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Feature Stories 2012

Volume 2, Issue 10, April 2012: Bull Rushed Big redfish put tackle to the test

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In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT, Volume 2, Issue 10, April 2012: Bull Rushed Big redfish put tackle to the test, I discuss which of the three West Central inshore gamefish is the biggest brawler. Since trout is not really a contender, the battle is truly between redfish and snook. We've all lost trophy snook to their mangrove haunts when the bigger fish make those blazing fast runs back into their homes. Sometimes there is just no turning a big snook without the risk of a break off. The same can be said about the bull-dogging redfish, a fish that fights hard even as a little guy. But get up into the 30" plus range and you enter a whole new game that tests the rods and reels of the light to mid spin tackle that most of us use and that also tests our ability to skillfully fight a fish. This story is based on a recent experience in which I successfully landed without a net a 34", 14 lb. "bull" red that nearly wore out my drag and left me wondering if I'd ever be able to get this massive and strong fish to the boat. With quality tackle, strong knots, and some fish fighting poise, I did get this fish into the boat for a couple of trophy photos and a quick release. This was truly an epic battle.

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the April 2012 issue of Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.

Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)



Bull Rushed – Big redfish put tackle to the test

By Joshua W. Broer


Throughout the years, when asked which popular West Central game fish fought the hardest, redfish or snook, I always gave the nod to snook.  Anyone who has hooked into a 35 – 40” snook knows that these fish make powerful, blistering runs.  Find yourself near mangroves or dock pilings and it’s 50/50 whether or not you’ll bring that fish boat-side.  Too often that fish has a one-way ticket towards the sticks and you’re left with a cut leader and verbal expletives to follow.

If I had mixed emotions about which of these fish is the bigger brawler, it has become more of a mystery.  Having grown up in an area with many snooky haunts that dot the Anclote River area and adjacent flats, I’ve caught plenty of snook in the 30-40” range.  This area is notorious for producing some of the biggest snook on our coast, often over the 40” mark.  My redfish catches, however, have typically been slot-size fish pulled from massive schools in skinny water.  The upper-slot fish I’ve caught, 25-27” for example, do of course dog you pretty well with some bullying runs and a resistance to give up.  But these fish are almost always manageable.

A year ago I caught my first 30” red and discovered what a few more inches and a couple more pounds will produce in terms of the fight at hand.  I remember this fish keeping my rod bent in half, relentlessly taking out line and time to finesse him without a break-off.  But everything changed a few weeks ago when I hooked into a fish that would test both my tackle and my fish-fighting skill.  This redfish, unlike any other I had fought before, tried with all its will to break my own will.  It damn near did.

With a livewell full of scaled sardines I motored off to an area in upper Tampa Bay to try my luck tucked up close to a mangrove shoreline.  Fishing solo that day, I manned the trolling motor while slowly but methodically slinging select baits under overhanging mangrove branches.  A bait or two got popped and came back to the boat with obvious signs of having been mouthed by a fish but no hookup.  I was optimistic though.

A few baits later, my day would suddenly change for the best and forever change my view of the snook vs. redfish debate.  A well-placed bait skipped under an overhanging mangrove branch almost immediately brought my line taught and began an epic battle.  My reaction – “big snook!”  But this “big snook” never jumped as they characteristically do.  Not being able to see the fish, I then guessed “big redfish!”  I wouldn’t know, however, just what it was that was making non-stop freight train-like runs with no hope of turning the fish.  Despite the fact that I used my trolling motor to help muscle the fish away from the mangroves, it would make run after run back to that shore with seemingly endless power.

Around the 15 minute mark, I finally got a glimpse of the fish.  I had succeeded in getting him away from the shore but was now dealing with a still energized brute that took me under and around the boat at will.  But I at least got a glimpse and it was a monster red.  I was careful and delicate on the drag in order to get this behemoth boat-side.  With no net and no one else on the boat, it was a trick to land this beast.  With the fish finally tiring and within arm’s reach, I high-sticked my rod and reached out for the grab.  With a quick swoop under the gill plate, I forced this beast out of the water and onto the deck for a few quick pics.

This big red measured 34” and weighed 14 lbs.  I returned the very next day with a friend who wanted in on the action and he too successfully caught his biggest career redfish which measured a healthy 28”. His fish put up a solid five minute fight, which, still begs the question… who’s got the most pound-for-pound power – redfish or snook?  I dunno.  Fishing is on fire right now, so, YOU be the judge!


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