It's 5 a.m. and we are jetting across the dark fall waters of Charlotte Harbor.
The wake of the boat and the turbulence caused by the prop provide a spectacular light show of intense bright electric blue-white light under and behind the boat as millions of bioluminescent plankton give off their eerie glow in the wake of our passing.
If you've never experienced this phenomenon it's worth the early trip just to witness it as it's quite beautiful. Imagine six intense spotlights mounted under your boat pointed down and rearward as you motor along. It's that bright.
Capt. George Tunison
Once on scene we quietly drift, hoping to hear the sounds of schools of snacking snook slurping shrimp, surface style. The slightest movement from the boat sends any baitfish within 15 yards rocketing away, leaving trails of light in the black water. This speaks volumes about boat noise in shallow water and the fish's ability to hear it from remarkably long distances, alerting them and sending wise old trophies fleeing to the next county before your first cast.
Suddenly, a school of ladyfish cuts through them leaving large luminescent light trails all around the boat as they attack the fleeing baitfish. Turning on the trolling motor produces the same bright white effect and a horizontal cone of light extending all the way to the transom.
We threw glow plugs and watched the light trails as we "walked the dog" back to the boat. After a few casts a huge surface explosion/light show and a screaming drag as a chunk redfish inhaled the plug turned and rocketed away across the flat leaving a missile like light trail behind him.
Fish are obviously used to this psychedelic light show and at night we like to throw glow topwater plugs and glow soft plastics like DOA Cal jigs in glow flavor. Try it against your buddy when night fishing. If not producing go to all black for maximum contrast which is my second choice, especially on bright moon nights like we will experience this weekend.
This underwater light phenomenon is caused by a species of phytoplankton which also make "red tides," the toxic algal blooms that can kill marine life and create bands of red coloring in the ocean during the daytime. This species is bioluminescent at night, which means it combines oxygen with luciferin - similar to a plant's chlorophyll - in a chemical reaction that emits light. The plankton only glow when they're disturbed, possibly as a way to warn away predators.
If you find yourself in front of a school of hungry reds reach for something different this trip. Put on a big bass buzzbait and slowly gurgle it near the school (hold on). Are you into tossing spinnerbaits for chunky largemouths? Love the strong hit on a spinnerbait? Well toss one at a big red for a jolt you will never get from a bass.
No doubt spinnerbaits annoy fish and reds really intend to kill these lures when they strike them. In the heart of redfish country, Louisiana, the spinnerbait is a top favorite of red anglers but not so popular here on the West Coast of Paradise. Try gold Colorado blades on your spinnerbait in our dark post summer water.
My favorite school red topwater is a largemouth bass Arborgast Jitterbug in glow or black, souped up with salt grade hooks and split rings. Reel it slow and steady and hang onto the rod. Snook and trophy trout and reds will climb all over this lure and multiple hookups happen due to the side hook placement on this old classic largemouth bass killer.
This really is a unique lure which I've used to catch not only bass but pike, muskie and most saltwater flats species in Florida, including a Matlacha blacktip shark. Two retrieves: slow and steady, or crawl and pause.