What's hot: Redfish are plentiful in south Tampa Bay flats. If you catch a redfish, it's a guarantee more are in the area; some of these school are running 50 to 100 fish each. Once you find a school, you must go into stealth mode. Virtually no boat noise, soft entry of your lure into the water and a good pair of polarized sunglasses will help keep the school intact and in your sights.
Techniques: Baits of choice are scented soft-plastic bodies on a light jig head, topwater noisy lures and the tried and true gold spoon. When they are used properly, they produce great catches. I prefer to start out early in the morning with a noisy topwater lure, and once the sun begins to rise, I usually change to a spoon. As the day gets hotter and the sun gets higher in the sky, I use a weighted swim bait or jig head with a scented soft body. If your artificial baits aren't working, you can always have success with live bait or cut bait soaked in front of the school.
Tips: Look for water movement or disturbances in the early morning calm waters near mangrove islands and oyster beds. When spooked, a large school of reds will "hump" up the water, looking almost like a dome; this helps you find a large school. Have patience and let them calm down before tossing bait to them.
Jackie Otto can be reached at Betts Fishing Center (727) 518-7637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.