Most important, the abundance of bait in different locations makes it possible to catch reds all day. According to Capt. Tyler Gault of Ladys Island, it's a matter of changing baits and/or lures as situations require.
"In May, I use Gulp!, DOA, flies and live and cut bait," said Gault, who narrows his choice by figuring out what they are feeding on at a particular time.
If redfish are tailing in the grass, crab patterns are the logical choice; when they are feeding close to structure on the low end of the tide, some form of baitfish or shrimp pattern is best. If the water is stained due to rain, wind or boat traffic, then oily cut baits are a good choice because they are easier for the reds to locate using smell instead of sight.
"You need to give them what they want to feed on and not what you want them to feed on," Gault said. "If they want mud minnows, then use mud minnows."
Of course, fishermen must locate areas that hold redfish. In May, this is often done by locating fish- holding structures like oyster beds and secondary grasslines where sparse grass sits in deeper water just off of the thicker marsh grass. On low water, oyster beds are a great starting point, especially those that are more in the current. Around easy snags like oyster beds, a short leader under a cork works best, allowing an angler to get as close as possible to the structure. Gault prefers Cajun Thunder corks and 2/0 circle hooks, and when the tide is a little higher he will float corks directly over the submerged structure. The current plays an important role in determining the best area to place an offering.
"The best place to find reds on oyster beds is on the downcurrent side of the incoming or outgoing tide," Gault said. "Reds will hold in the current breaks and ambush baits that wash out of the beds toward them."
May is also a great month for anglers who prefer to stalk tailing reds during higher spring tides. Often, Gault chooses to walk flooded flats and use a fly rod because it allows him to approach them stealthily and land an offering close without spooking them. However, tides don't get high enough for walking on the sparser and firmer flats most days in May, but reds still get in the whatever flooded grass they can find in search for crabs and baitfish.
Capt. Steve Roll of Ladys Island targets these fish from the front of his bay boat after scanning flooded grass for reds tailing or pushing in it. His rig of choice for fishing in the grass doesn't change. He uses a 7-foot medium-action spinning rod and reel spooled with braid, 20 inches of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, a No. 4 or larger split shot, and a 1/0 circle hook. This rig allows him to present baits in a more subtle way, important because reds in the flooded grass tend to spook easily, and big weights make big splashes. Also, the lighter weight is less likely to hang up in the base of the grass and it keeps baits more in the line of sight of a passing red.
When in the grass, redfish generally focus only on an area maybe a couple of feet in front of them, so when fishing from an anchored boat, the more lines out, the better the chance of a red finding one of the baits. Circle hooks are very helpful when using multiple rods. Once an oddity, circle hooks are now the norm for most guides and many anglers.
"I prefer to use circle hooks because they can be set with just the pressure of the fish taking the bait, which allows me to place rods in the rod holders and use several at once instead of having to have a hand on each rod," Roll said.
Sometimes, a long day of fishing is just what the doctor ordered, and May is a great time to chase reds from sunup to sundown. For an epic outing all that is needed is a variety of baits, sun block, and a cooler full of cold drinks and snacks.