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The Inshore Fall Pattern Transition

   

It always seems that once we get those first three or four days with cooler mornings and the leaves start to turn, most outdoorsman begin putting away their fishing gear and start breaking out the hunting gear. But for us shallow water guys, the fall is when inshore fishing hits its stride! When water temperatures fall below the 80 degree mark, the redfish and trout bite really starts to heat up. As the water temperatures drop into the low 70's and upper 60's, the bite will stay consistently strong until the winter's first real cold front roars through.

We filmed a TV show recently in which the entire focus of the show was the transition from late summer pattern to the fall transition and on into early winter fishing. While filming, we realized the hardest thing for most folks is to recognize the subtle weather changes and the corresponding changing inshore patterns. In order to be consistently successful, you must be able to recognize these changes and adjust right along with them.

For my Dad and I, we can't wait for the fall transition to progress, without a doubt October through early December is our favorite time fish, in fact some of our most epic Redfishing days have come right around Thanksgiving and the weeks before and after. The Redfish will begin moving off the big, wide open flats toward the shorelines with points, edges, sand holes or nearby channels. These Redfish tend to school up when the tide gets moving and will bunch up along breaks in the shoreline or along points. These shoreline breaks and points provide ambush spots that will cause the bait to bunch up. We also target the edges along a flat that has a slight water depth change or small channel or depression running through it in 2 to 4 feet of water.

Slowly drifting an area and keeping the wind at our back whenever possible, our goal is to fan cast a 45-degree cone in front of the boat and will drop the Power-Poles frequently to make sure we don't run over or drift into the fish. This time of year, we like to throw two types of search baits while trying to locate the fish, our favorite search baits are the ZMan MinnowZ and the other will throw a 4" Z-Man Jerk ShadZ. We rig the MinnowZ on the 1/8 oz  Weedless Eye jigheads and the new 4" Jerk ShadZ on the 3/0 - 1/8oz EZ KeeperZ Weighted hook, we make sure to use colors that match the bait; Hot Snakes, Sexy Penny, Midnight Oil, Pearl and Houdini are typically solid choices for the fall.

Again, while you want to cover as much water as possible you still want to take your time and not run over the fish. It is critical that once you have located the fish, you want to stay as far away from the school as you can but still be able to accurately reach the fish. Making long, accurate casts requires you to be throwing downwind and using the lightest line possible and making sure it is paired with the correct rod and reel is a must. We have found that the 13 Fishing Omen Green 7'2" medium spinning rod matched with a 2000 size Project TX reel spooled with 10lb Hi-Seas braided line consistently gives us the maximum casting distance along with the backbone necessary to handle upper slot Redfish.

It's this time of year you will typically find the fish bunched up together, normally half dozen or so Reds will be found together, and these fish will tend to be the lower slot fish. However, you will also find larger schools of fish, 20 to 40 and sometimes you will stumble upon schools of over a hundred or more. It's common that these fish will be larger mid to upper slot Redfish, but keep in mind that the larger schools can be easily spooked so it's imperative that you remain as stealthy as possible.

It's best that once you have found the fish that you focus on the outside edges of the school first. Your goal here is to catch as many as possible without spooking the rest of school, you want to start with the fish on the deeper water side of the school first and methodically working the edges of the school. Throwing into the school and hooking up a fish from the middle can cause the entire school to spook and scatter or possibly even break the school up. We can't stress enough that during this time of year that the fish can be extremely skittish, and the smallest mistake can put the brakes on to what could otherwise have been an epic day!

One of our favorite baits to work a school of Reds with is the new Trout Trick Jerk ShrimpZ. The Jerk ShrimpZ is perfect for methodically working the edges of the school, we rig the them one of two ways depending on the retrieve technique we are using.

The first is on the Weedless Eye 1/8 oz Jig Head, because the Jerk ShrimpZ, like all other Z-Man soft plastics, is a buoyant bait and when rigged on this jig head the Jerk ShrimpZ will float straight up when at rest. Much like the Ned Rig that is so potent on Bass, any current or wave action will cause the appendages to move erratically just like live prey trying to burrow down in the grass or in the sand bottom. We like to make big hops letting it settle for two to three seconds between hops and often with the school fish, the bait will get hit as soon as it settles on the bottom.

The other method we use to target these school fish with the Jerk ShrimpZ is to work it more like a twitch bait. We will rig it weedless on the SnakeLockZ 3/0 - ⅛ oz jig head and twitch the bait letting it slowly fall to the bottom for a couple of seconds before twitching it again. Because the SnakeLockZ unique articulating head design, the bait will be able to stand completely vertical when it hits the bottom and when hopped it appears extremely life like! Most bites occur as the bait falls or just as it hits the bottom. You must pay close attention to your line when using this technique, if the school is moving toward you the redfish will pick the bait up on the fall and you won't know they have it until you notice the slack in your line.

Each of these rigging methods will allow you to make long, accurate 45 yard plus cast downwind. And these techniques require the bait to sweep up off the bottom and slowly fall to be the most productive. You will need to keep your rod tip up as you work the baits to get the proper action whether you are hopping or twitching the Jerk ShrimpZ, watching your line closely as the bait falls and be looking for the tell-tale sign your bait has been picked up as the school moves along.

Lastly, be aware of the noise you make, especially during this time of the year when there is less boat traffic on the water, the sound of you moving around in the boat really stands out. Be prepared when you come upon the Redfish motherload and always try to have at least three rods pre-rigged and ready to throw. You never want to stop and re-tie a leader or change baits when you are on a school of fish and have your net ready, so you don't have to run around to grab it.

Once you've caught several, the school will often move off, instinctively we want to chase them however you must force yourself to resist the urge to follow and make sure you pay close attention to the direction they go. After a few minutes they will settle down again and more times than not they will circle right back to where you found them, and you can start the whole process over again!

The fall transition bite is always our favorite time of the year and hopefully it will become yours as well!

We look forward to seeing you on the water,
Capt. Michael Cowart and Mark Cowart
Z-Man Pro Staffers and Redfish Tournament Pros

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