Winter in SW Florida brings low or negative tides, crystal clear water and tailing redfish. With our low winter tides reds hiding back and under the mangrove branches are forced onto the flats were they become more accessible to all anglers for greater periods.
Successful anglers have switched to lighter lines, lighter, longer fluorocarbon leaders and longer casts away from the boat. My winter spinning outfit uses 10 to 15 pound braid and 15 to 20 pound fluorocarbon leaders. Shun any extra hardware, such as clips and swivels, and make your line-to-leader connections with a double uni-knot.
Again, the water is clear so long throws and stealth are winners. Push poles can make a huge difference as many times we are hunting fish too shallow for trolling motor use anyway. No mater how quiet you think your TM is, it can be heard for long distances underwater, especially if it ticks the bottom occasionally. When you hook your 12-pound red in that skinny water try to fight it as quietly as possible as there could be many more all around you that will be history if you hoot, holler and crash around the boat to catch one.
Capt. George Tunison
Motor upwind of your favorite flat shut down and wind drift or silently pole across it remaining quiet and present your baits in a wide arc around the boat as the fish could be anywhere around you. If there is a running tide always try to cast uptide and bring your lure back to you with the current not against it.
Gamefish gather in inlets and passes because weak baitfish and crustaceans are caught up in the currents and brought to them. They face into the current waiting for an easy meal. Retrieving with the current can make a big difference. This is an often overlooked point many anglers never consider.
Observe snook under a dock in a slack tide in a non-feeding mode. They will be milling around, swimming near and around the structure they're on. Come back when the tide runs strong and they often will be closely schooled all facing into the current, close to the structure, waiting for food and using the structure as a current break saving energy.
A cast made behind them (downcurrent) and brought to them tail first is unnatural and may spook them. Hot winter flats lures include slow rolled topwater plugs, slowly worked suspending twitch baits, such as the classic MirrOdine, soft plastic shrimp fakes (DOAs and GULP) and soft plastic minnow and jerk baits. A DOA Shrimp or GULP under a float or cast is a great winter lure catching everything.
Fly rodders score big as well because of the fly's ability to be presented slowly, suspending and undulating in the water column looking very much alive and helpless. A killer winter redfish or big trout combo is a CAL jig (a soft plastic made by DOA) hooked to a 1/16 to 1/8 oz. TwistLOCK Owner hook, rigged weedless and slowly worked across bottom in slow hops using a light leader.
When fishing shallow grass flats please don't destroy them. Put your motors up, pole, wind drift or troll motor. Prop scars are everywhere. A 10-inch wide, 30-yard long prop scar might take 10 years to regrow the grasses that were rooted there, sometimes never growing back.