Florida Pro #4 Prefish
There’s one tournament left in the Florida Pro Redfish Series Emerald Coast Division this weekend before the championship. We are currently holding 15th and want to move into the top 10, so we must have a good showing.
We went this past weekend and prefished West Bay, North Bay and East Bay to find the reds with the fall patterns occurring. We are looking for 6-pounders and above, but the word I’m hearing through the fishing grapevine is the toads are hard to find and few and far between right now with them moving to breed. Low tide is at 9 a.m. and makes it a little more challenging for us to find the reds.
We started out at 8 a.m. drifting the flats in West Bay throwing a matrix shad and a gold spoon as search baits. We are moving back in forth between 1 foot and the shelf at 3 feet. We had been drifting about 45 minutes and had seen mullet and big rays. We finally saw a big V pushing in about 2 feet of water heading towards the boat. Once it moved into throwing distance, realized it was about a 4-foot black tip.
From that moment forward on the West Bay flats we were seeing 3– 5-foot black tips chasing the mullet. By 10 a.m. we decided to move to the North Bay flats. We were drifting there, where we have caught 5- and 6-pound reds earlier in the year, still throwing a matrix shad and a gold spoon looking for the reds. We were seeing rays, mullet and some ladyfish, but no sharks. We drifted until about 12:30 p.m. without a red in the boat.
We figured it was time to move to East Bay. We know the fall pattern is starting and the upper slot reds and above are schooling and moving offshore to breed. We have heard from other fisherman that they are catching slot reds at the piers and the jetties. To us that is too big of a risk during a tournament to make those runs down the beach to the piers, and don’t want to have to deal with the bulls at the jetties. So we were determined to find the bigger slots on the flats.
On the way to the spots in East Bay, we stopped by Pier 98 Marina and grabbed a cold drink, sandwich and some shade for about 30 minutes. We got back in the boat and stopped by the Tyndall Bridge, where we have caught upper slots in a hole there. We started working around the hole with the trolling motor throwing a 3-inch matrix shad blazing hornet and a 4-inch zman diezel minnow Houdini on a quarter-ounce jig head.
As we were working the hole my partner got my attention and pointed and there were 2-3 tarpon rolling the surface about 25 yards from the boat. I turned the trolling motor that way and we were casting with a hope. We never got the hookup or found the slots at the bridge so we headed for the flats in East Bay.
By then it was 2:30 p.m. and we deployed the trolling motor and crept on to one of our favorite flats to fish in the Panama City area. At this point the incoming tide had started moving again. We started to move shallow into about 1 foot of water and I hooked up, the water boiled and the drag started ripping. I knew it wasn’t the toad that we were looking for but it is a great feeling to hook up after 6 hours of no reds in the boat.
We set the anchor pole, I landed the red, and it was a 4-pounder. Cast again, and hook up again, it was another 4-pounder. While I was unhooking and releasing the fish, my partner hooked up with a 3-pounder. We could see that this was a school of 3- to 4-pounders, so we pulled the pole and kept moving. About 30 feet away, I hooked up again but this time it was running a little harder and faster. Landed it and it was a 5.5 pound red. That was getting closer to what we were looking for.
We continued to move from one flat to another in East Bay and caught 12 reds between 2 and 5.5 pounds. We never found that 6-pounder and above, but will be happy with two 5.5-pounders and above.
The tournament weigh-in is at the end of the St. Andrew Marina at 3:15 p.m., if you’d like to come by and see the results.