By Capt. Gus Cane
From the Gulf of Mexico to the Southeast, autumn is the prime time to round up the “bulls” or extra large red drum. These over-slot Brahmas move in to spawn in places like Pamlico Sound or enjoy the baitfish buffet lines along the Charleston Harbor jetties or Pensacola and other Gulf passes. Known for their powerful runs and voracious appetites, bull reds are a favorite target of coastal anglers. Here are some of the best ways to get in on the fun.
Gear Up: Overslot reds are strong so gear up accordingly. Medium-heavy spin or conventional tackle with 30-pound braided line or 50-pound monofilament will suffice, matched with about three feet of 50- to 60-pound test fluorocarbon leader. Rods should have plenty of backbone with a softer tip to toss baits and feel the strikes. For conservation and legal purposes, only use non-stainless circle hooks sized to match the bait.
Night Ops: Bulls are most active from dusk until about midnight as they feed and spawn. Boating at night requires extra caution and be sure all navigation lighting is operable before leaving the dock. Anchoring near a drop-off or jetty rip-rap with good current flow will increase the odds of success. Keep the presentation simple, with just enough weight to hold bottom and limit the rods to no more than four outfits when schools of fish swim through.
Match the Hatch: Bull reds are not finicky eaters by nature, but it does pay to use the local forage. Depending on the region, that could include menhaden, spots, pinfish, croakers or quarter chunks of blue crabs. Big chunks of fresh mullet soaked on the bottom is a near-universal offering.