What's hot: The best place to find action in lower Tampa Bay is the deep flats. Most are in 4 to 6 feet of water. Look for areas where birds are working the surface. They will feed on small baits, and so will the fish. Trout, mackerel, bluefish, small grouper, ladyfish and sharks like to feed in the pods of small bait. The most productive flats will have fish striking the surface. Approach the area upwind of the birds. You can drift through or anchor upwind and let the fish come to you.
Tackle: Light tackle in the 8- to 10-pound class will handle most of the fish. If you want to catch sharks, rig a rod with 20-pound line and a short wire leader. Catch a ladyfish or a mackerel and use a chunk of it for bait. Rig the cut bait 2 to 4 feet under a cork. For the rest of the fish, use a small jig or whitebait on a long-shank hook.
Pro tips: Redfish schools are working different areas of the flats. The best action has been at the end of the incoming tide and the start of the outgoing. Some schools are holding 200 to 300 fish. The trick to having a good bite is to not spook the school. Most of these reds are hungry and will strike most lures and baits. This action should last a few more weeks.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.