In the world of live bait fishing scad are premier offerings. While scale baits like threadfin herring and pilchard certainly attract inquisitive predators, they are delicate and must be handled with extreme care. While all baitfish destined to be kept alive must be handled with care, scad are super swimmers and have been known to ignite a feeding frenzy when nothing else seems to work.
Volumes have been written about bigeye scad, more commonly referred to as goggle eye, as these freedom fighters are the most commonly encountered of the scad family and fetch the highest market value—often upwards of $80 a dozen. Round scad are next on the list and known throughout the sport fishing community as cigar minnows. As their name implies these worthy offerings have an elongated profile and can grow to 12-inches. Redtail scad round out the best of the best in the scad family and are more commonly known as speedos. Not to be confused with an unflattering male swimsuit, speedos are arguably the most versatile and effective of all baitfish species.
When you do hook up be sure to play them gently—an exhausted speedo won’t last long in captivity.
Choice baits for tournament competitors and die-hard live bait anglers fishing for sailfish, kingfish, wahoo, blackfin tuna and cobia, speedos have also been known to produce quality catches of grouper, snapper and amberjack. The problem with these fast swimming baits is that they aren’t typically offered by your local live bait boat. If you want to fish with the best you’re going to have to get your hands wet and catch them yourself.
Speedos are large, hardy baits that range from 7 to 14-inches in length. They are most commonly encountered along the southeast coast of Florida and can be found anywhere from 20 to 200-feet of water. While they are indeed irresistible to highly desirable game fish, they can be difficult to locate on a consistent basis. In shallow depths they can be found holding near hard bottom reefs and ledges. In deeper depths they tend to congregate over wrecks and structures with high relief. Like the predators that pursue these tasty treats, speedos prefer clean water with noticeable current.
When you’ve found a promising locale, toss out a chum bag with a single ground chum. The single ground chum will release larger pieces and give the speedos something worth keying in on. Because you’ll be in clean, clear water it should be easy to tell when speedos come in to investigate. Often times they will rise to the surface and race through your chum slick, gobbling up morsels of fresh chum and racing off in the distance as they prepare for another swooping attack. This is the best case scenario and one that will enable you to load up on these primo offerings.
Stealth is key and you’ll want to utilize a spinning reel loaded with 10lb. monofilament. From here attach a 3-foot section of 6lb. fluorocarbon leader and a small gold hook. Since speedos have small mouths a #6 or #8 hook will do the trick. No need for a split shot to get your offering below the surface because when they are in feeding mode you will be able to pluck them from the surface almost instantaneously. For bait you can use anything fresh. Tiny bonito or ballyhoo chunks as well as squid tentacles and shrimp work well, but be sure not to present too large of an offering since their mouths are relatively small.
While anglers dream of speedos practically mouthing morsels directly from their chum bag, unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Often times speedos stay deep and require a different approach altogether. When your sonar returns promising marks high above deeper reefs and wrecks a #8 sabiki rig will get you in the game. You can also tip the quill rig with fresh enticements, but this isn’t always necessary. When you do hook up be sure to play them gently—an exhausted speedo won’t last long in captivity.
No matter how you catch these wonderful baits it’s absolutely critical you gently release them into your livewell with a dehooker. While resilient fighters in the water, they don’t take well to the confined space of a tightly packed livewell. Because they are big and swim fast they need adequate waterflow or else they will perish. Most avid live bait anglers are well aware of this fact and as a result mount portable 50-gallon circular livewells in their cockpit. A large diameter livewell with sufficient circular flow will be able to accommodate approximately 25 speedos. If you’re forced to use a smaller livewell with significantly less flow you’ll have to reduce the number of occupants.
When it comes to fishing a live speedo you really can’t go wrong. Drop one down on a wreck, slow-troll one from your outrigger or dangle one from a kite. One thing is for sure; if you take the time to catch these erratic swimmers you’ll zero-in on trophy game fish. Be sure to check out the upcoming March/April issue where we’ll continue our investigation on Super Scad, including the ins and outs of locating, catching and keeping goggle eye happy and healthy.