UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


Cool-water reds

The gleaming head of a Florida redfish

St. Petersburg, Fla., resident and Ranger pro C.A. Richardson has learned the secret to success on the Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series is being able to adapt.

"We fish under such a wide range of conditions," Richardson said. "In the summer, the water on the flats can be close to 90 degrees, but in the winter, that same water temperature will drop down into the mid-50s."

Richardson, like most other professional anglers, has a tackle box full of tricks when it comes to fishing the extremes.

In the summer, the key is catching the fish early, before the sun has a chance to get the water boiling. But in the winter, when a strong cold front can drop the water temperature 5 degrees overnight, a successful angler must have a plan.

When it comes to sport fish, the red drum has one of the most extensive ranges of any species in the United States. Anglers from the Northeast to Key West target these tackle-busters in Atlantic waters. In the Gulf of Mexico, redfish are one of the most sought-after recreational species.

While the tactics of surf-casters in the Carolinas may differ from those of flats fishermen in the Gulf, a red drum's behavioral patterns do not.

"I think the most important thing to remember when you are fishing cold water is to just slow down," Richardson said.

During the winter in Florida, where Richardson and partner Ray Van Horn of Tarpon Springs, Fla., fish many of their tournaments, the anglers often abandon their "first light, first bite" battle plan.

Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series anglers cast cool Florida waters for reds."Sometimes it pays to wait until later in the day," Richardson said. "All it takes are a few hours of sunshine to raise the water temperature a few degrees. On a cool day, it might be better to head out after lunch, to give the water a chance to heat up."

Redfish are not great long-distance travelers like some other fish, such as cobia. Redfish don't venture far from the waters in which they were born, and as a result, these terrain-savvy predators know every oyster bar, drop-off and grass bed in their home range.

A successful angler will pay attention to topography and learn to use it to his advantage.

"For example, when the wind is blowing hard out of the north, finding feeding reds might be as simple as just fishing the leeward side of an island," Richardson said. "The water will be a little warmer out of the wind, and that might make all the difference in the world."

Geoffrey Page, a Venice, Fla., angler who also competes on the FLW Redfish Series, looks forward to the late fall and winter because the low water temperature will often concentrate redfish.

"That is my favorite time of the year," he said. "It is not uncommon to catch 30 or 40 redfish in one day."

Page said a good working knowledge of local tidal conditions is usually the difference in success and failure.

"In the winter, we get those extreme, negative low tides," he said. "When the water drains off the flat like that, fish will concentrate in those back bays and estuaries."

The downside is that it usually takes local knowledge, especially of the bottom topography, to discover where redfish will "hole" up.

Where there are many birds wading, there is sure to be baitfish aplenty to attract redfish."One way to find out is to look for wading birds," Page said. "I don't mean one or two birds, either. When you come across 30 or 40 birds all feeding on a flat, then you know there is ample bait. Where there's bait, there will be redfish."

Page also looks for dark, muddy bottoms, which tend to hold heat better than light, sandy bottoms.

"Finding any bit of warmth will help the fish," he said. "It just may be a few degrees of temperature change, but it will be enough to hold fish."

Page also looks for sheltered waters.

"Cold wind blowing across the water will drop the temperature," Page said. "That is why I like to find back bays and estuaries that are out of the wind. It not only makes it more desirable for redfish but also for the bait they feed on."

Pro Tom Austin of St. Petersburg has been fishing Florida's Gulf Coast for most of his life. He shares Page's enthusiasm for fishing mud flats during the winter months but added that anglers should also be conscious of water depth.

"A shallow area that has been hit by the sun all morning will heat up faster than a deep area,'' he said. "The fish might not be biting in the morning. By that afternoon, however, the water has heated up, and fish begin to feed."

Austin said coldwater reds are often finicky feeders. "Sometimes it takes a little work to trigger the bite," he said. "As a general rule, I think the most important thing is to slow down your retrieve."

Richardson agrees. "If it is really cold, we won't even move the baits at all," he said. "We call it dead-sticking. You just drop it in a hole and let it sit."

Leiza Fitzgerald, one of the few female anglers on the pro circuit, not only slows down the action of her lure, but also downsizes her tackle.

"I'll use a 1/16-ounce jighead so I can really fish those shallow flats," she said. "I wait as late in the day as possible, when the fish have really warmed up. That makes all the difference in the world."

But don't abandon all your warm-water tactics. Redfish still crave structure - be it an oyster bar or the edge of a channel - even when the water is cool.

"Those areas are like fish highways," Leiza said. "They may move up on a warm flat to feed, but they still have to have deep water somewhere nearby in case they need to get out in a hurry. You can't miss fishing the trough."

So when the temperature drops, don't be deterred. Fish the potholes, especially at low tide. Look for dark bottom; it will hold the heat. Any break from the wind, like a dock or an island, will help concentrate fish.

