The redfish are bunched up in huge schools out of Steamboat Landing in Edisto, and soft-plastic shrimp imitations from Gulp!, DOA, Vudu and Z-man are enticing them into biting throughout the day. Wendell Grooms of Edisto Island has fished in the middle of at least three different schools of several hundred fish apiece in the past two weeks. "If you really want to see these big schools, you can't be afraid of venturing out on the coldest of days," he said.
"This time of year, most of the baitfish have left the creeks and inlets around here, so the dolphins are feeding on redfish heavily. The reds gang up in schools for safety, but I think they also do it for warmth," Grooms said. "So on the coldest days, you have a better chance of seeing the bigger schools."
And bright days with little wind make it easier to spot the schools.
Grooms has fished through days where DOA Shrimp outfished other lures and days when he couldn't get a bite on anything but Vudu Shrimp.
"On some days, they'll hit anything, but on those days when they are finicky, they will hit one lure 10 times for every one time they'll hit a different one," said Grooms, who stays well-stocked with every brand for such occasions.
Steamboat Creek and Russell Creek are two spots where Grooms is having success at high tide. At low tide, he finds the fish in the North Edisto river. The reds will stick as close to the bank as possible, looking for shallow water and the darkest mud they can find. Grooms likes to fish from the bow, standing on a casting platform and using a trolling motor.
"You have to have a strong trolling motor to account for the wind and tide. When I spot a school, I set the motor to keep me as still as possible, then cast to the school. When they move, I move," he said.
Grooms uses medium-heavy rods in the 6-foot-6 to 7-foot range and 30-pound braided line with a 20-pound mono leader. Most of the fish he has been catching are slot-sized fish, but the schools are made up of a variety of sizes, and catching a 40-inch fish is not uncommon.
Grooms tries to avoid casting into the middle of the schools; he prefers to fish in front of them.
"If one bites in the middle of the school, the fish will scatter, they will break up into two or more smaller pods, and they become harder to keep track of. If one of the fish up front bites, you can usually get them away from the school before the rest of the fish get spooked," he said.