla., and Scott Guthrie of Jacksonville find that falling tides congregate fish and make them easier to catch. Alderman also favors outgoing water in South Carolina. The Watts brothers prefer something a little different, however. "In terms of determining what impact tides have on a particular area, we like the first incoming tide after a dead low," Bryan Watts said. "A dead low is like a reset button. When the water starts to return, most reds that migrate with the tide are going to be eager to get back to their high-water spots, and you can see the migration routes they use as they begin to push back into the creeks or back up on the flats."

Tags: magazine-features  rob-newell 

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-10-top-10-patterns-from-toho

Top 10 Patterns from Toho

At the halfway point of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho on Friday afternoon, it looked as if the event would be a JT Kenney runaway win. Kenney’s “red-dot” bedding program appeared to be unstoppable. But then things changed drastically: The warm-up ended, the full moon began to wane, heavy clouds took up residence over central Florida and the fairy tale of scripted plans in a multiple-day tournament came to a screeching halt. By the end of the event, several other patterns on Lake Toho quickly closed up Kenney’s seemingly insurmountable lead (12-10 after two days and 12-8 after three). When the final weigh-in came to an end, the top three places were only separated by 1 pound, 5 ounces. Patterns that involved current, shell beds and even docks helped close the gap. Here’s a look at some of the other top 10 patterns from the week. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-08-kenney-connects-the-dots

Kenney Connects the Dots

Mercury pro JT Kenney was as confident as he could be early in the week at the Walmart FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Toho. He had an incredibly refined plan built on a series of precisely placed waypoints. The waypoints marked isolated spawning areas within beds of lily pads. In the first two days of competition, Kenney looked unstoppable with limits weighing 29-14 and 22-9, respectively, to build a lead of 12-10. On day three, Kenney looked human. His limit of 14-5 could have left the door open – but after weigh-in Kenney’s lead shrank by only 2 ounces. And today, it looked as if the king, despite a massive lead, was about to give up his crown. Kenney weighed in only 9 pounds, 4 ounces. But that was enough. The Florida pro squeezed through by an 11-ounce winning margin to win the first Tour event of 2015. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-kenney-on-cruise-control

Kenney on Cruise Control

For those who don’t believe that professional fishing is a game of offense and defense like any other sport, consider JT Kenney’s strategy for the last three days of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury. The first two days, Kenney ran pure “offensive plays” on key, precise bedding areas to run up the score. Today, he ran more “defensive plays” to protect his lead. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 3

When the Walmart FLW Tour event started at Lake Toho on Thursday, the story lines were all about spawning fish and catching bedding bass by working soft-plastic baits around isolated pad clumps. Today, the buzzwords changed to current, shell beds and reaction baits such as spinnerbaits and lipless rattlers. The change in vernacular is associated primarily with the weather. While a warm, balmy day one allowed leading pros to score big by blind bed-fishing, today’s lower temperatures, nippy northeast winds and dull gray skies caused a significant shift in productive tactics that led to a shakeup on the leaderboard. As already revealed, leader JT Kenney had to resort to a spinnerbait to adapt. Others in the top 10 have found consistency in the currents of the Kissimmee River or have adapted with new baits. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-kenney-crushing-the-field

Kenney Crushing the Field

Day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho saw JT Kenney extend his lead to 12 pounds, 10 ounces over second-place pro Stacey King with a 22-9 limit. Kenney has lived near Toho for some time and prepared meticulously for this event – it appears to be paying off. Fishing in Kissimmee all day, he managed another strong bag on a day when weather changes caused many in the top of the ranks to stumble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 2

At halftime in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury, it’s looking like it could be a runaway by tournament leader JT Kenney. Of course, it’s bass fishing and anything can happen, but the latest frontal system rolling through Florida seems to have certainly stymied the bed-fish bonanza that many expected. As a result, the most productive areas from the last two days have been beat down by fishing pressure and are not recovering or replenishing very well. Here’s a look at how the rest of the top finishers managed to overcome challenging conditions on day two to stay at least within striking range of the leader. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-jt-tees-off

