Retrieval Speed & Rhythm lands reds
I had a friend ask me to take him fishing for reds, said he hasn’t been able to find or catch a red in over a month. We went Friday afternoon, after work, since the front was coming in that weekend and winds would be in the 20s and above.
The tide was almost at dead low, the flat was extremely shallow, and the wind was pushing 13 mph with a 19 mph gust from the southeast, according to AccuWeather Marine Weather app. We started on the south shoreline to try and get out of the wind as much as possible. We were throwing everything the same, except color bait, name brand braid and liter. We drifted about half a mile when I hooked up, landed an 18-inch red, and released it. He asked questions of what was different, since we were fishing the same area, same baits, etc. I explained to him, retrieval speed and rhythm make all the difference in the world. You must make the bait you are throwing portray whatever bait you’re trying to mimic. You want your artificial to look as natural as possible, or you will spook them or not get a bite. We continued down that flat another 500 yards and I hooked up again. This time I landed a 24-inch red that roughly weighed 4.5 pounds. After releasing that one, he asked if we could go to a flat he had been fishing, that he hadn’t seen or caught a red.
We moved across the bay to the east shoreline. My friend was unaware this was the same shoreline my wife and I had just fished the previous week and caught 6- and 7-pound reds in roughly the same conditions. I picked the same spot as when my wife and I fished it, and the wind allowed us to drift the same line. We had drifted about half a mile before hooking the first red. Unfortunately, that red didn’t even measure, but it was fun. We continue to drift, make it about 100 more yards, I tossed out, gave one jig, and felt a thump. I told him I bet I was about to catch another one and set the hook. As soon as I set the hook, the drag ripped off about 75 yards or more. As I would get it near the boat, it ripped more drag and took off again. I started thinking it was a big black drum or a ray the way it fought. This battle lasted about 10 minutes before landing a hammer of a red.
The red was fat, spotless, and may measure. I get out the check-it stick and the tape measure to double check since it would be close. On both measuring devices, the red measured slot. My friend grabbed both scales out of the cooler set, and the red weighed 8.2 pounds on both scales. I was in disbelief that I landed an 8-pound red in the Panama City bay system. I had only heard of an 8-pound red out of the bay system one other time. Not only did I just catch my personal best slot, it was spotless (which is very rare), and out of the bay system.
My friend, who was excited about seeing that giant red, was frustrated he hadn’t caught one in a month and just watched me catch four. He wasn’t frustrated with me, he was frustrated because he didn’t understand why I could right in front of him and he couldn’t.
After I watched him jig that afternoon, it was exactly what I said earlier. The jig speed and rhythm was too fast, it didn’t look natural and the reds weren’t interested. The reds in Bay County are becoming high pressured between recreational anglers and tournament anglers. The more pressured they become, the more times they have seen whatever you’re throwing, and the spookier they become. If it is a bait they have seen and anything about it doesn’t look natural, then they won’t bite. They will ignore, or spook away.