Redfishing with Topwater Lures: Best Practices

Redfishing, or targeting red drum, is a beloved pastime for anglers across coastal waters. Using topwater lures to catch these powerful and agile fish can be an exhilarating experience, providing both challenge and reward. In this article, we will delve into the best practices for redfishing with topwater lures, covering everything from the optimal equipment and techniques to the best times and locations for success.

Understanding Redfish Behavior

Redfish, known scientifically as Sciaenops ocellatus, are a highly sought-after game fish found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Understanding their behavior is crucial for successful fishing. Redfish are typically found in shallow waters, estuaries, and near shorelines. They are known for their aggressive feeding habits, often hunting in schools. The key to effective redfishing lies in mimicking their natural prey and understanding their feeding patterns.


Feeding Habits

Redfish are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of organisms such as shrimp, crabs, and small fish. They are most active during low light conditions, such as early morning and late evening, making these times ideal for using topwater lures. The splashing and commotion created by topwater lures can mimic the movement of struggling prey, enticing redfish to strike.

Choosing the Right Topwater Lures

Selecting the appropriate topwater lure is essential for attracting redfish. Here are some of the most effective types of topwater lures for redfishing:


Poppers are designed to create a splashing and popping sound on the water’s surface, mimicking the movement of distressed prey. These lures are highly effective in drawing the attention of redfish, especially in calm waters.

Walking Baits

Walking baits, also known as “walk-the-dog” lures, have a side-to-side action that mimics the erratic movement of injured baitfish. This motion can be irresistible to redfish, particularly in slightly choppy waters.

Prop Baits

Prop baits are equipped with propellers that create a buzzing sound and disturbance on the water’s surface. These lures can be particularly effective in murky or stained water where the added noise helps redfish locate the bait.

Optimal Equipment for Redfishing

Using the right equipment is crucial for maximizing your chances of success when redfishing with topwater lures. Here are some recommendations for gear that will enhance your fishing experience:

Rod and Reel

A medium to medium-heavy rod with fast action is ideal for topwater redfishing. This type of rod provides the necessary sensitivity to detect strikes and the strength to handle powerful redfish. Pairing your rod with a high-quality spinning or baitcasting reel with a smooth drag system will help you manage long runs and sudden bursts of speed.


Braided line is often the preferred choice for topwater redfishing due to its strength and sensitivity. A line with a test strength of 20-30 pounds is typically sufficient. Additionally, using a fluorocarbon leader can help reduce visibility in clear water and provide abrasion resistance against sharp structures.

Hooks and Terminal Tackle

Ensure your lures are equipped with sharp, strong hooks. Treble hooks are commonly used on topwater lures, but single hooks can also be effective and may reduce the risk of injury to the fish. Always check your hooks for sharpness and replace them if necessary.

Techniques for Topwater Redfishing

Mastering the right techniques can significantly increase your success rate when fishing for redfish with topwater lures. Here are some proven methods to try:

Walk-the-Dog Technique

The walk-the-dog technique involves imparting a side-to-side action to your lure by twitching your rod tip while retrieving the line. This motion mimics the erratic movement of injured baitfish and can trigger aggressive strikes from redfish. Practice this technique to achieve a natural, lifelike presentation.

Pause-and-Go Retrieval

A pause-and-go retrieval technique can be highly effective for enticing wary redfish. After casting your lure, retrieve it with intermittent pauses. The sudden stops and starts can mimic the behavior of struggling prey, making it more attractive to redfish.

Fan Casting

Fan casting involves covering a wide area by casting your lure in a systematic pattern. This technique is useful for locating schools of redfish and increasing your chances of finding active feeders. Start by casting to the left and gradually work your way to the right, varying your retrieval speed and technique.

Best Times and Locations for Redfishing

Timing and location are critical factors in redfishing success. Understanding the best times and places to fish can greatly enhance your chances of landing a trophy redfish.

Tidal Influence

Tides play a significant role in redfish behavior. Fishing during incoming or outgoing tides can be particularly productive, as redfish move with the tides to feed in shallow areas. Look for locations where the tide creates natural funnels, such as creek mouths and channels, as these areas concentrate baitfish and attract redfish.

Seasonal Patterns

Redfish exhibit seasonal patterns in their movements and behavior. In the spring and fall, redfish are more likely to be found in shallow waters, feeding actively in preparation for spawning. During the summer, they may move to deeper, cooler waters, while in the winter, they often seek out warm, sheltered areas such as estuaries and backwaters.

Structure and Habitat

Redfish are often associated with specific types of structure and habitat. Look for areas with submerged vegetation, oyster beds, sandbars, and mudflats. These environments provide cover and abundant food sources for redfish. Additionally, targeting areas with visible baitfish activity can be a strong indicator of redfish presence.


Redfishing, or targeting red drum, is a beloved pastime for anglers across coastal waters. Using topwater lures to catch these powerful and agile fish can be an exhilarating experience, providing both challenge and reward.

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