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/2015-05-26-top-10-patterns-from-lake-seminole

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Seminole

Clint Brown won the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole by targeting late spawners and obscure stretches of bank that received little pressure during the week. Here is a look at how the rest of the top 10 competitors fared. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-brown-rallies-for-seminole-win

Brown Rallies for Seminole Win

When the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Seminole started on Thursday, hot, slick conditions prevailed. The air temperatures pushed into the 90’s, water temperatures hovered between 80 and 85 degrees – summertime was on. Or was it? READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-jeter-takes-co-angler-crown

Jeter Takes Co-Angler Crown

Call it a local’s sweep at the Rayovac FLW Series on Lake Seminole. While local pro Clint Brown of Bainbridge, Ga., won the boater Division, his Bainbridge neighbor, Greg Jeter won the Co-angler Division to make it a local twofer. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-lake-seminole-day-3-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 3 Midday Update

Second place pro Clint Brown was gaining some serious ground on Reneau as Brown had boxed four solid keepers for about 11 pounds on his very first spot – all caught from protected backwaters with a topwater. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-reneau-grabs-lead-on-seminole

Reneau Grabs Lead On Seminole

Though Reneau has weighed in 15-1 and 20-7 over two days for a total of 35 pounds, 8 ounces, he says he is only getting about six bites per day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-2

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 2

A shake-up occurred on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole. Day one was all about slow, summertime fishing in the lake’s deep timber. Overnight a frontal passage dropped water and air temperatures and left a north wind howling down the lake. As a result, the timber bite cooled off and those fishing shallower waters climbed up the leaderboard. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-lake-seminole-day-2-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 2 Midday Update

The hot summer at Seminole turned back into spring this morning as a cold front blew through the area dropping air temps some 10 degrees with a blustery north wind. Sweatshirts were needed again as the cold air felt more like April than May. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-enfinger-leads-on-seminole

Enfinger Leads On Seminole

Enfinger said he got off to a “fast start” this morning, sacking a limit by 10 a.m., but he only upgraded twice after that, catching about eight keepers on the day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-1

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 1

Bradley Enfinger took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole fishing suspended bass in timber. Others in the top-5 fished both wood and grass on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-lake-seminole-midday-update

Lake Seminole Midday Update

Lake Seminole is known to be more of a quality lake than a quantity lake and that trait showed on the morning of day one as anglers who were catching fish were not necessarily getting many bites, but 3-pound pluses seemed to be the norm for the ones hauled in over the gunnel. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-seminole-summer

Seminole Summer

Last week, the Walmart FLW Tour plied the waters of the Chattahoochee River on Lake Eufaula. This week, the Rayovac FLW Series moves 60 miles south on the “Hooch” to Lake Seminole for the final event of the Southeast Division. Running offshore brush piles was the dominant theme on Eufaula last week, leaving some to wonder if a similar pattern could work on Seminole, since the two legendary lakes are connected by the same river. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-18-top-10-patterns-from-lake-eufaula

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Eufaula

Bryan Thrift won the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula by keying on isolated pieces of cover – brush piles, stumps, logs, rocks, etc. – for four days and hitting as many spots as possible during competition hours. Others in the top 10 fished a very similar program, but there were a few wild cards. Here’s the rundown of Eufaula’s top finishers. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-thrift-by-3

Thrift by 3

The “numbers game.” It’s a term that Bryan Thrift used to describe his fishing on Lake Eufaula back in 2013 when he finished runner-up to Randy Haynes in a Walmart FLW Tour event. The method to his numbers madness was to hit as many solitary objects – stumps, brush piles, rocks, logs – on the bottom of Lake Eufaula as humanly possible in an eight-hour tournament day. When Thrift saw that Lake Eufaula was back on the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour schedule for May of this year, he grinned that patented Bryan Thrift grin because he already knew how to crunch the numbers at Eufaula. And Thrift is still grinning. After sacking up a final-day catch of 15 pounds, 5 ounces to top off 69-14 for the week, Thrift made the numbers work for his fourth FLW Tour win. He added another $125,000 to his bank account. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-morrow-marches-ahead

Morrow Marches Ahead

Day two at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State at Lake Eufaula challenged anglers with tougher conditions as clouds and wind hindered much of the offshore bite. But while some of the top 10 struggled to duplicate their success from day one, Troy Morrow moved from second up into the driver's seat with a day-two catch of 18 pounds, 1 ounce. His total for the event stands at 39-09, giving him a 1-04 lead over day-one leader Clent Davis. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-15-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 2

Troy Morrow took over the lead on the second day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula. Morrow did most of his damage late in the day once other pros in earlier flights had checked in. He’s working a milk run of brush piles, as are many of the top pros, but the continued fishing pressure is starting to really affect the bite. Here’s how the rest of the top five is dealing with the pressure. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 1

Clent Davis, the day-one leader of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula, described his fishing methodology as being a “numbers game.” He’s hitting as many isolated pieces of offshore cover as possible in a single day. Some of the other leaders behind him used similar terminology to describe their fishing. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done today. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-14-davis-leads-stacked-top-10

Davis Leads Stacked Top 10

Ordinarily, when four professional bass anglers catch more than 20 pounds on the first day of a major tournament on Lake Eufaula in early summer, no one is surprised. This week, however, Eufaula is a bit off its game due to a cocktail of challenging conditions. Pros expected this to be a low-weight event. It won’t be, if the day-one weights are any indication. Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., weighed in a five-bass limit that registered 22 pounds, 9 ounces to take the lead by 1-01 over Georgia pro Troy Morrow. Adrian Avena and Ramie Colson Jr. are tied for third with 20-10, while the next five in the standings all topped 18 pounds. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-28-top-10-patterns-from-beaver-lake

Top 10 Patterns from Beaver Lake

No matter what the conditions are at Beaver Lake, Matt Arey has an uncanny ability to dial up the right baits to match the appetite of the lake’s fickle bass. This year the Quaker State pro relied primarily on two baits for his win. The first was a 5-inch hand-poured swimbait teamed with a 7/0 Gamakatsu EWG Monster Worm Hook tied to 20-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon. The second was a wacky-rigged Lunkerhunt Lunker Stick impaled on a Gamakatsu 1/0 split-shot/drop-shot hook. The power/finesse combination provided Arey with a search-and-destroy program. He would use the swimbait as a “search bait” to find fish and then follow up with the finesse of the wacky rig for bedders that would not commit to the swimbait. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-26-arey-does-it-again

Arey Does it Again

Quaker State pro Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., wowed the crowed in Rogers, Ark., today with an incredible 17-pound, 3-ounce five-bass limit to come from behind and win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake. This is Arey’s second consecutive Beaver Lake FLW Tour victory. Arey’s final-day surge was enough to surpass two-time reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan, who led yesterday but weighed in only 9-08 today and fell to third. Arey’s four-day total was 55-06, earning the pro $125,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »