A good portion of my fishing the last few years has been fishing for reds in rivers north of bay systems. And it was not always by preference. I love the reds, but would prefer fishing the bays.
Brutal winds combined with an equally brutal schedule has forced me to fish when I can no matter the conditions, so the Sabine River (typically) is my backup plan. But that’s not a bad thing.
Here are the patterns I discovered and notes I have taken regarding fish in the rivers.
#Reds are around the mullet. Even when there are many small shad in the system that is not what the reds are on. They are feeding heavily on mullet so be mindful of that when scouting out area.
#The reds in deeper water (or on the edges of the deep) prefer either crankbaits with deep sounding rattles or none at all. I have caught them on the Super Pogy from Bomber Saltwater Grade which has a couple of big ball bearings that give a deep-resonating sound and on a Rick Clunn R2 Squarebill from Luck E. Strike that has no rattles. Both of these have produced for me recently but crankbaits with small rattles did not.
I have always been far more confident in heavier rattles with reds and although they will hit virtually anything at times I think the louder rattles where great in deep water. I also think the much quieter rattle free squarebill is great for searching out fish in super shallow water where I had one demolished by a 36-inch plus red. Reds can get spooky in the shallows so a quiet squarebill is what usually start off with.
If you happen to get a day calm enough to find reds feeding along the shorelines in the river or in the big bayous be prepared. In water three feet deep and greater, schooling reds often surface, send baitfish into the air for 10-20 seconds and then go down.
Anglers unprepared to fire into the fracas are often disappointed they missed the fish. How could no fish bite when they were just feeding so aggressively?
The answer is the fish were probably 100 yards away by this point. Reds on the prowl move super-fast and anglers must be prepared to strike quickly if they want to seize the opportunity. Preparation for this kind of fishing begins at home.
Make up a tackle box or bag with some key lures for targeting fast moving reds. Start with spoons. A gold or bronze spoon is arguable the best overall redfish lure and they offer the advantage of being easy to cast accurately at long distances. For most settings a 1/2-ounce is perfect. Next go to topwaters. There is nothing more exciting in local waters than watching big reds attack a topwater and when they are feeding on the surface, they are suckers for surface lures. Walking lures are great but do not overlook chuggers. They can extremely effective on reds. Rig these up on a spinning rod rigged with braided line and keep them handy. The spinning rod is to save you from frustrating backlashes, which can occur when you are trying to hit fish at long distances in a very short time window.
If you for example are working a plastic, put down that stick, grab your spinning rod and chunk the spoon or topwater right where you saw the action. If the fish already under, then throw it as far as you can down current of the spot and work it back up. The reds usually follow the tidal flow. If you keep missing the time window and want to make blind casts, consider using one of the numerous redfish ready spinnerbaits on the market. Everyone from Strike King to Bomber Saltwater Grade has solid product out at this point.
Throwing the spinner is a great way to cover lots of water and will keep small trout off your line if they are in the area. Spinners are very effective for reds, but catch few specks.
Chester Moore, Jr.