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North Carolina Giant Bull Redfish

The world record giant redfish, at 96 pounds, was caught in North Carolina. Some measure 60" and others 50". But if it's not over 40", it's kind of small. In the winter, the redfish reside more in the ocean and then migrate to the shore in the spring. By fall they are cruising the North Carolina coastline and are prime targets for surf fishermen. But in August and September, the Neuse River around Oriental and the Pamlico Sound are their home, and fishermen come from across the United States to catch these monsters. The Z-Man SwimmerZ and Grass KickerZ under a popping cork have become many fishermen's go-to baits while targeting this bucket list catch.

The primary rig setups are 4000 – 5000 series reels with 30 lb. braid attached to 7'-7.5' medium heavy and heavy rods. Under the popping corks, I use a 50 lb. mono leader measuring 2'–3'. Because of the tannic, brackish water, the clarity of fluorocarbon is not needed but can be used. Attached to the leader, and securing the SwimmerZ and Grass KickerZ, are Z-Man's TT HeadlockZ or Striper Eye jigheads, 3/8 – 1/2 ounces. The larger reels are needed, not only for their drag, but also their spool capacity. I tell my charters to be prepared for an initial run of 100 yards followed with a second run of 50 yards. Once these two runs are completed, they can start fighting the fish. During the fight to the boat or kayak, many smaller runs will occur and it's not uncommon for the fish to make you lap 360˚ around the boat before it's finally netted. Once caught, in addition to measuring at great lengths, some fish girths are measured over 30".

No lunar tides exist in some areas of the Pamlico Sound and the Neuse River. Instead we have wind tides. Just like lunar tides, the wind tides are critical for planning our trips. At 30 miles wide and 60 miles long, the Sound is a large body of water. Attached to the southern part of the Sound, the Neuse River measures 5 miles wide at its mouth and is the widest river in the US. Together they form a funnel shape which is very receptive to water level changes. Northeast winds push water into the river and raise the water level. Conversely, southwest winds push water out of the river into the Sound and lowers the water level. Since one of the favorite methods for targeting the giant redfish is sight casting, it is also critical to understand the wind direction and its resulting calmer and rougher shorelines.

For sight casting, bait balls and their resulting slicks are hunted. In early August, we usually begin our searches in waters as skinny as 3'. As the hot summer continues and the water temperatures rise, we start our searches in waters of 8'-20' depths. Once bait balls and slicks are found, we don't cast directly into them. We cast around the edges and try not to scatter the bait because the giant reds are circling the balls. Every day is different so I have rigs set up using varying colors of SwimmerZ and Grass KickerZ. As we catch fish and I see a pattern develop, I'll change the setup's colors to the most popular style. And then it's pop, pop, and wait for the bite.

There's nothing like hearing someone yell "fish on", the sound of the drag screaming and anticipating the size of the giant redfish on the other end of the line.

Capt. Bobby Brewer
Baldheaded Bobby Guide Service

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