There’s a talent to the popular technique of sight-fishing for reds in the marsh. This veteran guide shares his expertise.
Redfish are one of the most abundant and sought-after saltwater fish in Louisiana.
Unlike speckled trout, whose populations are struggling, redfish continue to thrive in the marshes, causing many anglers to shift their focus. Although redfish will readily take bait or lures fished in deeper water, this doesn’t compare to the excitement of watching them inhale a lure in a clear, shallow pond.
The thrill of spotting a cruising redfish, casting directly to it, and then watching it strike has caused sight-fishing for redfish to explode in popularity. As such, an ever-increasing number of anglers are looking to increase their knowledge of this specialized fishing technique.
When it comes to sight-fishing, Eddie Adams, who operates Louisiana Redfish Master Guide Service, may literally be Louisiana’s redfish master himself, with dozens of redfish tournament wins with a handful of different partners highlighting his resume. He proved his worth on a cloudy, windy day, starting into the marsh from Port Sulphur one morning.
Don’t be afraid of wind
Entering the first pond, Adams headed towards the windy side, saying, “There ain’t nothing wrong with a wind-blown shoreline.” He said he normally starts on the side of a pond that has the cleanest water, but he prefers windy banks due to the bait often being concentrated along them. Another advantage is having the wind at your back when casting.
This pond was ideal, with what Adams calls “oyster grass” along the bottom and a foot of crystal-clear water on top of it. It wasn’t long before he spotted the first redfish, but it refused to bite two swimbaits it was offered. Several other redfish in the pond refused the lures or spooked at the slightest motion. Adams said this is becoming more and more common due to increased fishing pressure, especially in heavily pressured areas like Port Sulphur.
The next stop quickly yielded better results, with a school of three fish patrolling. The first hit a gold “The Secret” spoon from H&H, then Adams made a perfect cast with a swimbait and hooked the biggest of the three. The third fish hung around trying to take the spoon from the first fish’s mouth and putting on a show in the process.
The keys to success
According to Adams, clean water and the presence of bait are keys to success when sight-fishing for redfish. When at all possible, keep searching until you find clean water before spending time fishing, since it will both help you to see the fish as well as help the fish see your lure. Aquatic grasses are often keys to success because they filter the water for better clarity, as well as providing shelter for baitfish and crabs on which the redfish feed. Not all grasses are created equal, however, with coontail and widgeon grass being two of Adams’ favorites.
He was quick to point out that crab traps are a good sign, because redfish feed heavily on crabs, and the presence of traps usually indicates an abundance of crabs.
“Crabbers make their living in the marsh; they know what’s going on out here,” he said.
Redfish have an extra attraction to washed-out islands and humps — high spots of submerged mud — in ponds and will gravitate to these when available. Adams and partner Ray Chagnard once won a tournament by marking humps in a pond with white PVC pipe.
“There were so many redfish in that pond that it was hard to avoid spooking them all, so we were able to ease up on those high spots because we knew exactly where they were due to the PVC markers,” said Adams, who also looks for wading birds like herons and egrets to reveal the presence of redfish. “If you see a shorebird, especially an egret, standing along a shoreline, that’s almost a guaranteed redfish. That bird is there because he is hunting the same bait as a redfish, and the bait is along that bank.”
What Adams uses
Adams uses both baitcasting and spinning tackle. He mates a 7-foot-1, medium/extra fast G-Loomis NRX 852CJWR casting rod with a Shimano Metanium reel with a very fast, 8:1 gear ratio, spooled with 40- to 50-pound Power Pro Super8Slick braid.
“This lets you retrieve your lure quickly if you make a bad cast, and then re-cast before the boat spooks the fish or the fish moves away,” he said.
Adams’ spinning setup includes a 7-foot, medium-action rod with a Shimano Stradic 4000 reel spooled with 20-pound braid.
Eyewear is obviously a huge key to sight-fishing success, and Adams likes polarized glasses with amber lenses. He prefers mirrored lenses on sunny days, and non-mirrored lenses on cloudy days.
His favorite lures include a gold Rapala Skitterwalk, H&H’s “The Secret” weedless spoon in gold, Power Bait Ripple Shad (pink, orange, or holographic gold/black back), Matrix Shad or 4-inch Gulp Ripple Mullet (morning glory/chartreuse tail or glow/chartreuse tail) — any of these swimbaits rigged with a jig spinner.
Adams isn’t sold on tower boats and raised casting platforms. He said that height offers definite advantages, but there is a point of diminishing returns.
“Anything you can do to gain some height will help, even if it’s just standing on a cooler on the front deck of your boat,” he said. “The additional height helps you to see into the water better, but there is such thing as too high.”
Once you get higher than 6 feet above the deck of your boat, the height affects your lure presentation, making it difficult to properly work the lure.
If an area has thick aquatic grass, elevation is key because it allows the angler to see fish farther away and make longer casts before they sink into and under the grass. Adams said how you work the lure depends on the day and the fish’s disposition. Experience will help you to judge the fish’s reaction and adjust accordingly.
“On days where fish are just lying there, hugging the bottom, it is often tough fishing, but if they are lit up and floating high, swimming around on their own or rolling side to side feeding these are all good signs,” he said. “Some days, the fish want the lure swimming; others you have to throw past them and drop it right in front of them. Sometimes you have to just kill it.”