We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Nick Lombardi to discuss sight casting and jigging for red drum with the Hogy Pro Tail Paddle in the Chesapeake Bay. Here's what we found out..
Facebook: Redbeard's Charters
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
There is no doubt that red fish move around a lot, especially in open water. For anglers that are familiar with the Chesapeake Bay area, it can be predictable but for those that aren’t, it can be a little more difficult.
Capt. Nick runs a lot of early season charters out of Annapolis but the red fish don’t usually show up until late April or early May down near the mouth of the bay. For the most part, he launches out of Annapolis and follows them up and down the bay as the migrate and feed. Late Spring they can be found near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. As the summer approaches, they'll start migrating north all the way up to the middle of the bay, nearest to Deale, MD, which is the furthest north they'll go.
Big, migratory breeding fish come into the bay in huge numbers in the summer to spawn but more often than not, Capt. Nick is fishing in big, open water. If you find one fish, you’re going to find a lot.
“It’s not uncommon to see a football field size school of red drum on the surface during the summer,” Capt. Nick said.
There’s times when you can target and jig them if they’re not all schooled up but you want to be looking for big schools of drum. When they first show up in the Spring, they flood the area but eventually break up and you can target them in shallow water on the flats and sight cast.
Tides: There are definitely portions of the tide that Capt. Nick enjoys more and that he’s found to bring more success. More or less, the red drum are going to be the most active at the end of one tide and at the begging of the other. They seem to be easier to catch at the end of the outgoing tide.
Approach: There are a couple of different ways to find these fish. The first way is by covering a lot of water and trying to find them up on the top, which is also the most fun, because when you find them, you’re steadily catching one after another.
They love hard bottom, which can be anything from oyster bars, hard bottom shoals or anything that is holding bait – that’s the key. They’re never far away from bait and the bigger the bait, the better. The most common bait in this area is menhaden (bunker, pogies) and the red drum will almost always be somewhere near them.
If you’re having trouble finding them, try moving from bait ball to bait ball and eventually you’ll find one that is holding reds and more often than not, if you take a look at your fish finder, you’ll notice that more often than not, you’ll be on hard bottom surrounded by large menhaden.
Rigging/Lure Selection: 5-inch Hogy Pro Tail Paddle 2oz
Why This Bait? These baits are so durable and they work well for inexperienced anglers. The barbarian jig heads don’t flatten out like a lot of other hooks do and since a lot of clients have a tendency to over fight the fish instead of letting the rod and reel do all of the work, there is an underlying confidence that these hooks won’t flatten from the added pressure. They’re built into the pro tail which is another reason why t hey don’t rip easily.
Capt. Nick also like the action and the ability to fish it in a couple of different ways. Because it’s a weighted soft plastic, it can be fished off the bottom (jigged) and even though it’s weighted, it still swims well up on top. They seem to have the greatest action on the surface and Capt. Nick loves that it’s a bait that he can both jig and cast with. Not to mention the big paddle which creates a lot of commotion and noise, drawing the fish in.
“I don’t even rig top water plugs anymore because I don’t need to,” Capt. Nick said. “I can just use the pro tail and whip it across the surface or fish it off the bottom.”
Retrieve: The hardest part is finding them but if you get a lure near them, they will inhale it.
Jigging: Start by marking some fish, holding bottom and setting up up-current of the bait so you can naturally drift through the bait with the engine off. Drift through where the bait is holding and start fan casting around the boat and around the bait and allow the lure to sink to the bottom before bouncing it off the bottom. The pro tail paddle has a natural action on the way up and on the way down, which is enticing the fish the entire time.
Casting: If the lure lands in the school and a big fish hooks into it, the other fish will swim into the line and you will lose the fish. Most of the time, when you are fighting a fish, the school will move on and you will have to get back on them as quickly as possible. If you find them on top, get a bait near the outside so you don’t get broken off in the middle of the school.
Cast at the school and reel as quickly as possible so the pro tail paddle skips across the surface. This will look like a wounded bait fish that is separating itself from the school and the red fish will pounce on it.
Rod: 7’ St. Croix Tidemaster Casting Rod, medium/heavy
Reel: Quantum CSP40PTsE Cabo PTsD Spinning Reel
Line: 30lb PowerPro Braid
Leader: Seaguar Fluorocarbon Blue Label (40/50lb)