WHAM. Water erupted as if the torpedo had exploded. The sudden jolt nearly yanked the rod from the angler's hands. Water boiled in a froth as another 12-pounder battled for its life.
"Got him. This one's a hoss," said Gary Hughes of Houston, Texas. "I don't know if I can hold him."
The brute stripped line from the reel as it thrashed in the shallows. Weeds ripped from the muddy bottom floated as graphic evidence of the struggle. Finding no room near shore, it headed for open water before finally succumbing to defeat.
"I see another," said guide Toby Duet of Gala Resorts near Golden Meadow, La., as he worked the boat down the shoreline. "Look at that big monster there in that little pocket between the grass. Let's get him."
Half a tail and part of a fin protruded from the surface in water less than six inches deep. Beneath it, 15 pounds of savage ferocity lurked, seeking something to devour.
In marshes along the Gulf Coast, such scenes occur routinely. Combining tactics from bass fishing and hunting, anglers stalk huge redfish in shallow marshy lagoons. Frequently, fish up to 20 pounds smash topwater lures in water less than two feet deep. In many places, "bassing" anglers seeking redfish actually do catch bonus largemouth bass in the lush, fertile tidal marshes.
"It's a lot like bass fishing," Hughes said. "The difference is that with redfish, a lot of times, you see that fish in shallows with its back out of water. Throw near it and you'll see a wake coming toward it. Next thing you know, it just blows up on it. That's a lot of fun and a heck of a fight."
Big redfish cruise marshy shallows looking for shrimp, minnows, crabs or other delectable morsels. Big solitary brutes, they stake out feeding areas and guard them jealously. Because solitary whoppers stake out shallow territory, anglers must "stalk" them. Whenever they spot something disrupting water, they toss topwater baits at it before moving slowly down the shoreline to the next opportune target.
"It's hunting," said Toby Duet, who runs Gala Resort with his brother Danny. You're hunting coves and points. Redfish wait in ambush under cover with their backs up against the grass. They are waiting for something to come across their path that they can kill and eat.
Redfish love to ambush unsuspecting mullet. Mullet frequently thrust their heads above water to feed or grasp air. Redfish ravenously tear into such schools. Lures that imitate a mullet drive redfish nuts. A couple hot examples include the Spit'n Image and Zara Spook.
While redfish readily strike nearly any bass lure, many shallow marshes demand a weedless approach. Reds hide and hunt in thick patches. Most anglers stick to topwater chuggers, plugs, jerkbaits or floating soft plastics. White spinnerbaits or chartreuse buzzbaits
also attract attention when worked above weed beds.
Spinnerbaits work well in windy conditions. Wind rules treeless marshes. Too much wind wreaks havoc with boaters and anglers, but a gentle breeze can help anglers find fish. Start where wind blows across points because wind moves water, and fish face into current to wait for something to come to them. In addition, wind drives baitfish to windward shorelines. That attracts game fish.
I like to fish with the wind at my back and fish the windy side," Danny Duet said. "Oxygen levels will be higher on the windy side. Bait accumulates on the windy side. Fishing with the wind to your back, you have better control over casting." Tide also affects marsh fishing. A falling tide pulls baitfish from marsh lagoons. Redfish feast on the drifting smorgasbord. Hungry redfish wait at the mouths of cuts for tempting morsels to flow to them. Toss lures into cuts or tributaries and work them downstream.
During summer or early fall, many anglers prefer to fish at night. Larger reds lose some wariness in the dark. Shrimp, crabs and baitfish also seek the cover of darkness to move, especially during dark "new moon" nights. They feel safe until they pass under bright illumination. Along many waterways, fishing camps illuminate water stretches, creating a fishing bonanza.
For sheer excitement, few piscatorial experiences rival 15 pounds of fury roaring out of weeds to clobber a topwater bait in a foot of water.
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