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For Fishing, Fall Brings Cool Changes and Hot Action on the West Coast

bonitoCooler weather over the past few weeks and particularly as fall weather moved into the area has invigorated the fish, making them chase subsurface baits, hit surface lures, and basically expand their strike zones. We are at a place in the transitional period where fish feed the most actively, but because they are on the move, it’s hard to be consistent in the catch department.
Spanish mackerel, bluefish, king mackerel, bonito, jack crevalle, and ladyfish are on a major feed right now in lower Tampa Bay. Schools of baitfish have been pushed to the surface by the predators below. Diving seagulls, terns, and pelicans get in on the fray. Suddenly, a feeding frenzy erupts as Spanish mackerel, little tunny (a.k.a. false albacore or bonito), churn up the water, slashing through the pods of bait. It’s bloody terror as skyrocketing mackerel blast through the air, chomping on these small fish. Jacks and ladyfish pick up the pieces the slashers leave behind.
An assortment of lures will catch these fish. But usually, flashy, fast-moving baits or lures will get bit. The standards are long-time favorites by locals, including the Clark Spoon Squid and the Diamond Jig. A new variety of the Clark Spoon is the Clark Caster, a combination inline spinner bait/spoon rig that puts out a lot of flash and vibration. I also like to throw jigs. Since most lures will get trashed by these toothy fish, most any soft plastic jig works if moved quickly. The CAL Jig with a Shad tail is one of my favorites, along with the Love’s Lure grub tail. At times, a lure like the MirrOlure MirrOdine will be preferred over these soft plastics. But the ability to vary size may be most important if fish are keying in on a certain size baitfish.
A good high-speed spinning reel packed with 200-yards of 10-pound test Power Pro line on a medium light to medium 7-foot rod is the right tool for this kind of fast action, but bait casters now have some very high gear rations with silky smooth drags that will work just as well. The bait caster is like a winch allowing you complete control of your lure by ‘thumbing’ your spool, and with the power to reel in big fish. Today’s reels have some of the best anti-backlash controls available, and with them, even most average anglers can make casts with snarl-free results with a little practice. Control with the thumb allows more accurate casting of lures for better presentations, resulting in more caught fish. They are especially good in sight fishing situations.
There are many types and brands of bait casting reels, in both round or low profile shapes, and a couple of my favorites are the Abu Garcia Reevo Inshore and Shimano Calcutta. The new high speed Daiwa Lexa and Aird reels have all the right stuff with the power, drag, and speed for pelagics.
In backcountry and coastal waters here on the West Coast, we’ve been catching limits of speckled trout using the DOA Deadly Combo. Most fish are caught in the potholes on the flats or on channel edges on falling tides. While most fish are averaging 15-to 18-inches, the occasional big fish over 20-inches is being caught. Flounder have really stepped up the action over the past year and we’ve consistently caught flatties on CAL Jigs and DOA Shrimp.
Topwater lures like the MirrOlure MirrOmullet XL have been very productive, especially for the big fish. Several trout over 25-inches were caught over the past three weeks, and good numbers of redfish are pounding this bait. Schooling redfish are being caught north from the Skyway Bridge to the Little Manatee River, with the majority of them being in the slot. Eppinger Rex weedless spoons have accounted for many of the low tide caught reds. The CAL Shad rigged on a quarter-ounce jig head has been my standard prospecting bait, with the MirrOlure Lil’ John rigged on a 1/16th oz. jighead an absolute killer bait for reds in the potholes.