The bulls were running Sunday afternoon on the Mississippi River near Venice, and like any good rodeo cowboy, Mike Wilson was doing his best just to hang on for the ride.

The 46-year-old from Starkville, Miss. was targeting bull redfish near the head of the passes on about a hundred-yard stretch of rocks and pilings 14 miles from Cypress Cove Marina.

It took a lot longer than an 8-second ride to land the monsters, but Wilson enjoyed every minute of every battle, and landed five huge fish, including a 25-pounder.

“”When they run up there and smash it, you can feel it in your teeth they hit it so hard,” Wilson said. “We didn’t catch many, but what we caught was nice.”

Wilson, who works for the United States Department of Agriculture, was in Venice participating in Marsh Madness, an annual 4-day event held for fishing industry media from across the country.

An avid bass fisherman in the Starkville area, Wilson landed every big bull red with a 5-inch Strike King Shadalicious swimbait in green gizzard on a 1-ounce lead jighead.

“We were fishing in 30-feet of water, and it’s something I can get to the bottom with,” he said. “I know I can get it deep.”

One particular area along the pilings, where the water depth went from 15- to -30 feet, was a pretty consistent producer of big reds.

“That was a big school of bull reds. The big ones school-up just like the smaller ones do,” he said. “Look for them along the rocks, in deep water where there are plenty of baitfish around.”

In his spare time, Wilson enjoys a unique hobby: he custom-paints crankbaits to his customers' specs and markets them as Kustom Krankz.

“I got some buddies who like to fish who come up with some of the color combinations. Some of them look really good and some are a one-time deal,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. 

“Most manufacturers have some standard production colors that they all use, but I like to throw some different things out there every now and then.”