Tags: terry-tomalin  tips-and-techniques 


How to Fish Power Plant Lakes in Winter

Some of the power-plant lakes throughout the Midwest are borderline legendary. If you live near one or are willing to travel to keep your open-water season alive, Colby Schrumpf’s system could work on just about any of them that have grass. READ MORE »


Catch Your Personal Best from a Kayak

Eric Jackson, owner and co-founder of Jackson Kayak and three-year FLW Tour pro, has contributed a great deal to the booming kayak market, not to mention the popularity of the sport itself. Gone are the days of kayak manufacturers catering to a niche market of anglers who don’t own a bass boat. READ MORE »


How to Fish Umbrella Rigs for Bass

Castable umbrella rigs, also called Alabama rigs or A-rigs, were first deployed in tournament bass fishing by Paul Elias in the 2011 FLW Tour Open on Lake Guntersville. Since then, they’ve garnered a lot of controversy and caught a lot of bass. READ MORE »


Carolina Rigging with Castledine

Todd Castledine has long been one of the most fearsome anglers to fish against in Texas. The Nacogdoches pro is good at nearly everything, particularly sight-fishing, but one of his secret weapons is undoubtedly a Carolina rig. From using it for finding offshore structure to catching finicky bass, he’s almost always got one or two tied up on the deck of his Ranger – and you should too. READ MORE »


How to Fish Lipless Crankbaits

As the name suggests, lipless crankbaits are just that – lipless. Unlike their billed counterparts, lipless crankbaits don’t have a diving lip to counteract the natural buoyancy of the bait. As a result, lipless crankbaits are made to sink and can be fished at varying depths with a wobbling side-to-side action. READ MORE »


How to Fish Walking Topwaters for Bass

Walkers, or walk-the-dog-style topwater baits, are among the most popular and most effective lures for catching bass that are willing to breach the water’s surface to eat. A walker is the first choice in many situations from spring through fall, and one of the essentials that every bass angler must learn to fish. READ MORE »


How to Fish Square-Bill Crankbaits

The unique shape of a square-bill’s lip (spoiler: it’s square) makes it ideal for banging off cover such as rocks and branches without getting hung up. That disturbance caused by a crankbait hitting and deflecting away from cover is often what triggers nearby fish to bite. READ MORE »


Cold-Water Bass Fishing

Is cabin fever getting the best of you? If so, why not go bass fishing this winter? Let’s see what top competitors have to say about where and how to catch a few. READ MORE »


Pro Tips Weekly: Keystone Light Pro Chad Grigsby

<b>Waylaying Shoreline Bass in the Postspawn</b> <br> Postspawn is one of my favorite times of the year, mainly because bass are active and aggressive. I like the fact that I can catch them on some of my favorite lures: soft stickbaits and buzzbaits. READ MORE »


Pro Tips Weekly: Walmart Pro Mark Rose

<b>Colorizing a Crankbait</b> <br> One of my most important fishing tools isn’t found in the sporting goods department at Walmart; it’s in the crafts department. That’s where I find the Sharpie waterproof marker kits that I like to have with me when I’m fishing crankbaits. I keep my crankbait colors pretty basic – natural shad or chartreuse for the most part – but if I see bass chasing bluegills, or have one I caught spit up a bluegill, I’ll use a Sharpie to color the crankbait up a little to look more like a bluegill. READ MORE »


Pro Tips Weekly: Folgers Pro Scott Suggs

<b> To Fish, Everything Old is New Again </b> <br> One thing I definitely believe is that a lot of out-of-production lures will catch fish just as well as they ever did. Nowadays too many fishermen are caught up with what’s new rather than what works – and a lot of those old baits still work. READ MORE »


Pro Tips Weekly: David Dudley

<b>Cast and Move With a Shaky Head</b> <br>What I do differently now, though, is make more casts and drag the shaky head a lot less. I’m covering a lot more water and looking for those fish that aren’t real aggressive, but might go for a shaky head if it drops in right by them. READ MORE »


Pro Tips Weekly: Andy Morgan

<b>Matching Jigs, Trailers and Line To Water Conditions</b> <br>When I’m fishing a jig, about all I ever throw is a ½-ounce War Eagle. There are times when a lighter or heavier jig works better, though. For instance, I might go to a 3/8-ounce War Eagle Heavy Finesse if I’m fishing in extremely shallow water, or when the water is very clear, or when the bass just seem to want a small mouthful. READ MORE »


The ups and downs

Sitting outside a small cove on the first morning of practice for the 2009 Walmart FLW Tour event at Beaver Lake, the 3M Scotch Tape and Peltor Brands pro from Dover, Ark., tried to peer to the back of the cove. Had the water been at a normal level, his line of sight would have been clear. Instead, it was blocked by a “logjam” of junk collected between flooded buck brush. READ MORE »


Winding in a winter wonderland

Aquatic weed beds that last through mild winters on bass Meccas like Kentucky Lake, Toledo Bend, Amistad, Okeechobee and tidal waters like the Potomac River offer strategic cover, warmth and feeding opportunities. READ MORE »


Football season

NFL playoffs are just around the corner. But flash forward a few weeks from now and football fans may be feeling a bit of a letdown while sweeping up after those Super Bowl parties. However, unlike their gridiron counterparts, bass anglers know that their football – specifically, the football head jig – will remain a relevant part of their lives year-round. READ MORE »


Fantastic fall tactics

For planning purposes, a handful of FLW competitors helped share a rundown of their fall favorites in an effort to help anglers navigate this tricky season. READ MORE »


Don’t panic – it’s in the box

When daylight’s fading, or tournament time’s expiring, fishermen desperate for a bite often fall back to a handful of tried-and-true baits in which their confidence rests. It may be some old-time favorites or a lake-specific selection. In any case, the proverbial “panic box” can be the make-it-or-break-it element when anglers struggle. READ MORE »


Drop-shot upshot

When bass play hard to get – either with deep inhabitance or bad attitudes – the drop-shot proves its merit as a bona fide tough-bite negotiator. This effective finesse tactic consistently appeals to green and brown fish coast-to-coast, but a handful of tips for tweaking your rig and perfecting your presentation will make a significant difference in your productivity. READ MORE »


Tackle Test: Power when you need it

Of all the equipment on a bass boat, none is called into service more frequently than the batteries. Take away the boat’s power cells, or the ability to recharge them, and fishing performance is sure to suffer. Simply put, batteries provide the juice that brings a bass boat to life. READ MORE »