JT Tees Off

There was fuel, and there was flame. The fuel was in the form of a delayed largemouth bass spawn on Lake Toho that had been pushed back for several weeks due to low water temperatures and high water flows through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The biological clocks of Toho’s bass have been ticking, so to speak. The flame was in the form of a fast warm-up over the last three days, a full moon occurring right now and water temperatures rising nearly 10 degrees in the last 72 hours. At the day-one takeoff of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury this morning, everyone held his breath for the combustion that was about to occur. And when fuel met flame there were a few fiery flare-ups, but not of the size that many expected. In all, the 20-pound mark was reached by seven anglers on a warm, balmy day that had five-alarmer written all over it. Exactly why the bite was not as good as expected is still in question. Many pros reported a vanishing act of bedding bass that had just started to show up during practice, but have now disappeared despite highly favorable conditions At the top of the standings are Florida ace JT Kenney and Missouri veteran Stacey King, who checked in with 29-14 and 28-1, respectively. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 1

Lake Kissimmee produced the bulk of the top-10 catches on the first day of competition, but not all of them. Still, it seems that anglers believe the time lost to traveling through the lock from Toho to eventually get to Kissimmee is worth the gamble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-01-toho-s-mojo

Toho’s Mojo

Rob Newell breaks down the Kissimmee Chain lake by lake for a complete preview of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-04-cifuentes-wins-co-angler-title

Cifuentes wins Co-angler Title

ZAVALLA, Texas – Imagine traveling FLW Outdoor’s fishing circuits as a co-angler with legendary pro Larry Nixon…practicing with him…rooming with him…and just talking bass fishing 24-7 with one of the most decorated bass fishing pros in the modern world. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-04-collins-collects-rayburn-title

Collins Collects Rayburn Title

ZAVALLA, Texas – When Tournament Director Ron Lappin asked pro Albert Collins what it takes to win a Rayovac FLW Series event on Rayburn Reservoir, Collins immediately responded, “Weighing in 17 pounds a day.” READ MORE »

/news/2014-06-29-reeltime-report-kentucky-lake-day-4

Reeltime Report: Kentucky Lake, Day 4

Skip Johnson wins and Rookie of the Year Jason Lambert takes second. READ MORE »

/news/2014-04-26-acree-wins-co-angler-division

Acree wins Co-angler Division

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – What’s the fastest way to learn the most about bass fishing? Become a co-angler in FLW Outdoors events. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-03-12-2014-buyer-s-guide-soft-plastics

2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures – both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler’s imagination. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-03-11-2-d-sonar-strategies

2-D sonar strategies

There was a time when experience almost always trumped equipment when it came to finding fish. If you wanted to be a better fisherman, you got out there on the water and paid your dues. You learned the spots that produced at certain times of the year, and culled the 90 percent of the water that was almost always void of bass. The last decade or so of fish-finding technology has changed the paradigm, however. Now anglers can buy a Lowrance HDS unit, cruise likely looking spots on any lake and literally see bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-03-10-swim-jigging-winter-grass-lines

Swim-jigging winter grass lines

You can rip rattle baits through winter grass beds like everyone else, or you can offer bass something different: a swim jig. Veteran bass pro Ron Shuffield says a swim jig is one of his preferred cool-weather lures when bass set up camp on grass-line edges. It’s a lure that can be worked quickly, or dragged more slowly when conditions warrant a change-up. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-21-hog-hunters

Hog hunters

A five-fish limit is the first measure of success and job one in a tournament. But it’s how you see that quintet shaping up that sets the tone for your performance. Is it an open audition where anything that measures will do, or do you want five stars that’ll rock any stage? READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-14-never-hardly-ever-lose-a-fish

Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

How many good fish do you lose in a season of fishing, whether it’s in a tournament or just when you’re fishing for the fun of it? If it’s more than you can count on your fingers, perhaps it’s time for some constructive self-criticism. Are the fish at fault, or are you? In case it’s the latter, we offer the following advice, observations and tips from some top pros regarding how to put the odds of landing a fish successfully more in your favor. READ MORE »