• Anthony Watson

Prefishing ECRC North Bay

The Emerald Coast Redfish Circuit North Bay tournament is Saturday, July 21. Launch is at Leslie Porter Park (Bailey Bridge) at safe light, and weigh-in is the same place at 3 p.m. Last tournament, the homework wasn’t done and we weren’t on any fish, and it showed at the weigh-in, when we weighed 6 pounds and dropped from second to third in Team of the Year standings.

This go-around, I started patterning and pre-fishing three weeks ago to make sure we had a chance at 11 pounds and higher.

Three weekends ago, I went by myself while Jake Wright went with his cousin trying to find fish. Jake found some trout and I found big upper slot reds. I made notes of tide, tidal swing, depth, location, time of day, weather and water temperature.

The following weekend, Shauna, Jake and I went out and checked spots, including the same one as the week previous since it was two weeks from the tournament. That is when we caught a mess of reds, including upper slot. This time it was different weather, time of day, but close to same tidal swing and water temperature. Now I have a something to go by for decision making Saturday.

This last weekend, not wanting to high pressure or sore-lip all the reds in that spot, we went to areas we haven’t fished in over a year. We went there to just catch, look around and have fun.

I was throwing a Saltwater Assassin Grey ghost sea shad, rigged up weedless and Jake was throwing a Saltwater Assassin Avacado sea shad rigged up weedless. It was overcast conditions, so we made sure we had our Redtail Optix on to have some visibility while we crept the shoreline, fan casting and looking for reds. We moved quietly, the bite was slow, and we weren’t seeing much. Then out of nowhere a school of eight reds, 5 pounds and bigger, cruised right by the boat.

We both cast ahead of them. Jake twitched his while I didn’t move mine — and nothing. One of those methods normally triggers a bite, but not this time. We kept moving forward, I jigged once, let it drop and sit, started to reel again and there was weight. Set the hook and caught a 4-pound red.

Jake cast, jigged his bait, we saw silver and yellow, heard drag, and Jake landed a 20-inch trout. Normally we keep trout between 15 and 20 inches to eat, but didn’t have fish on the menu this week, so it swam away to fight another day.

We kept moving forward and saw 4- and 5-pounders cruising, not really eating. Decided it was time to move to another spot. It had been a year since we’d fished the next spot.

We again crept the shoreline, looking and fan casting. I was jigging when I saw an upper slot following my bait. As he sped up to grab the bait, a dinker trout came out of the grass and grabbed the bait. I didn’t set the hook and still managed to hook him.

In all honesty, I don’t like catching trout unless targeting them. They die too easy and they are too slimy. I hoped the red would take the bait out of the trout’s mouth, but instead he turned and swam off.

We kept fan casting, and came up on a bunch of floating debris. Jake decided to throw under the debris — some pine needles or something — as soon as his bait hit the bottom, the drag took off. Jake landed a 4.5-pound red; these aren’t bad reds, and we made notes. If, for some reason, the other area didn’t pan out, we could always catch 9 pounds to weigh in.

Jake throws the drop-off, sets hook, and lands a 22.5-inch trout. The avocado was a big trout catching machine that day.

There are reds on almost every flat and area in the bay system. What I find interesting is certain flats at certain times of the year only hold 4-pound and less reds, while I can go 300 yards away to a different flat and catch 5- and 6-pound reds.


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