The Best Baits for Redfishing: Natural and Artificial Options

Redfishing, or targeting the highly prized red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), is a beloved activity among saltwater anglers. Known for their powerful runs and impressive size, redfish can be caught using a variety of baits. To maximize your chances of success, it is crucial to understand the best baits for redfishing, whether you prefer natural or artificial options. Below, we delve into detailed strategies for using both types of baits to help you land more redfish.

Natural Baits for Redfishing


Shrimp is a top choice for redfish, offering a natural scent and flavor that is hard for any fish to resist. When using shrimp, both live and dead options can be effective. Live shrimp provide movement that attracts redfish, while dead shrimp can be easier to handle and equally enticing.

  • Live Shrimp: Hook them through the tail or horn to keep them alive longer. Free-lining live shrimp in areas with minimal current can be highly effective.
  • Dead Shrimp: Rig dead shrimp on a jig head or Carolina rig to target redfish feeding on the bottom.


Crabs are another excellent bait choice, especially for larger redfish. Blue crabs and fiddler crabs are particularly effective.

  • Blue Crabs: Cut them in half and use a circle hook to present them naturally. Fish around structures like oyster beds and jetties where redfish hunt for crabs.
  • Fiddler Crabs: These small crabs can be used whole. Hook them through the back to keep them alive and use them near marshy areas and grass flats.


Mullet is a staple bait for redfish, available in both live and cut forms.

  • Live Mullet: Hook live mullet through the back or nose to allow for natural swimming action. They are best used in areas with strong tidal currents.
  • Cut Mullet: For cut bait, use chunks of mullet on a circle hook. This method is particularly effective in attracting redfish to your bait using scent.

Pinfish and Other Baitfish

Pinfish and other small baitfish like croaker and menhaden are also effective for redfishing.

  • Live Baitfish: Hook them through the nose or back and use them near grass flats, mangroves, and other structures.
  • Cut Baitfish: Similar to mullet, cut pieces of baitfish release strong scents that attract redfish, especially in murky waters.

Artificial Baits for Redfishing

Soft Plastics

Soft plastics are versatile and can mimic a variety of prey. They are available in numerous shapes and colors, making them adaptable to different fishing conditions.

  • Shrimp Imitations: Soft plastic shrimp, such as DOA Shrimp, are incredibly effective. Work them slowly along the bottom or through the water column to mimic a fleeing or injured shrimp.
  • Swimbaits: Paddle-tail swimbaits like the Z-Man MinnowZ create vibration and movement that attract redfish. Use these in clear water where visibility is high.
  • Jerkbaits: Soft jerkbaits can imitate injured baitfish when twitched. These are effective in shallow waters and around structures.

Hard Plastics

Hard plastic lures offer durability and lifelike movements that can trigger aggressive strikes from redfish.

  • Topwater Lures: Lures like the Heddon Super Spook Jr. are great for early morning or late evening fishing. The surface disturbance can draw redfish up from deeper waters.
  • Crankbaits: Diving crankbaits that mimic mullet or other baitfish can be effective in deeper channels and drop-offs.
  • Suspending Jerkbaits: Lures like the MirrOlure MirrOdine can hover in the strike zone, enticing redfish to strike in cooler waters.


Jigs are a staple in any redfish angler’s tackle box, offering versatility and ease of use.

  • Bucktail Jigs: These jigs are effective in various water conditions. The hair-like material creates an enticing movement that mimics shrimp or small fish.
  • Soft Plastic Jigs: Combining a jig head with a soft plastic tail can create a versatile bait that works in different water depths and environments. Colors like chartreuse, white, and natural baitfish patterns work well.


Spoons are reflective, wobbling lures that can attract redfish from a distance.

  • Gold Spoons: The gold color mimics baitfish and can be particularly effective in stained or murky waters. Brands like Johnson Sprite offer reliable options.
  • Silver Spoons: Use silver spoons in clear water conditions. The flash and movement can trigger strikes from redfish feeding on small baitfish.

Tips for Effective Redfishing

Matching the Hatch

Understanding what redfish are currently feeding on can dramatically increase your success. Matching your bait to the natural prey in the area, whether that be shrimp, crabs, or small fish, can make your offerings more appealing.

Using Scent

Redfish have a keen sense of smell, and using baits with strong scents can draw them in from a distance. This is particularly useful in murky water conditions. Adding scent attractants to artificial baits can enhance their effectiveness.

Fishing the Right Locations

Redfish are often found in specific habitats, including:

  • Grass Flats: These areas are rich in food sources like shrimp and crabs. Use natural baits or soft plastics to mimic the prey found here.
  • Oyster Beds and Reefs: Redfish forage around these structures for crabs and small fish. Both natural and artificial baits work well in these locations.
  • Mangroves and Marshes: These provide shelter and abundant food. Live baitfish and soft plastics are effective choices here.

Time of Day and Tides

Redfish behavior is influenced by tides and time of day. Early morning and late evening are prime times for redfishing, especially during high tide when they move into shallower waters to feed. Understanding these patterns can help you choose the best times to fish.

Tackle and Gear

Using the right tackle can also impact your success. Medium-heavy rods with strong, abrasion-resistant lines are ideal for handling the powerful runs of redfish. Circle hooks are recommended for natural baits as they tend to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, making for easier release.

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