Fall is my favorite time of year when it comes to fishing season. Rivaled only by tarpon season or spring time… ah the heck with it… I love fishing all year round here in SW Florida. These past few weeks have been amazing as far as the fishing goes. Something else can be said for the weather for sure! The early morning and later part of the afternoon topwater action has been unreal. I’ve been throwing Heddon’s spook jr and the 4.5” spook XT’s and I’ll tell ya they are by far the toughest topwater baits you’ll have the pleasure of throwing. If fishing top water hasn’t been on your fishing, well I’ll tell ya you are missing out my friend. The past few days have been absolutely ridiculous as far as the topwater action is concerned. When we have conditions like this darker water the fish have more difficulty visually finding food. Therefore they rely more heavily on feel and sound. That’s where the noisy splashing and rattling baits are king of my bait choice. Getting out for that early morning bite is awesome! If you’re lucky enough to happen upon one of the big schools of redfish that are plowing through our waterways…  oh boy!! If you’re watching and know what you’re looking at… well they are kind of unmistakable when you happen upon a school of reds. Now for this kind of fishing … placement is everything… what I like to do is have a number of rods at the ready…. One or two with live or cut bait that I have some range with and one with topwater. They move pretty quickly so try to anticipate the direction they are headed. I like to pitch that heavy cut or live bait out first and let it soak to give me a little time to get a few lines out as the school approaches that bait. Once you hook one it will spook the rest of the herd…. So that’s why timing is the key if you wanna have multiple fish hook up.

Gag and red grouper on the near shore reefs are still around but dirty water can hamper them. You might need to push out or look for cleaner water to hook up with keeper size fish.  Something that’s been working quite well for me lately as I’ve been checking new areas is using a 3-6 oz brightly colored pink and white Bomber cobia jigs. I’ll cut a small 3-4 inch triangle of cut bait (cigar minnow or squid), drop it down and drift over the area you’ve marked as a potential hot spot. Something else you may want look for on your machine is not only that “live bottom” but the bait and other smaller fish as well. Another thing I’ve had to do is alter the gain on my sounder. There have been so many jellyfish and thermocline layers around I’ve been picking them up as smaller bait schools. So turn that auto setting off and manually set it to filter out those jellies…. especially if you have an older machine. But, the bite is hot out there and if you’re thinking of splashing the dive gear…. 12-14 miles is where you’ll find the color change and cleaner water.

If you’re looking for some fast paced action… well you’re gonna enjoy the bite that’s happening right now. First, head out offshore a few miles and look for the schools of bait that are just outside and easily accessible. Don’t worry, you’ll know where they are because the birds are looking for them as well.  I’ve been throwing small spoons, stick baits and silver minnow’s and just about anything that has a hook on it around those pods and all kinds of things are crushing in those schools…. bonito, spanish mackerel, kings, sharks everything. You can’t miss them…just look for the birds and all the fish crashing bait.

That’s gonna do it for now. So put out the gone fishin’ sign, stock up on tackle, load up that livewell and head on out to your favorite fishing hole… or better yet get out and find some new ones and catch’em up. Just remember to leave a few to make replacements for tomorrow.

Captain Jesse McDowall
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